Xsan brings clustered SAN file system functionality to the Apple world, providing storage consolidation and increased data availability. Storage area network file systems have not met with mainstream IT success, but with the January release of Apple Computer Inc.s Xsan, small and midsize companies have better access to the technology.Xsans SAN file system technology is built from Advanced Digital Information Corp.s StorNext File System, which is compatible with several platforms, including IBMs AIX, HP-UX, Silicon Graphics Irix, Linux, Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris and Windows. Xsan natively supports only Mac OS X 10.3.6 or later, but Xsan customers can buy ADIC software that will link to the other platforms supported by StorNext. Xsan is priced at $999 per node ($499 per node for educational institutions). As with other SAN file systems, Xsan is best suited to environments where servers need concurrent, high-speed access to shared SAN storage. Media production, where large video files are the norm, and supercomputing clusters, where several servers are processing the same data set, are two likely applications for Xsan. Xsan takes SAN storage units and links them together with a shared file system. Unlike products based on the CIFS (Common Internet File System) or Sun NFS (Network File System) protocols, which use standard IP links to connect to clients, Xsan uses high-speed Fibre Channel links to access data. During eWEEK Labs tests, the Xsan system was relatively easy to set up and manage. Our test environment comprised two Apple Xserve servers (one with dual G4 processors and one with dual G5 processors), three Xserve RAID units and a QLogic Corp. SANbox 5200 2G-bps Fibre Channel switch. Xsan software can be used to configure a server in two different ways: as a metadata controller or a basic Xsan client. The server designated as the metadata controller is in charge of managing the storage shared by Xsan software. The Xsan management interface allowed us to quickly use SAN RAID resources to create file system shares for our clients. With Xsan software, an IT manager can quickly and seamlessly (no downtime) add storage simply by plugging additional RAID units into a SAN. Click here to read about Apples Xserve RAID. Xsan allows clustering of metadata controller units, and we highly recommend that IT managers set up these clusters because a downed metacontroller will bring down the entire Xsan file system. Xsan can support volumes that are up to 16TB in size, and it can allow as many as 64 systems to share a volume at any given time. As you might expect from an Apple product, Xsan software is tightly integrated with other Apple software packages, such as its RAID management utility. Xsan also takes advantage of Apples Open Directory for controlling user and group access to shares. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.
Is now the time for SAN file systems? Click here to read an analysis from eWEEK Labs.