Apple enters the server storage scene with an impressive 2GB Fibre Channel solution that’s ideal for data-intensive work, from video-editing and -render farms to 24-hour on-call data storage. Our 2.52-terabyte Xserve RAID delivered data rates high enough to let us capture and edit uncompressed 10-bit 1080i high-definition video, all at a price roughly one-fifth to one-half of what Apple’s competitors are charging.
When you first open the box, you’ll be stunned by how beautiful the Xserve RAID looks. When you lift it, you’ll be stunned by how much it weighs, thanks to the 2.52TB configuration that loads 14 removable 180GB ATA-100 drive modules into the chassis.
The Xserve RAID’s design allows easy access to all the important elements of the unit. We criticized the original Xserve for a lack of redundant components (mmmh; November 2002). Now, the Xserve RAID has added redundancy on all levels but one: the RAID controller cards. The two RAID controller cards are essential elements of the Xserve RAID, and if one card fails, the other doesn’t compensate for it while you replace the dud part.
The Xserve RAID delivers on data through-put. With our 14-drive configuration, the Xserve RAID’s rates peaked at 206 MBps for reading and 212 MBps for writing when transferring 4MB files in a RAID 50 setup, sufficient for even high-definition editing. Surprisingly, the Xserve RAID maintained steady data rates even when filled to 90 percent capacity. Be aware that the overall data-rate performance depends on the number of drives you stripe together and the type of RAID you use.
The Java-based RAID Admin application, which runs on any platform that can run Java, controls the Xserve RAID. The RAID Admin application lets you set up the RAID configurations and extensively monitor the status of your Xserve RAID box. Unfortunately, the monitoring is buggy and updates slowly — occasionally the RAID Admin utility sent inaccurate messages that hampered, rather than helped, troubleshooting.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The Xserve RAID truly delivers on performance, at a previously unheard-of price. What keeps it from getting a perfect score is its less-than-reliable RAID Admin utility and lack of redundancy in the RAID controller cards.