Apple Furthers Enterprise Plans with SAN

Apple makes its first foray into the storage networking market with a 64-bit cluster file system that allows enterprises to consolidate storage resources across a network.

As part of its renewed efforts to focus on high-end content production, Apple Computer Inc. Sunday used the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas to announce its first foray into the storage area networking market.

At the show, the company announced Xsan, a 64-bit cluster file system that Apple claims allows enterprises to consolidate storage resources across a network at less than half the cost of equivalent systems from Avid Technology Inc., IBM and Silicon Graphics Inc.

Xsan runs on Mac OS X 10.3, code-named Panther, allowing multiple machines to access shared volumes concurrently over Fibre Channel networks at high speeds. Volumes of up to 16 terabytes can be shared between 64 systems at the same time, at a theoretical maximum throughput of 400M bps. The product comes with Xsan Admin, an OS X-based application for managing a SAN, including the ability to control which users on a network can access volumes. User management integrates with an LDAP directory for managing user and group access, and Xsan Admin also allows administrators to be notified of faults or poor performance levels via e-mail or pager.

Although Xsan only runs on Power Mac G4, G5 and Xserve hardware, it is interoperable with ADIC Inc.s StorNext File System, enabling it to be used with Windows and Linux clients. Xsan can also be administered by StorNext Management Suite.

Xsan marks Apples first foray into the SAN market and comes in the wake of the companys aggressive rollout of enterprise-level products, including Xserve G5 and Xserve RAID.

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However, it appears the companys main aim with Xsan is to add features for its high-end content creation customers, primarily in the video market, rather than attempting a further push into corporations.

According to Graham Titterington, principal analyst at Ovum, "The driver for Xsan is making large amounts of storage available to individual users for very large files, rather than consolidating storage for large numbers of users across an enterprise." However, he added, the release of Xsan may have some impact on the overall SAN market. "It may spread a price reduction across the market because of its highly competitive pricing. But theres unlikely to be a big uptake among non-Apple users," he said.

Xsan is currently in beta and will be released in the fall priced at $999 per installation.

Apple also used NAB to announce an update to its PowerBook G4 portables. In the update, the G4 processor is bumped up to a top speed of 1.5GHz on the 15- and 17-inch models, with the 12-inch PowerBook G4 boosted to 1.33GHz. The 15- and 17-inch models also feature ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics chips, with up to 128MB of VRAM installed.

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