In the past few years, Apple has “made significant strides toward becoming a player in enterprise computing: Apple’s rack-mount Xserve server and Xserve RAID array chassis can hold their own with anything in their class. It’s taken until now, though, for the software to catch up with the hardware. In particular, sharing data volumes across OS platforms required administrators to use the Samba SMB implementation (ick!) or NFS (double ick!). Fortunately, those are no longer the only options available, with Apple’s introduction earlier this year of Xsan, which allows administrators to build SANs on what passes for the cheap,” P. J. Connolly reports for InfoWorld. “At its simplest, Xsan is a port of the StorNext File System from Advanced Digital Information Corporation (ADIC) that sells for significantly less than the equivalent bits for Linux , Unix and Windows systems. Apple’s base price is US$999 per connected Mac OS X machine, whereas StorNext FX clients — which ADIC markets for Xsan environments — cost up to three times as much: $1,750 for Linux and Windows, and $3,000 for other Unix platforms.”

Connolly reports, “This ‘simple port’ doesn’t include any tools for managing the data itself, at least not in the way one might expect in a SAN environment, where terabytes of data are slung around. In particular, lifecycle management is left to ADIC’s own StorNext Storage Manager or similar products. But Xsan beats all comers in the game Apple knows best: adding an attractive and intuitive interface to powerful software.

“Although the $999 price tag might have been the initial eye-catcher, Xsan’s appeal is the ease of management. The most frustrating lapses are the inability to manage data itself and the lack of communication between the Xsan Admin and StorNext client, but fixing the first would add an extra ‘9’ on the price tag, and the second is intractable, being rooted in the security models of the ‘alien’ OSes,” Connolly reports. “No, Xsan’s not a SAN-in-a-box, nor is it meant to be. What it is is a very good port of a powerful file system that brings smaller — if deep-pocketed — enterprises into the petabyte club. It’s not something to use for heavy-traffic situations, but when you have to move a lot of data in a hurry, it’s fast.”

Full article here.

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