What a time for Apple to announce the discontinuation of the Xserve than right in the middle of a conference of Mac IT professionals and developers! But that was the story here at the first MacTech Conference.
Friday morning, before the conference's general sessions began, conference organiser Neil Ticktin mentioned that it was the end of the line for Xserve, and opened the floor to public discussion.
I was expecting the crowd's mood to be highly negative, but that wasn't necessarily the response. Sure, there were a fair number of people who were upset, but there was also a sense that Apple realised they hadn't really won a spot in the server rooms of the world, and hence, the Xserve's departure was somewhat expected.
A popular opinion was that IT personnel wouldn't care at all about the departure of the Xserve if Apple would simply allow (via a licensing change, and perhaps a small bit of code modification) the installation of Mac OS X Server on non-Apple hardware. They would then be able to install and run Server on their existing boxes, probably in virtual machines on those existing boxes. (As an aside, representatives of both Parallels and VMware stated they'd love to support this setup, if Apple were to only allow it.)
For those businesses that need to run Mac OS X Server, but aren't willing to wait for Apple to revise its licensing policies, they'll be looking at using Mac Pros (or Mac minis) instead of Xserves. One commenter pointed out that Mac Pros are notably quieter than Xserves, and as such, can be hidden in many places where you wouldn't think of placing an Xserve.
In answer to a question about the redundant systems in the Xserve, such as redundant power supplies, one attendee humorously responded by saying, "Get two Mac Pros... that's 100% redundancy on everything, right?" While technically correct, that's really not a good alternative to true server-level redundancy.
Overall, it seems the IT professionals here at the MacTech Conference understand the coming demise of the Xserve, and are making plans to work around it moving forward. They'd love it if Apple relaxes the licensing restrictions on Mac OS X Server, but it doesn't sound like any of them are making plans around that becoming a reality.