OK, by now I’m sure everyone has heard that OS X Server is a download off the App Store. For a whoppin’ $50 you get the OS that was once called “Open Source Made Easy” until someone at Apple realized that GPLv3 might mean that Open Source doesn’t always mean “free as in beer”. Wait, did I say that out loud? Point is, there are bigger changes here than just moving the server to the App Store.
There are also some pretty big changes to the GUI of OS X Server. The first and most obvious is the LoginWindow, which is different in OS X in general. It obviously looks different. The ability to click on the items above the username and password is gone. You can still see indicators of green and orange in the username field to indicate directory service availability though, which was one of the bigger things we’ve used that for over the past few years.
Once downloaded, the Server app will be in the /Applications directory, in Launchpad and useable. But the Server Admin tools are a separate (free) download from the Apple downloads page. This is a nice nickel and dime way of keeping the Server app small. Once installed, note that if you open About this Mac, the OS does reflect that you are running Mac OS X Server Lion (not OS X Server Lion btw for all you marketing nerds), so it is actually a registered different version of the operating system.
Now open up Workgroup Manager. The Inspector option in Workgroup Manager is gone. Actually, this is kinda’ true. The option is greyed out in the Workgroup Manager prefs (com.apple.WorkgroupManager.plist) but easily enabled using defaults to add the -dict for “Application Preferences” with a key of ”Show \”All Records\” Tab” set to a value of 1. But more importantly, there’s now a tool called the Directory Editor that is part of Directory Utility (still located at /System/Library/CoreServices). It looks a lot like the Inspector, but it’s a bit more appropriate for local stuff.
Now open up Server Admin. Most of the services are gone. We’re left with nat (does anyone really still use OS X Server as a border device?!?!) and a few other services that were either too boring to get moved to the Server app or too unwanted. Expect these to disappear one by one if there are future releases of OS X Server. In fact, if OS X Server is $50 I’d say building a better DHCP (that maybe has a GUI for DHCP options and other cool stuff) or a better DNS is a worthy of a $10 or $20 app on the app store. After all, given the Mini platform it seems a decent platform as a network appliance in that fashion… But back to it.
Now go into Server. Wow. Super easy. The only challenging thing in here is Profile Manager. And the only challenging thing about it is that it a) most people aren’t going to let it build Open Directory for them (but should) and b) some people are going to get stumped when asked for a username and password for a developer account. Get yourself an Apple ID with a developer cert and Profile Manager will be really easy to use, especially if you’re used to working with Workgroup Manager to build Managed Preference manifests. Once in, if you will even note that you can assign specific defaults domains and push keys to clients. Of course, the big thing here is the wipe. The most important thing to note about that is that the clients need to run FileVault and there’s not a great mass deploy strategy for that yet (IMHO).
While I said Profile Manager could be challenging, there are some really cool things waiting for people to start hacking away at. The fist is scripting profile creation and management. Profiles are stored in /var/db/ConfigurationProfiles/Store. Much to the chagrin of 3rd party MDM developers, this solution works great for OS X and iOS. Much to the delight of MDM developers, the whole App Store look and feel that someone like JAMF has is still something that really sets them apart and the ability to have Casper assist you with managing those VPP keys is what will be the crazy huge value add that it will continue to bring to the table. Having said that, a lot of smaller organizations can now use Profile Manager where they might have just used iPhone Config Utility before.
Profiles can be pushed out in a number of ways. The user can download it out of the goodness of their heart. In iOS you’re kinda’ stuck with that deployment methodology. But not in OS X. Help comes in the form of the profiles command, located in /usr/sbin. Profiles is explained further in this other post of mine here.
The serveradmin app (serveradmin list shows a few less results than it used to), slap* commands and other tools server admins are used to are all still there. There’s a better webmail (much, much better), Wiki’s are a little different (not much), NFS (kinda’) and FTP are gone, Podcast Producer keeps getting easier, the twisted stuff (iCal and Address Book Server) is the same as it was in Snow Leopard and Server app gets more functional whereas Server Admin gets less functional. Server got a little easier. Or at least on the outside. But presumably it can, given that it’s likely to be asked to do less than it once was moving forward.
But as with previous versions of OS X Server, there are a lot of settings under the hood that aren’t exposed in any app. Let’s look at the devicemgr service, which is Profile Manager in the GUI:
sudo serveradmin settings devicemgr
One thing I do find interesting is the inclusion of postgres in serveradmin but not in Server app or Server Admin. MySQL is gone, but postgres is there.
You’ll also see settings like mdm_acl and user_timeout that can be pretty helpful (which is why they’re in there in the first place) but aren’t in the GUI. I’m all for keeping GUI’s clean, not giving admins the ability to easily enable something they shouldn’t and keeping away from having screens and screens of rolling settings. So for the most part I’m OK with this. My point with this paragraph (and every paragraph should have a point even though I forget that sometimes) is that if there’s a setting you need that you think got taken out or if there’s a setting that would be cool to have, check serveradmin settings and see if it’s there before just taking the Server app’s word for it…