Apple takes the bite out of SANs

Von P.J. Connolly

The first thing on my New Year"s list is Apple Computer Inc."s Xsan storage networking software. As one would expect, the interface is pretty, but don"t let the GUI lull you into Candyland. Xsan is far and away the leading candidate for storage product of the year, because it takes an accepted SAN file system -- in this case, Advanced Digital Information Corp."s StorNext -- and adds excellent integration with the Mac OS X operating system.

The result is an inexpensive way to support Macintosh clients on an existing StorNext SAN, to create an Xserve-based SAN for Linux, Unix, and Windows systems, or a combination. At US$999 per computer, Apple brings SAN technology within the reach of small and midsize enterprises.

In an Xsan environment, user files -- up to 16TB -- are transported over a FC (Fibre Channel) network, while file system metadata and management information use a private Ethernet IP connection. Apple"s documentation assumes Xsan will be used in what some would call a "pure" SAN, where as many as 64 clients and controllers can connect directly to the FC fabric. An alternative configuration uses servers to present volumes in a NAS configuration. Although this configuration can already be accomplished with the basic Mac OS X Server and appropriate hardware, Xsan provides better control over file locking, and almost completely eliminates the chance of file contention.

Xsan supports quotas by users and groups. These are set up -- as are most other features -- by the Xsan Admin graphical tool, although hard-core command-line junkies are welcome to "sudo" to their hearts" content. In fact, that"s the only way to access Xsan"s defragger, and other "super-duper" administrative functions.

Apple Xsan

Apple Computer

Cost: $999 per client and per server

Available: Now shipping