Chicago (IL) - Psystar, the company that made waves with a cheap Mac-clone dubbed OpenMac earlier this year, is launching its second assault at Apple with its own version of a rack-mount server machine. The new devices are squarely aimed at Apple’s Xserve systems and price is the primary selling point again: OpenServ is priced at $1599, which compares to $2999 of Apple’s entry-level Xserve.
Psystar’s servers are offered in 1U or 2U rack-mount versions, mostly matching Xserve in terms of hardware, and topping it in software. The OpenServ 2400 is a 2U system with space for six hard drive bays for up to 6 TB of storage and a $1999 price tag. Apple does not offer a 2U Xserve.
On the software side, OpenServ’s advantage is its ability to run any major server operating system, including Mac OS X Leopard Server. Psystar ships OpenServ with CentOS 5.1 (32 or 64-bit) Linux preinstalled, but users can choose to add Windows Server (2003 or 2008) or OS X Leopard (desktop or server) operating systems as an option. Since OpenServ does not ship with Leopard Server as Apple’s Xserve does, you have to buy it yourself. A version of Leopard Server that supports any number of clients will set you back $1025, narrowing the gap between the two systems to $375. Less demanding users may opt for a 10-clients version of Leopard Server ($525), widening the price gap to $875. The value proposition here is clear: Psystar is betting that you will trade a slower processor and Apple’s form factor for twice the memory, the ability to run variants of Linux, Leopard Server or Windows Server and save some cash.
Psystar made headlines earlier this year when it introduced a sub-$400 desktop Mac-clone dubbed OpenMac. OpenMac challenged the $2000 Mac Pro with a 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Intel GMA 950 graphics and a 250 GB hard drive. OpenMacs may lack Apple’s trademark industrial design, but it can run Windows, Linux variants, OS X Leopard and Mac applications. Apple’s legal department accused the company of violating OS X’s EULA, which prevents selling the Mac OS X without Apple’s consent, but Psystar fired back with claims that Apple’s EULA violates U.S. antitrust regulations.
Strangely enough, Apple did not take any legal actions since then.
In order to run Leopard on non-Apple hardware, PsyStar’s Intel-based Mac clones take advantage of the Extensible Firmware Interface to trick Leopard into thinking it’s running on a genuine Mac. However, Apple circumvents this trickery with the Leopard update, forcing PsyStar customers to postpone the update until the company releases its own scripted installation. Basically, it’s a piece of software which downloads Apple’s official update, applies a patch to break Apple’s fix and then upgrades a user’s Leopard installation. Psystar recently followed Apple’s release of the Leopard 10.5.3 update with its own scripted installation that continues to fool Leopard into thinking it is running on a genuine Mac, even after the 10.5.3 update is applied.