Apple discontinues Xserve RAID

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Apple on Tuesday quietly discontinued its Xserve RAID enterprise storage product line. It disappeared from the online Apple Store shortly after the company introduced Xsan 2 this morning. Industry analysts don’t believe the discontinuation will have a negative impact on the company’s enterprise market.

“Apple generally discontinues those products that it deems to be unviable economically or do not fit within its current strategic direction,” said Tim Deal, senior analyst at Pike & Fischer. “It is clear that Apple’s strength has never rested entirely within the enterprise market, and it is important for the company to continually and dynamically evaluate the contribution of each of its products to its financial model.”

Apple struck a deal with Promise Technology to have its RAID systems qualified for use with Xsan 2, so users are not left out in the cold. Apple said the Promise product delivers on the features its customers have been asking for and it also delivers significantly greater performance.

“We decided to focus our efforts where we could add most value, with Xserve, Xsan and Leopard Server,” Apple spokesman Anuj Nayar, told Macworld.

Customers that already own an Xserve RAID will still be able to add Apple storage too. While the RAID system itself has been discontinued, the company will still sell modules for it.

“Xserve RAID is still available while supplies last and we will continue to sell the 300 and 750GB drive modules,” said Nayar. “For new RAID purchases we recommend the Promise VTrack E-Class subsystem.”

Each VTrak RAID 3U subsystem supports up to 16 integrated 3.5-inch SATA or SAS drives and an expansion chassis that can deliver another 16 SATA or SAS drives, for capacities up to 24TB per configuration. The system also comes with dual redundant active-active, failover/failback RAID controllers, 4Gb Fibre Channel connections to the host, RAID 5 and RAID 6 support, with global and dedicated hot spare hard drives.

According to Promise the VTrak E-Class RAID subsystem delivers outstanding performance for general server and video storage workloads, reaching up to 1400MB/s of sequential read performance and 617MB/s of sequential write performance in a RAID 5 configuration with redundant controllers. When configured with Apple’s Xsan 2 clustered file system and Final Cut Studio 2 video suite, the 32-drive Vtrak subsystem delivers up to 6 streams of 8-bit uncompressed high definition video, 22 streams of ProRes HQ compressed HD video and 26 streams of 8-bit uncompressed SD video.

Apple’s exit from a commodity market like storage doesn’t necessarily mean the Xserve RAID was a total non-starter for the company.

“While this may not necessarily indicate that the Xserve RAID was a ‘loser’ for the company but more so as a derivation from Apple’s core market,” said Deal. The possible absence of the Xserve RAID from Apple’s product portfolio will likely have little impact on customer perceptions of the company, but will likely underscore the company’s uber-pragamatic approach to product groups with a less-than-favorable return on investment.”

Even with its exit from the enterprise storage market, Apple says it is committed to the overall market.

“Apple continues to deliver innovative hardware and software products for customers in our core professional markets,” said Nayar. “We announced Xsan 2 today, upgraded Xserve last month and have recently released a groundbreaking new version of OS X Server, packed with new features.”

The Vtrak system is now being sold at the Apple Store starting at $11,999.95.

Update: Added comments from industry analyst on the impact of discontinuing the Xserve RAID. 5:08 pm ET 2/19/08.

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