Apple Steps Toward the Storage Mainstream

Xserve RAID debuts as Apple's first storage product to offer support for Windows and Linux environments.
Posted January 9, 2004

Paul Shread

In a move toward the mainstream storage market, Apple has released its first storage product with support for Windows and Linux-based computing environments.

The Xserve RAID storage system is a 3U high-availability rack storage system that provides up to 3.5 terabytes of storage capacity, up to 210 MB/s throughput, and pricing of about $3 per gigabyte. And it comes with support from 11 companies, including Microsoft, VERITAS, Red Hat, Brocade, and QLogic.

Starting at $5,999 for a 1TB system, Apple bills the Xserve RAID system as "an incredible storage solution at just a fraction of the cost of Sun, HP, Dell, or EMC."

Steve Kenniston, technology analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, agrees that the Xserve RAID is a "really nice product. ... They cater to a number of markets that can really take advantage of this product, and if all they do is attach one of these to each server or high-end box they have in the market, it is a good business for them."

"I think what Apple is doing here is laying the framework to attract a broader business market," says Michael Gartenberg, VP and research director for Jupitermedia's Jupiter Research unit (Jupitermedia is also the parent company of Enterprise Storage Forum).

Gartenberg says Apple's move toward the storage mainstream isn't "a heavy play, I think it's just to serve their existing base better. ... But over time, I think a lot of these systems will have broader appeal."

With industry-standard Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) connectors and 14 independent ATA/100 drive channels, the Xserve RAID provides up to 3.5TB of storage capacity, while the dual independent RAID controllers offer sustained throughput of over 200 MB/s — enough to support uncompressed 10-bit HD video editing using protected RAID level 5, according to Apple.

RAID Admin, Apple's Java-based management and monitoring utility, has new features to make administration even easier, the company reports. RAID Set Slicing allows administrators to partition RAID sets into smaller segments, allowing storage to be distributed on as many as 16 servers, and RAID Set Expansion allows hard drives to be added without downtime. Apple says the new RAID Admin also includes enhanced testing and repair tools and a more intuitive user interface.

Xserve RAID connects to any Xserve or Power Mac using the dual-channel 2GB Apple Fibre Channel PCI Card for $499. Additional supported operating systems now include Microsoft Windows 2003 Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux v.2.1 and v.3, and Yellow Dog Linux.

It is the first Apple product to be certified on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform, and Red Hat channel sales VP Mike Evans said in a statement that the Xserve RAID "delivers one of the most aggressively priced storage solutions available on Linux today."

Apple has also worked with a number of additional storage network vendors to certify Xserve RAID's compatibility with common hardware and software products and services. Compatibility certifications are already in for VERITAS Volume Manager storage management software; Candera SCE 510 network storage controllers; Chapparal RAIDar Provisioning Services; Host Bus Adapter vendors LSI Logic and ATTO Technologies; and Fibre Channel switch vendors Brocade, QLogic, and Emulex.

Pricing is $5,999 for a 1TB system, $7,499 for a 1.75TB system, and $10,999 for a 3.5TB system.

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