Apple Updates Xsan 2, Drops Xserve RAID

The updates are an attempt to make storage area networks easy for Apple's users, many of whom are not storage experts.

Apple updated and pared its enterprise storage product family Feb. 20, introducing the Xsan 2, an update to the Mac OS X-native SAN file system, and apparently dropping the Xserver RAID enterprise storage hardware.

Priced at $999 and available immediately, Xsan 2 is "the first major update since [the product's] introduction in January 2005," said Eric Zelenka, Apple's senior product line manager for server and storage software. He said that the previous version of Xsan has been "used by tens of thousands" of companies, including digital production studios and television stations.

One of the major goals with the update, Zelenka said, was to decrease the challenge of setting up and using a SAN (storage area network).

Xsan owners "appreciate the benefits" but found "challenges of setup", he said.

"There are a lot of components that make up a SAN," Zelenka said, including Fibre Channel interfaces, storage pools, volumes and configuring storage for specific purposes. "A lot of our customers are not IT experts."

One of Xsan 2's major new features is MultiSAN. This allows individual users, whether at a desktop or a server, to reach more than one Xsan volume. "This is important for mission-critical uses", Zelenka said.

Another feature is the Xsan Admin application. This will give administrators an overview of all used storage, including volumes, pools and Fibre Channel interfaces, as well as how much storage is allocated to each user. Zelenka added that the Xsan Admin application also allows easy expansion of volumes and the ability to look at all the computers on a SAN, from CPU load to system logs.

Xsan 2 integrates Mac OS X's Spotlight search feature, Zelenka said, with the ability to search by name, content and metadata across the storage network.

Xsan 2 also features comprehensive integration with many features of Mac OS X 10.5 Server, aka Leopard Server.

The new version of Xsan takes Leopard Server's iCal Server, Mail Server and Podcast Producer and allows them to work over clustered file systems. According to Apple's Web site, this should boost performance and allow these services to continue working well even if a single server goes down.

So long Xserve RAID

Zelenka also spoke about Apple's discontinuing of its Xserve RAID storage hardware in favor of the Promise Technology VTrak E-Class RAID. In fact, Apple's own "server storage" page features the Promise hardware.

"What we were after was providing the best features for our customers," Zelenka said, "and the kicker was that [the Promise RAID] was lower-cost than what we were able to provide."

He pointed to the VTrak's dual 4GB Fibre Channel posts per controller, dual active RAID controllers, SAS (serial-attached SCSI) and SATA (Serial ATA) drive support, and a cost of $1.12 per GB of storage.

Zelenka added that Apple will still sell 500GB and 750GB drives and other support parts for existing Xserve RAIDs and continue to offer support.