A Shift for macOS Server

The first version of what we call macOS was released in 2001, with the release of Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah. When Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah was released, a separate version called Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah Server was also released. At the time of its release the landscape of servers, and their utility, was entirely different from today’s landscape. Back then, high speed internet was generally limited to large companies and home users typically had dial-up, ISDN, or possibly even slow DSL connections. The roll out of cable-based internet was not nearly as ubiquitous as it is today. Mobile internet was not even on the horizon for many users. That would come a half dozen years later with the release of the iPhone. Today’s internet landscape is vastly different. Mobile broadband as well as home broadband are more common than before. Of course there are some exceptions, but having high speed internet is the norm in many places.

The server portion of macOS has seen its share of changes over the years. At first, the Server version was a separate installation and had its own pricing structure. As time progressed, the features of macOS Server increased. As the feature set increased, the pricing of macOS Server has decreased. Initially, Server came in two versions, a 10-client and Unlimited Client versions. With the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, the unlimited version was the only one released. Its price was reduced to the price of $499, which was the original cost of the 10-client version. This is down from $999.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion completely changed the server paradigm on the Mac. Instead of being a different version, the entire Server application was released as an application. The price was reduced again to $49.99. This was a substantial reduction from the previous price, a 90% price drop. With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple reduced the price even further to $19.99 for the app. This has been the pricer new purchases, but for the last few versions if you previously purchased macOS Server, each new version was a free upgrade.

macOS Server has had a standard set of services that it has provided, with a few additions over the years. The set of all services that macOS Server has provided over the years is as follows:

  • Caching Server
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • DHCP
  • DNS
  • File Sharing
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • NetInstall
  • Open Directory
  • Profile Manager
  • Software Update Server
  • VPN
  • Websites
  • Wiki
  • Xcode
  • Xsan

With macOS High Sierra (10.13), Apple moved a couple of these services to the core operating system itself. Caching Server and File Sharing were both integrated into macOS itself. Xcode Server was also removed from macOS Server and that service was integrated into Xcode 9, and its core functionality changed. Xcode Server removed the ability to host code repositories, instead relying on services like GitHub to do this for users. Apple has unveiled some new information about the future of its macOS Server application, specifically what the spring update to macOS Server will bring to those who use macOS Server.

macOS Server is changing to focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network. As a result, some changes are coming in how Server works. A number of services will be deprecated, and will be hidden on new installations of an update to macOS Server coming in spring 2018. If you’ve already configured one of these services, you’ll still be able to use it in the spring 2018 macOS Server update.

These deprecated services will be removed in a future release of macOS Server, so those depending on them should consider alternatives, including hosted services.

The list of deprecated services include:

  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • DHCP
  • DNS
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • NetInstall
  • VPN
  • Websites
  • Wiki

Apple does provide a list of alternatives for each of the deprecated services, within the support article. These alternatives will require a bit more knowledge, and more likely more configuration, over the graphical interface provided by the Server application. This change will have the biggest impact on small and medium businesses who rely on macOS Server to be able to run their custom applications. It is not impossible to continue to use macOS to host these, it just will not be a elegant to do so.

The deprecation of these services leaves only a few remaining services. These service are:

  • Open Directory
  • Profile Manager
  • Xsan

That is all that remains of macOS Server with the next update in the spring. If you have any of the deprecated services already configured, these will still be available to be managed. Profile Manager, and by extension Open Directory, are still areas which Apple can differentiate themselves and management of macOS and iOS devices is an area that Apple still feels is very important. I think the writing was on the wall for macOS Server after the Software Update Service was officially deprecated. If one of the features that many institutions relied on was being deprecated, what about the other services.

The removal of Calendar, Contacts, DHCP, DNS, Mail, Messages, Net Install, VPN, and Wiki, honestly all make sense. The usage of these services by individuals and small businesses is probably very small. These services were big and much needed 15 years ago, but are not necessary today. The one that I would like Apple to keep is Websites, only because I tend to do some web development on my Macs. With the removal of Websites, packages like XAMPP are likely to become even more heavily used by developers.

As the article states, “These deprecated services will be removed in a future release of macOS Server”. It is my guess that these services will be removed in the version of Server that corresponds with the next version of macOS. Like macOS Server 6.0 that is paired with macOS 10.14. It is entirely possible that these remaining services will be integrated directly into macOS itself and activated similarly to how Caching Server is activated, through System Preferences, however since these services still require a bit of advanced knowledge, these are more likely to still be configured by a separate, albeit a much smaller, application. It is possible that Apple may even reduce the price further, to $9.99 or possibly even free. I know I am interested in seeing how macOS Server 6 is under the next version of macOS.

Source: apple.com.