OK, so maybe somebody at Apple has a clue or knows how to listen. They announced a new rev of the Xserve today. I won’t bother to talk about the stuff everyone focusses on (CPU horsepower and whatnot, I have friends and customers you can turn to in order to get the skinny on what’s happening inside the new box. ) I’ll stick to the subject of all my usual rantings about servers and server design, the case. This is because I don’t manage servers, as in “what goes on inside the server” I manage Datacenters, namely what happens OUTSIDE the server once it is racked and operating.
The momentous cause of my small celebration today? Apple put a USB port on the FRONT of the Xserve. Whoo hoo!
Mind you this is only a very small step away from ‘style” and towards “substance”, and ironically “usability” but it IS progress and I have to give Apple credit for that.
As I have said before, to be truly useful in the environments it was designed for the Xserve should have all “user” ports on the front, namely USB, and Video, and all “system” ports on the back, namely power, network, FibreChannel, etc. If it connects to another system or the datacenter infrastructure, it goes on the back. If it interacts with a user, it goes on the front.
Datacenters are laid out in hot aisles and cold aisles, where the hot back sides of servers are isolated from the cold intake side. This allows for optimum cooling and airflow. In ideal datacenter environments the hot aisles will be contained and the heat given a specific path for removal. If users have to constantly have access to the back side of racks (or more accurately the hot aisles) then they can not be easily contained. Putting user-required ports on the back side of servers is counter-productive.
Of course, that isn’t my biggest complaint about the Xserve’s design. That remains the completely absurd overall length of the box, which still lays out to 30″ (76.2cm) which is so long that it completely obliterates and density advantage a 1U server supposedly buys you.
I know I’ll get video ports on the front panel long before Apple pulls their head out their butts on case length of 1U boxes though.