Accompanying its impressive preview glance at next-generation OS Panther, Apple yesterday also offered developers at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco a sneak peek at its accompanying product, Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Server.

Panther Server has been developed to make it easy to deploy open-source solutions for Mac, Windows and Linux systems. It will include automatic setup, Open Directory 2, Samba 3 and the JBoss application server in the box.

Automatic Setup helps admins set-up multiple servers; Open Directory 2 exists to host scalable LDAP directory and Kerberos authentication services; Samba 3 provides login and home-directory support for Windows clients; and the JBoss application server can run J2EE applications.

Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller said: "Panther Server combines the most popular solutions from the open-source world such as Samba and Apache with Apple's legendary ease-of-use. The result is a powerful standards-based server operating system capable of a wide variety of solutions from supporting Mac, Windows and Linux workgroups to hosting dynamic Web sites with powerful Web services."

Automatic Setup allows system administrators to setup any number of servers from configuration settings stored on a directory server, external FireWire device, USB storage device or an iPod.

Roaming Panther Apple also steals a first with the introduction of Samba 3. The company is the first major vendor to ship a server with this latest version of the open-source project that delivers reliable file and print services to Windows clients. Its addition means Windows users can authenticate against Panther Server directly from a PC log-in window. Panther Server can also host Windows home directories and support Windows "roaming profiles". By tightly integrating Samba 3 with Apple?s Open Directory, Panther Server makes it easy for users to access their accounts from either a Mac or a Windows-based PC.

Other open standards-based network services in Panther Server designed for mixed-client environments include Open Directory 2, a robust LDAP directory and Kerberos authentication server based on OpenLDAP, Berkeley DB and MIT's Kerberos KDC. An all-new mail server rebuilt from the ground up using the open-source Postfix SMTP and Cyrus IMAP and POP servers provides an open architecture for integrating with spam and virus filtering solutions, and SSL for secure email. A new VPN server built into Panther Server supports Mac OS X, Windows or Unix clients using PPTP and L2TP tunneling protocols

The release also includes an updated release of Apache, the world's most popular Web server, along with Apache Tomcat and Apache Axis for creating Web services. With the addition of a new JBoss application server and new application deployment tools, Panther Server will be the easiest way to develop and deploy J2EE applications, says Apple.

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Server will ship by the end of the year and cost £340 (excluding VAT) for a ten-client edition, and £680 for an unlimited-client edition.