Can Apple Attract Java Enterprise with Xserve?
"If it can be shown that Apple products require less support and maintenance, and while the price may be 10 percent higher up front, if total cost of ownership is lower, they have a message," Forrester research analyst Andrew Bartels said in suggesting a marketing approach.
Apple's Xserve running Panther (OS X 10.3) includes an open-source application server catering to Java developers -- but it has more to do before it will catch on with corporate enterprise.
It hosts JBoss 3.23, a J2EE application server, and Tomcat 4.1.29, part of the Apache Software Foundation's Jakarta project, for serving Java servlets and Java Server Pages in Web applications.
JBoss emerged from an organization of the same name that bills itself as "The Professional Open Source Company."
After 5 million downloads of its free software, the company suggests it is no longer just a development tool, that it is enterprise ready. A mark of this might be its recent certification for its version 4 release for Sun Microsystems Java 2 platform compatibility.
Statistics on Tomcat usage were unavailable, but a distinct advantage for the Apache project is its ease of integration with the Apache Web server, also distributed on the G5 Xserve. Netcraft surveys show Apache's Web server holds a 67 percent share of Web servers in use on the Internet.
Costs, Standards Appeal
Forrester Research analyst Andrew Bartels said he believes Apple has several steps to make to begin carving out some space in the traditional corporate enterprise.
"One approach is to remind IT managers that the Apple is now a Unix product, which can mesh with enterprise standards," Bartels said.
More importantly, Bartels said he thinks that in order to get to the point of discussing individual issues that can be resolved by the Apple platform, business and IT users will need to be educated on the benefits.
"If it can be shown that Apple products require less support and maintenance, and while the price may be 10 percent higher up front, if total cost of ownership is lower, they have a message," he explained.
Apple's director of servers and storage, Tom Goguen, had previously told MacNewsWorld that Apple is being as aggressive as possible with the G5 Xserve, both in price and functionality.
"Xserve buyers get OS X server included ,and Apple does testing and integration work so that users can turn on services like mail servers with a checkbox instead of compiling and installing software," Goguen said.
Tyson Lowery, president and senior programmer of Teeloh Technology and an admitted Linux server user who runs Tomcat, said he believes this will greatly shorten the learning curve for new administrators.
He suggested that having everything preconfigured on a new server should not only attract more Apple users to JSP for dynamic content, but it also will attract more JSP sites toward using Apple servers.
"Setting up Tomcat and getting it to work with Apache is not an easy endeavor. Many Web hosting companies do not support JSP because of this. And other companies choose to use ASP or PHP as alternatives because of these difficulties," Lowery said.
Profit in Support Contract
Lowery also said he thinks this could work at the data center level. "If a data center already has experience with setting up Tomcat, I can't see it being a big reason for them to switch from their existing servers to Xserve. But for the data centers without this in-house experience, Xserve has a big advantage over other alternatives," Lowery explained.
Meanwhile, JBoss makes money from Xserve buyers who contract with the company for support. However, a company spokesperson suggested that Apple has done things a little differently than other vendors distributing JBoss products.
"Apple bundles JBoss 3.2.X in Mac OSX, therefore everything Mac sold now ships with JBoss. Apple does their own QA on JBoss with Mac OSX," the spokesperson said. "Apple does not yet purchase JBoss support so any support of JBoss on Mac OSX will need to be handled by Apple directly unless they purchase a support contract from JBoss," she said.
In other words, the spokesperson explained, a customer can buy support from Hewlett-Packard or Novell and actually get, as part of that contract, access to the technical experts from JBoss when needed.
Support from Business Alignment
Bartels said he thinks Apple needs to find ways to know the pain points of the enterprise prospects. He said Apple should then build contacts within companies who can go to their IT leadership and lobby for an Apple solution.
"CIO's and IT managers are all about standardization now, and one way for Apple to get in the door is for internal contacts to show how an exemption to enterprise standards could be made to resolve business needs," Bartels said.
Bartels agreed that Apple is standards-based in many ways. However, he said, it is the perception of them as a niche player weak in corporate IT capabilities that needs to be changed.