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I had lunch with my cousin yesterday, who's job is to sell IBM and HP/Compaq equipment to enterprise customers. (He greatly prefers the IBM equipment.) He usually sells high end systems and the deals are often worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I gave him the specs on Apple's new RAID solution, and asked him for his opinions.

The main things he noticed were the differences in Apple's drive modules vs. the systems he usually sells. Apple is going with 180 GB drives at 7500 rpm with ATA/100. Virtually all of his customers opt for 73 GB drives at 10,000 rpm or greater with SCSI. They choose 73 GB drives over 146 GB drives because they are much faster at retrieving data. There's no doubt that Apple's storage solution is much, much cheaper. Apple appears to be sacrificing speed for capacity, however. He sees it as a good solution for anyone who wants to archive a large amount of data.

My take is that Apple is going after a niche in the server and storage markets, much the way they attack individual niches in consumer & profesional markets. For certain customers, Apple's unique enterprise solutions will be ideal. For other, more high-end applications, there is already plenty of competition, so Apple is wise to conserve resources for now and avoid those markets.

The question I'll ask is: Which markets is this server targeted at?

Apple's XServe page suggest one target market:

The workstation for digital video
Thinking of using Xserve as a workstation for working with digital video? Good call: You can get a built-to-order unit from the Apple Store with an AGP 4X graphics card with 64MB of DDR video RAM installed in the AGP/PCI combo slot. Final Cut Pro and optional high-performance PCI cards for audio and real-time video editing complement the solution.
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