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Apple to Deprecate Many macOS Server Services

Apple has posted a support note titled “Prepare for changes to macOS Server,” and boy are they not kidding about big changes coming. In an update to macOS Server due in “spring 2018,” Apple will deprecate ten services by hiding them on new installations. If you’ve already configured one of the deprecated services, you’ll be able to keep using it in that update.

In a future release of macOS Server, Apple will go further and remove the deprecated services entirely. The writing is on the wall — it’s time to start researching alternatives.

The deprecated services are:

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

For each, Apple’s support note links to alternatives, although I’m sure the Mac admin community will have additional suggestions and thoughts. If you’re not already in one of these groups, I recommend the MacEnterprise mailing list and the MacAdmins Slack team.

If I’m diffing correctly, the services that will remain in macOS Server include these three (Apple didn’t call out Software Update for elimination, but it’s already hidden, so it seems destined for the chopping block as well):

  • Open Directory
  • Profile Manager
  • Xsan

That list is in line with Apple’s statement that “macOS Server is changing to focus more on management of computers, devices, and storage on your network.”

Over at Krypted, Charles Edge has been maintaining a page that tracks the ebb and flow of services in Server over time. The number peaked quite a few revisions ago and has been dropping ever since. In part, that’s because Apple has moved a few services into macOS for all to use, notably Content Caching and Time Machine Server.

Because of Apple’s obvious lack of interest in macOS Server in recent years, few people are surprised by Apple’s announcement. However, many are distressed by it because it sends a troubling message to small businesses that have long relied on OS X Server and macOS Server. Consultants and IT admins who recommended, installed, and maintained those macOS Server setups are concerned about having to research, install, and keep up with the wide variety of apps necessary to replace all the capabilities that macOS Server provided in a single coherent package. And of course, even if the alternatives are better technically, moving to them will require non-trivial investments of time and money.

Are you using OS X Server or macOS Server now? What’s your plan for dealing with losing these services? Let us know in the comments.

 

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Comments about Apple to Deprecate Many macOS Server Services

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To an outsider (as in somebody who doesn't administrate OS X Server boxes) that sounds like just another instance of Apple dumping professional use and/or users. Obviously selling iOS devices to teenagers is just so much more attractive to them these days.

Whenever I read about how much more revenue the latter is making Apple and why that's the reason Apple is going all consumer, I wonder if people might be confusing cause and effect. Obviously, if you alienate enough of your pro customers, it's no wonder you soon make more money with the other stuff.

But sure, money talks. I'm fine with that. I just hope Apple doesn't forget, just as fast as all those teens and hipsters jumped on the iPhone bandwagon, that same crowd will move on to the next big thing when time comes. Apple should have a backup plan for when that happens. Not sure getting rid of your longtime loyal pro customers is a good idea in light of that plan B.
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Simon Woodward  2018-01-29 21:25
Simon, I think you could be more right than perhaps expected. It may have already started.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/29/apple-falls-as-iphone-x-order-cut-reports-mount.html
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I saw that report too. I don't think it really comes as such a surprise considering they're trying to sell a phone that costs more than a Mac. Apple always had this impertinent urge to squeeze the absolute max profit out of a maturing product with no sense of decency (or just common sense). At some point people will say "hell no and **** off". That usually knocks some sense into them for a few years. Then it wears off and they try it again. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Now just to play devil's advocate, we shouldn't forget the other side of the medal. Tim Cook has in the past warned about reading too much into supply chain rumors. Maybe the iPhone X is selling like nuts and will continue to do so. Apple will likely soon announce an all-time record breaking quarter. A quarter which started 4 weeks before the X even went on sale.
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Richard Holzgrafe  2018-01-26 19:39
I run a small business out of my home, and I have a Mac Mini running macOS Server that supports my web site, my email, and my calendar. Frankly, it's been a pain to administer, even for my small needs, and I won't be entirely sorry to see it go. I now hope to shift the web site and email (and domain name) to some inclusive service, like Google perhaps, and stop using my own server hardware. I will be researching my options, but I'd sure welcome advice.
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Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2018-01-29 09:23
As we say in "Take Control of OS X Server," email is a toxic hellstew and best left to the professionals like Google, Microsoft, FastMail, EasyMail, etc.

