Apple Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server features several new facilities that will sit well in Apple's core server markets of education, creative audio/visual media and small businesses. And it also scales up well to corporate installations. Like the client version, it majors on 64-bit performance to improve security and address huge amounts of memory. In SPEC benchmarks, Apple has shown that v10.6 Server is up to twice as fast than 10.5 in key operations such as file serving.
Installation is straightforward, with an easy step-by-step wizard guiding the initial setup immediately after the OS software completes its installation. A typical Apple Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server would be based on a rack-mount Apple Xserve or a Mac Pro - but it will also happily run from a Mac mini, as we found. In fact, Apple is now even selling Snow Leopard Server pre-installed on a new optical-drive-free Mac mini. Administration can be made with a headless setup, using either Macs’ built-in Screen Sharing app, or the separate Apple Remote Desktop 3. Or you can simply use an open-standard VNC application.
The Mac server can be sited behind an internet modem router; or using the Mac server as an internet gateway, assuming you have at least two ethernet interfaces, taking advantage of the Mac's firewall and DHCP functions. Note that when it comes to the system firewall, while System Preferences shows the familiar On/Off slide switch, you'll need to go into Server Preferences to configure this fine-grained ipfw firewall.
If installing Apple Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server on a computer previously using client Mac OS, make sure your router hasn't reused the old system's DNS name, as happened to us, or you may experience network connectivity issues. We logged into our router and manually edited the Mac server's DNS name, and were then happily back on track.
Computers on the local network are setup as Users of the server, allowing them to access a shared Address Book, iCal and File Shares, as well as use a local version of iChat. This uses the open Jabber protocol, so staff can IM inside the network without having to use any external server. A mail server is included, allowing you to bring your email service in-house, and now including server-side rules
Also new is a Wiki Server. With this, users can create and contribute to personal and communal web pages, helping the sharing of information around a company or institution.
Even more focused on education markets is the new Podcast Producer 2 feature. Hidden in the Utilities folder of all regular Snow Leopard Macs is the Podcast Capture app, introduced in Mac OS X 10.5, which lets users easily create audio or video podcasts with multiple cameras and screen recording. The edited content is uploaded to the Mac server, which takes care of rendering and processing each project into a final downloadable podcast.
The iCal Server uses the open CalDAV protocol to format and manage data, and users can access and edit calendars from any modern web browser. For remote access, Snow Leopard Server supports VPN with L2TP/IPSec tunnelling, allowing workers to securely access a private network from beyond its internet router.
This new Apple Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server supports Windows PCs well with email, calendars and address books all available to networked PCs through a modern web interface; and Macs additionally through built-in apps such as Mail, iCal and Address Book. For best results though, clients should also be on OS 10.6 to take advantage of easier configuration options.
Other key features of Apple Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server for sysadmins include System Image Utility, to build unified OS images for rolling out in a Mac-based network, and Workgroup Manager for managing policies and preferences for client computers on the network.