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MacWindows Beat

Lion Server drops Windows PDC functionality, reduces GUI configuration

By John Rizzo

Monday, July 25, 2011

Apple's new Lion Server reduces support for Windows clients while increasing support for iOS devices. It also moves away from graphical administration and towards command-line administration of more advanced settings.

With Lion Server, Apple dropped the ability of the server to function as a Windows Primary Domain Controller (PDC) for Windows clients, which had been a feature of Mac OS X Server for many years. The PDC provided authentication services and domain login on Windows PC clients. Mac OS X Server 10.7, released last week, also lost the ability to act as a Windows Backup Domain Controller (BDC).

Lion Server still provides SMB file sharing support for Windows clients. It also still can be used in the "magic triangle" configuration to integrate Macs into an Active Directory network domain. As with the client version, Lion Server adds support for Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS).

The major new feature of Lion Server is Profile Manager, which can remotely configure iOS devices and Macs running Lion. Profile Manager enables administrators to set several dozen policies on iPads, iPhones, and the iPod touch, and Lion Macs. These include preventing users from accessing the App Store, restrictions on printing, blocking access to System Preferences, and preventing certain applications from launching. For Mac clients running older Mac OS X releases, administrators can still use the Managed Preferences feature from Workgroup Manager.

Another new feature for iPads is file sharing from with Apple's Numbers and Pages apps. This features uses the WebDAV protocol.

In addition to PDC functionalily, several other features of previous versions of Mac OS X Server have been eliminated with Lion Server. Apple has removed smart card functionality, the high-security card-based authentication method used by many US government agencies.

Apple also removed the print server of previous versions from Lion Server, though the server still retains the CUPS printer sharing found in every copy of Mac OS X. CUPS lacks some of the features of the old print server, including the ability to assign print quotas to individual printers or users. MySQL has also been removed, replaced by PostgreSQL.

Apple also removed the graphics user interface for NFS and FTP file service, which can only be turned on and configured from the command line in a Unix shell, such as from the Terminal utility. Most user-facing services (Address Book, iCal, iChat, file sharing, web, and wiki) and VPN services, have been removed from the Server Admin management tool. They are all now managed in the new Server application, which provides fewer configuration options. All configuration options are still available via the command line. For instance, you can no longer set a PPTP VPN, or configure URL and web aliases for web sites, or set logging levels. Email service and Podcast Producer still have the same amount of GUI settings as in previous versions.

The Server Admin Tools 10.7 package, which includes Server Admin, Workgroup Manager, Podcast Composer, Server Monitor, and other utilities, is now a separate download from Apple's support site.

Apple sells Lion Server online at the Mac App Store as a US $50 add-on to the Lion client (US $20). Snow Leopard Server 10.6.8 can also be upgraded to Lion Server. Apple also offers Line Server pre-installed with the Mac Pro and with the Mac mini, along with more memory and storage than other standard configurations.

If you're serving Windows clients with Mac OS X Server, how the removal of PDC from Lion Server affects you.

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