Apple teased developers gathered at WWDC 2006 with looks at technologies behind Mac OS X Server 10.5 (Leopard), the next major release of Apple’s server operating system.

Leopard Server is scheduled to ship in spring 2007. It builds on Apple’s legendary ease of use with new Server Assistant and Server Preference features that make it easy for even non-technical users to set-up and manage a server.

In this new server system, Apple is delivering native 64-bit server applications that take advantage of the increased processing power of 64-bit computing. Other new features include iCal Server, (to share calendars, schedule meetings and plan events); a wiki server; Spotlight Server, the fastest way to find content on servers; and Podcast Producer, the ideal way to automate Podcast production.

“Leopard Server brings a new level of 64-bit power together with Apple’s legendary ease of use in one server operating system,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. “Leopard Server is our best Mac OS X Server release yet and includes many new innovative features, such as iCal Server, a wiki server and Spotlight Server, making it ideal for education, small businesses and large enterprises alike, and a great alternative to Windows and Linux servers.”

Leopard Server features a new set-up interface with built-in Network Health Check, a new Server Preferences administration interface and automatic client setup support that automatically configures Mac OS X version 10.5 Leopard clients to use the server for all essential services, including file and printer sharing, Mail, iCal, iChat, Address Book and backup.

The core services in Leopard Server, including Apache 2, MySQL 5, Postfix, Cyrus, iChat Server and QuickTime Streaming Server, are now 64-bit, allowing users to take full advantage of their 64-bit hardware’s performance and processing power, and to work with larger data sets. Since Leopard Server is fully 32-bit compatible, users can run 32-bit and 64-bit applications natively side by side.

In a first to Apple move, Mac OS X Server will include a calendar server for users and groups to coordinate events, schedule meetings, reserve resources and use time more effectively. This uses the open CalDAV standard for integration with leading calendar programs, including iCal 3 in Leopard, Mozilla’s Sunbird, OSAF’s Chandler and Microsoft Outlook.

The software also includes Spotlight Server, a solution capable of searching and finding content on servers within a network. Spotlight Server works with Leopard clients to deliver fast searches of content stored on mounted volumes across the entire network.

Other new features in Leopard Server include:

Mail Clustering for higher availability and reliability when used with Xsan, Apple’s clustered file system for storage area networks;

iChat Server 2 with instant message federation that lets users communicate with GoogleTalk and other XMPP instant messaging systems;

QuickTime Streaming Server 6 with support for 3GPP Release 6 bit rate adaptation for smooth streaming when delivering content to mobile phones regardless of network congestion;

A new Adaptive Firewall technology to actively monitor for attacks and proactively block individual hosts from connecting to the server;

Xgrid 2 featuring GridAnywhere for distributed computing in environments without dedicated controllers, and Scoreboard for prioritising job distribution to the fastest available CPU.