I'm looking to replace our OS X Server (still on El Capitan) too, but here it's mostly just internal file sharing. So we'll probably stick with standard file sharing or get a NAS.

For a production Web site like yours at this point, I think it makes sense to find a hosted CMS like WordPress, or even use something like Squarespace. It's just too much fuss to administer a whole server just for a Web site.
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Server is not perfect, but for small shops the alternative right now is an expensive quagmire. So I'll be sticking to my current status quo for the near future while considering options. Hopefully someone will create a manageable alternative, but I'm not holding my breath.......
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Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2018-01-29 09:24
I think that's entirely an entirely rational approach for the short term, but I worry that at some point, there will be security concerns that will render a too-old Server box problematic. So it's fine to stick with what you've got for a while, but best to start thinking about what will replace it.
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Andreas Frick  2018-01-27 04:34
The same game as on macOS. Apple dropped web-sharing, support of TWAIN and dial-up modems. Local synchronization, bluetooth and Bonjour have been crippled. Instead it forces users to use iCloud, which I don't want. I will have to use my old MacBook Pro with Leopard to run many tasks. Very incommodious.
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Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2018-01-29 09:26
Hey, I wonder if Web sharing will come back, just like Apple moved caching and Time Machine server to the client level? Apache is still there, after all.

http://www.lifewire.com/web-hosting-with-os-x-mountain-lion-and-later-2260852
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Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2018-01-29 13:37
Maybe they'll remove Apache for base macOS if it's not needed for something else. It could hang on if it's used to provide a web interface for the built-in print server, CUPS.

BTW, I just learned they removed the client applications 'ftp' and 'telnet' from High Sierra. Good riddance.
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I bought a 2012 MacMini server off eBay a couple of years ago for a home server, since the subsequent MacMini offerings from Apple, or lack thereof, were less capable and/or less upgradeable or repairable. It's rock solid, still on El Capitan.

Currently I'm just using it with BusyCal for scheduling and BusyContacts, Time Machine backups for other Macs, some minor webpage testing, and internal syncing of confidential files that I don't want in the cloud. Perfect for what I want to do.

However, the writing is on the wall. As a longtime Mac user, I'm fed up with Apple's direction in the last few years. I'll keep running the Mini till it bites the dust, then probably look at something like Synology.
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Dean Waldow  2018-01-29 21:54
I also got a MacMini for a home server and I have it on Sierra at the moment. I use it mostly for simple home websites and a few other things but not as a firewall between inside and outside networks. I just got a Synology router to replace my apple airport and aside from using the same mask for the internal DHCP and guest DHCP it has been great and serves many needs including firewall needs part of the OS X server. I hope to add storage at some point. Serving websites is another issue as that is not part of a Synology router though maybe they have another tool I am not aware of. Perhaps after the MacMini OS X server is not supported any more I might try to run linux (centOS, debian, or other as the web server on the Mac mini ? I often wonder what Apple uses for their own servers.
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Dennis B. Swaney  2018-01-29 22:44
"I often wonder what Apple uses for their own servers."

Probably Linux!
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Sven Kornmann  2018-01-30 03:44
For me, macOS Server has been the backbone for several organizations I work with/in and we've been using almost every service Apple offered.
With Internet connections slowly getting fast enough we shut off Software Update Server just by the end of 2017 in favor of Caching Server.
DHCP, DNS, VPN shouldn't be a big issue to replace; Mail, Calendar, Contacts and Messages have many great alternatives anyway, but for me personally it's Web and Wiki services I find really sad about to see them go. I run several sites, which partly rely on Open Directory for authentication and user management, and love the ease of use of the Apache web server alongside the elegant integration of SSL certificates in macOS Server.
I'm not sure yet if I'll move those sites to a hosting service or build my own Mac-based web server as a replacement. It certainly wouldn't be fun to move 1.000+ Open Directory users to another system, I guess ...
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lennert  2018-01-30 05:58
Like many, I loved the XServe. Perfect hardware: dual power supply, LACP, easy to maintain, 1U. And they are still running. The Mac Mini with one Ethernet port and one power supply never ever got to the same level.

