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An Inside Look at the New Features of Panther Server

Apple is scheduled to ship Mac OS X 10.3 Panther Server next month — a release that is expected to bring new features and numerous improvements over the previous version. Sources familiar with the project recently provided details on a number of system enhancements including simplified installation, configuration cloning, and user management.

Panther Server will offer administrators extensive support for deploying multiple servers with a variety of setup options. Upon installation, automated setup features allow system admins to backup setup data in a file or Directory Services directory. These configuration files can then be transfered to external drives, or even an iPod, for use in automating the configuration process of other Panther Server installations.

Source say that new advancements to the user management system will offer simplified home directory setup and support for mobile accounts. Mobile accounts will allow users of Mac OS X Panther client to work offline and periodically login using the network name and password in-order to access a user's settings and other managed preferences.

To accelerate the setup of client machines, administrators can easily create a NetBoot or Network install image that mimics an existing system. Both volumes and partitions can serve as valid sources for these images. Additional image management enhancements are said to include improved client filtering and diskless NetBoot for Mac OS X Clients.

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In addition to more extensive command-line options, Panther's Server Admin utility has been completely overhauled. The overhauled utility represents an entirely new approach to service management by consolidating management and monitoring of multiple servers into a single application with a single-window interface. It also provides administrators an easy way to replicate service settings for backup or cloning, and offers management of JBoss Java application server, an open-source middle application for deploying J2EE applications.

New Open Directory services will include support for migrating from NetInfo to OpenLDAP, creating and replicating OpenLDAP directories, and integrating with Active Directory and Network Information Systems (NIS) configuration files. Panther's Open Directory services also feature simplified setup of Kerberos Key Distribution Centers (KDCs) and authentication. User's who are authenticated using Kerberos will enjoy a single sign-on experience: after the user has logged in, an authenticated user can use any "Kerberized service" without being prompted to re-enter a username and password.

Similarly, the Workgroup Manager application will offer advanced account search capabilities, and include an inspector option that will allow directory domain administrators to work with Open Directory entries.

Panther's Apple Filing Protocol will support IPv6 and provide two ways for administrators to view (or define) volumes: by share point or by volume. Meanwhile, advancements to print services will let Mac OS X 10.2 or later clients share Postscript and non-Postscript printers that are connected directly to Panther Server.

Mail services will see enterprise-worthy updates including a Postfix-based outgoing mail transfer agent and incoming mail provided by a Cyrus POP and IMAP server. On the other hand, new Network services will boast support for Network Address Translation (NAT), Network Time services (NTP), and Virtual Private Networks (VPN).

Finally, administrators can maximize support for Windows users by setting up a Windows primary domain controller (PDC) and defining Windows settings for users. The PDC will accept logins for Windows NT 4.x , Windows XP, and Windows 2000 clients. This feature also supports roaming user profiles and Network home directories on Mac OS X Panther Server. It will also include Samba 3, the open-source suite, which provides file and print services to SMB/CIFS clients. Windows users will be supported through Samba's file and printer sharing services as well as through other features, such as active directory integration, open directory authentication, WINS and VPN.

The release will also bundle a new version of QuickTime Streaming Server detailed earlier this month.