Rumor sites and users are salivating over the possibility that Apple may release a multi-drive, iTunes server device, but many of these capabilities already exist in Apples products.
So what would a theoretical multi-drive Apple home server look like? Perhaps like a taller Mac Mini? Or a Time Capsule with drive bays like a Windows Home server or Drobo? Or a smaller more limited Xserve format? That would be cool, but not something Apple is likely to do. If they did make a multi-drive device, it would probably use built-in drives and not actual removable drive bays like other devices, if for no other reason than because it complicates things, and problems could arise when home users go to add drives to the thing. If anything they would build a device with multiple drives pre-installed and not easily removable but serviceable by Apple stores or by your friendly local geek.
But what are the reasons Apple would make such a device? Is there a need here that isn’t being filled? Is Apple already providing a similar solution in other products?
Apple already provides the ability to store backups in a central location on a users network through the combination of Time Machine and the Time Capsule device. A central server would also provide file sharing on the network, which again Apple has provided for quite some time through the Airport Extreme base station and now through the Time Capsule, though neither of these devices offer data redundancy through the use of multiple drives, and are therefor poor solutions for storing priceless data. WHS also provides for remote access to the files stored on the device, which Apples devices don’t do yet, however Apple does provide storage through iDisk as part of the MobileMe subscription.
Apple also has a solution for remote login much like Window Home Server, the subscription based Back To My Mac, which allows users to login to their home machine remotely without needing to setup and maintain a server, or run special software. Back to my Mac has received substantial criticism for, well, not working out of the box in many cases.
One of the most needed functions in the coming years will be centralized storage of media on-demand, and Apple has yet to provide a solution here, though they do provide central storage as noted above. They also provide some media sharing by allowing multiple devices on a network to access each others iTunes libraries, indeed the AppleTV depends in part on this ability, allowing it to stream video from the iTunes library of another machine without having to sync and store everything locally.
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