Apple updates storage software, dumps Xserve RAID

Xsan 2 is the first upgrade to Apple's SAN offering

Apple refreshed its storage line-up Tuesday as it launched Xsan 2, an update for its Storage Area Network (SAN) file system, and quit the RAID storage hardware business.

Xsan 2, which requires Leopard Server and supports Leopard on the client side, is the first upgrade to Apple's SAN offering since the original product debuted more than three years ago.

Senior product line manager for Apple's server and storage groups, Eric Zelenka, touted Xsan 2's new MultiSAN feature, among others. MultiSAN, he said, lets a single workstation or server access volumes from separate SANs simultaneously. "That's ideal where availability is critical," Zelenka said.

Also receiving attention from Apple in the upgrade were the file system's setup assistants and its administrative tools. For the former, Xsan 2 integrates with the Server Assistant in Leopard Server and sports a new Setup Assistant of its own to help users create volumes and set up computers on the SAN. The goal, said Zelenka, was to broaden the market for SANs generally, and for Xsan 2 specifically.

"These features make it easier to set up and deploy a SAN. This was one of the biggest concerns from users," he said. "They didn't have the technical expertise to do this on their own. We've simplified the entire SANs process."

The new file system software also ties in with several Leopard-specific features, including the operating system's search tool, Spotlight, as well as Leopard Server's iCal Server and Mail Server.

Spotlight will index across volumes and across SANs -- it's integrated with the new MultiSAN -- and will search any and all volumes. Xsan 2 also adds clustering support for iCal Server, Mail Server and Podcast Producer to provide both higher throughput on those Leopard Server services and greater availability.

While it added Xsan 2 to its business line-up, Apple also subtracted something: Xserve RAID. According to Zelenka, Apple will continue to sell is mass-storage appliance only "as long as supply lasts." But a search Tuesday on the Apple site for the Xserve RAID only brought up the message "The item you have selected is currently not available from the Apple Store."

Instead, Apple is reselling a line of Fibre Channel-based RAID devices built by Promise Technology. Promise's Vtrak E-Class subsystems, expansion chassis and drive modules went on sale on the Apple Web site today at prices starting at $US12,000 for a 6TB subsystem boasting eight drives.

"We recommend that new [Xsan 2] users deploy it with Promise's [hardware]," Zelenka said. "But Apple will continue to sell the 300GB and 750GB drive models for the Xserve RAID to existing customers."

He also trumpeted the lower price of the Promise hardware, saying that Apple was able to strike a deal with the California-based storage maker. "In a 24TB configuration, it's $1.12 per gigabyte," Zelenka said. "That's less than the Xserve RAID." Before it was dropped, the Xserve RAID was selling at $1.31 per gigabyte in a 10.5TB configuration.

Xsan 2 is priced at $999 per node, and according to Apple, is available immediately from its online store and through authorized resellers. On the company's e-store, however, Xsan 2 shows a ship date five to seven business days out.

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Gregg Keizer

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