It's Take Two for Apple's Enterprise Storage with Xsan 2
Apple today announced a major upgrade to Xsan, its enterprise-class storage area network (SAN) file system for Mac OS X. Xsan 2 represents the first upgrade since the original product was released in 2005.
The new version of Xsan introduces MultiSAN, which allows users to access multiple SANs at the same time from a single workstation. MultiSAN offers significant speed improvements because it allows file copies from one SAN volume to another directly over FibreChannel. This could be important in enterprise scenarios like newsrooms where users have to access broadcast and print-production files at the same time.
Keeping It Simple
Apple said Xsan 2 simplifies setup and deployment through the redesign of its administration tools. Administrators can now preset volume workload settings for "optimal streaming of all file types," Apple said. The system can handle huge files like compressed high-def video as well as small data-center files.
In addition, Appled explained, the Xsan Admin module is designed to simplify tasks such as expanding a volume, optimally configuring volume settings, or managing file system permissions. The system represents SAN components such as computers, volumes, and LUNs as "assets" and prominently displays an overview of SAN health.
The new version of Xsan also has other features to improve performance, particularly in large SANs with dozens or even hundreds of individual nodes. The Inspector feature provides information about volumes, LUNs, computers, and the other components that make up a storage network. Xsan 2 also includes new options for connecting to remote computers and servers using Server Admin, SSH, and screen sharing.
Xsan 2 integrates with OS X Leopard features -- so users can, for instance, search across volumes with the Spotlight feature -- and Leopard Server features, like iCal Server and Mail Server, to support clustered file systems to maximize performance and availability.
Unlike its predecessor, the new version of Xsan has been qualified to work with third-party RAID storage hardware. Although Apple has not officially announced this, some are speculating that Xsan 2 may signal the future demise of Apple's XServe RAID product.
Apple is promoting the Promise VTrak RAID, which it says has been "tuned and optimized" for Xsan, Mac OS X Server and Apple's professional programs.
The Bottom Line
I.T. analyst Charles King with Pund-IT thinks Apple is taking an "intelligent approach"
by emphasizing ease of use. "Setup and management are traditionally complex with SANs," he added. "Once you get it set up it's a great option, but setup is a real pain, so making the process as easy as possible is good way to go."
Even so, he pointed out, Apple remains a relatively small player in the market and every SAN vendor is working on simplifying setup. "Their customers will applaud and appreciate the improvements, but it's not a great differentiator for Apple."