Software

Apple ships Xsan, upgrades Xserve G5

Apple Computer Inc. on Tuesday announced that it is shipping its Xsan Storage Area Network (SAN) file system, now available for US$999 per client and per server. Xsan is a 64-bit cluster file system that enables Mac OS X Server users to share files and volumes up to 16 TB (Terabytes) in size on a Fibre Channel network. Apple also announced an upgrade to its rack-mountable Xserve G5 file server, upping the top-end and "Cluster Node" configuration's processor speed to 2.3GHz and its system bus speed to 1.15GHz.

Fibre channel-based SAN systems like Xsan are high-speed networking storage solutions aimed at environments like video and film editing, broadcast, visual effects and motion graphics creation. Xsan's applications extend beyond video and film, as well -- Apple sees a market for Xsan in business, government, education and high performance computing -- all environments that can benefit from storage consolidation where features like metadata controller failover, Fibre Channel multipathing, file-level locking and more sophisticated volume management can be used effectively.

Eric Zelenka, Apple's senior product line manager, server and storage software, told MacCentral that Apple is also offering a new support program for Xsan customers -- priced at $799 per system, the Xsan support plan offers users 24 hour a day, 7 day a week access to Apple's support staff with an unlimited number of incidents. The support plan covers Xsan setup and configuration, and can also help users with questions related to setting up their RAID, Fibre Channel cards, switches, Mac OS X Server, and application software that will be used with the Xsan system.

Zelenka explained that Xsan's pricing enables users to configure each Xsan-equipped system either as a metadata controller -- a file server system, essentially -- or as a client. Zalenka said the $999 per node price has already garnered attention from a community used to paying more for such capability. Apple has tested Xsan configurations with up to 64 users accessing video streams from a single storage volume.

Apple offers license discounts for more than 10 nodes per network, and also offers an optional maintenance program that enables companies to buy three years of upgrades for the cost of a single upgrade.

Xsan is interoperable with ADIC's StorNext File System, which means it can be used in mixed-platform environments comprising Windows, Unix and Linux operating systems as well, according to Apple. Xsan is also supported by ADIC's StorNext Management Suite data management software. Xsan has been vetted for use on Xserve G4, Xserve G5, Power Mac G4, Power Mac G5, Xserve RAID and Apple Fibre Channel PCI-X cards. Xsan requires Mac OS X v10.3 or Mac OS X Server v10.3 and supports qualified Fibre Channel switches made by Brocade, QLogic and Emulex.

Xserve Speed Bump

Apple also has upgraded the Xserve G5, its 1U rack-mountable file server system. The new Xserve G5 now operates with dual processors clocked at up to 2.3GHz -- compared to 2.0GHz for its previous top-end system -- and a front side system bus architecture clocked at 1.15GHz per processor, up from 1.0GHz per processor in the previous high-end system.

Despite the speed increase, the Xserve G5's price remains unchanged: The server starts at $2,999 for a 2.0GHz single processor system, while the 2.3GHz dual processor model, which replaces a 2.0GHZ dual processor model previously in the matrix, costs $3,999. The "Cluster Node" Xserve G5 model has also been upgraded to 2.3GHz, and retains its $2,999 price tag.

"We've added 400GB Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives for up to 1.2 terabytes (TB) of internal storage," said Alex Grossman, Apple's director of server and storage hardware. "We're also offering Combo drives or SuperDrive in place of the CD-ROM that was previously installed."

The Combo optical drive -- capable of reading DVD-ROMs -- is more useful for software that's increasingly distributed on DVD rather than over several CDs, Grossman told MacCentral. And SuperDrives -- capable of burning DVD-R media -- offer a convenient archival alternative for administrators who want to burn content to disc quickly.

Other specifications on the Xserve G5 remain unchanged: It can be outfitted with up to 8GB of 400MHz DDR RAM and three on-board internal Serial ATA (SATA)-based hard drives; it can also be outfitted with a PCI-based hardware RAID card to achieve 800GB of RAID 5-protected internal storage. The Xserve G5 also features two full-length 64-bit PCI-X slots clocked at 133MHz.

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