So we had to do with lesser hardware but at least we kept the software. And yes it was not perfect but for a simple SMB, it worked. Later we moved our email to the Cloud (Zimbra) but File Sharing, VPN, DHCP, DNS was just nice to have out of the box. Moving the VPN, DHCP, and DNS services to my Cisco Router is most likely smarter but makes the IT puzzle a bit harder.

But the bigger story is that indeed Apple shows it's not interested in the Enterprise. For Apple, an individual can buy all kinds of Apple devices but if that individual wants to collaborate with other people inside a company they are left to their own.

Mac IT professionals are facing interesting times looking for new solutions and making them work. Let's hope we will find a strong stack of solutions.
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david cuddy  2018-01-30 09:53
My OSX Server runs File Sharing, Time Machine, FTP (for home security cams) and VPN. I've never used it for core networking functions such as DNS or DHCP, so I won't miss those. I've already been testing a Ubiquity ER-X router as an alternative for VPN. It supports L2TP, as well as PPTP and OpenVPN.

It's a very capable device, and incredibly inexpensive (≈$50) for what it does. However, it has what some would consider a 'non-trivial' learning curve (i.e., it's not as easy to configure as OSX Server).
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B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2018-01-30 13:35
OS X Server/macOS Server are mostly over my head. But I've seen complaints about the latest version of macOS Server rolling in as people are caught unawares by the missing (hidden) services.

Add to this changes in Apple's hardware offerings: their blade servers killed off some years ago and the loss of the upgradeable Mac Pros that took their place in some cases. Makes you wonder what Apple uses in their server farms. Certainly not mac minis, nor any Apple hardware and probably not Apple software.

There was a rumor going around a while back that they were ending production of the Airport line of routers, but that has not seemed to have happened yet. The current Airport Extreme and Time Capsules support the latest WiFi standard, 802.11ac, and dual band reception.

Nevertheless, with the decline of macOS X Server it's now clear Apple is moving away from supporting small businesses and the amateur IT professionals who run them—to the extent they ever really did.

I guess they're still working with IBM, but who knows where that's going. It's certainly not in the headlines. Among the reasons Apple doesn't reveal their "roadmap" is that it is essentially ephemeral. You have never been able to depend on it long term. iWeb or Aperture anyone?

Apple makes standalone devices that are here today and gone tomorrow. Which is to say, they are focussed primarily on the shifting tastes of consumers. That's only a bad thing if you expected more of them. If you own Apple shares and expect them to make money, well, you're s*itting in clover. If you can afford the new iMac Pro you're rolling in it.
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Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2018-01-30 15:39
I can't imagine that Apple uses Macs as servers anywhere in the business. It wouldn't make any sense at all, since Server just isn't designed for scale anywhere near the level of Apple as a company, much less things like iCloud.
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Oh yeah, they use generic 19" Linux servers. There was a recent feature in the Reno Gazette (because Apple just launched Reno warehouse construction) with a lot of pictures from their Reno data center with the racks and the servers. Not a single shiny apple on any of that kit. ;)

http://www.rgj.com/story/money/business/2018/01/17/sneak-peek-rare-look-inside-apple-reno-data-center/1038984001


I was actually quite surprised Apple allowed publication of photos showing their server hardware and network setup.
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Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2018-01-30 22:32
> Not a single shiny apple on any of that kit. ;)

Hey, there's a MacBook Pro on the cart and I saw an Apple Watch on someone's wrist ;)

Revealing that a big corporation's datacenter uses Cisco networking hardware isn't revealing much.
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Jerome Kornfield  2018-02-04 19:25
I am getting more distressed day by day by Apple. I bought my first in 1988, and last year may be my last. In between I purchased almost 60 Macs (business for most). I am going to start relearning Linux so I can have a full resources.

I am disgusted by Apple only worried about the looks of their spaceship and less about staying out front. Stupid. Rome has started to burn...
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