Apple will ship Mac OS X 10.3 'Panther' Server on October 24, simultaneous to when it ships the desktop OS.

The company calls Panther: "The most advanced release of Apple’s award-winning Unix-based server operating system ever,"

Panther Server integrates leading open source and open standards software with easy-to-use management tools that make it easy to deploy popular open source solutions for Mac, Windows and Linux clients, Apple claims.

The new Server offers a new Server Admin tool to help administrators to set up and manage the open source software built in to Mac OS X; Open Directory 2 for hosting scalable LDAP directory and Kerberos authentication services; Samba 3 for providing login and home directory support for Windows clients; and the JBoss application server for running powerful J2EE applications.

Apple's senior VP worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller said: "With more than 150 new features, Panther Server is the biggest release of Mac OS X Server ever. It combines the most popular solutions from the open source world with breakthrough management tools to create the most powerful and easy-to-use server for Mac, Windows and Unix users.”

Panther does the Samba

Apple is the first major vendor to ship a server operating system with Samba 3, the latest version of the open source project that delivers reliable file and print services to Windows clients. This means Windows users can authenticate against Panther Server directly from a PC login window. Panther Server can also host their Windows home directories and support Windows 'roaming profiles.' Essentially, Apple has worked to make sure users can access their server-based accounts using either platform.

Apple’s Server Admin tool makes it easy for system administrators to set up, manage and monitor the complete set of services built into Panther Server, Apple said.

"For example, with a couple of mouse clicks, customers can deploy OpenLDAP and Kerberos for directory and authentication, Samba for Windows support, Postfix for email and Apache for hosting web sites", the company claims.

Additional features

Apple has introduced support for a host of open standards-based services within this release, with a focus on mixed client environments.

These include:

Open Directory 2, a robust LDAP directory and Kerberos authentication server which delivers industrial-strength scalability and security.

An all new mail server rebuilt from the ground up using the open source Postfix SMTP and Cyrus IMAP and POP servers. This provides an open architecture for integrating with spam and virus filtering solutions, and SSL for secure email.

Additionally, a new VPN server built into Panther Server supports Mac OS X, Windows or Unix clients using PPTP and L2TP tunneling protocols. Panther Server also includes an updated release of the Apache Web server along with Apache Tomcat and Apache Axis for creating Web services.

Up-To-Date and pricing

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther will be available October 24 at Apple's US retail stores and through its resellers. It will cost £399 for a 10-client edition and £799 for an unlimited client version. The product is available now for pre-orders.

Volume and maintenance pricing is available from Apple. The standard Mac OS Up-To-Date upgrade package is available to all customers who purchase a new Xserve on or after October 8 that did not have Panther Server included and to customers who purchase Mac OS X Server version 10.2 on or after October 8 for a shipping and handling fee of around £14.

Panther Server works with Xserves, Power Mac G5s, G4s and G3 Macs with a minimum 128MB RAM, 4GB of disk space and built-in USB.