Big Mac Attack for Storage

Can Macs and storage mix?

Got storage-hungry Mac desktops to feed? Apple Computer Inc.'s Xserve RAID, its 3.5TB RAID array and the Xserve...

platform running Mac OS X have performed a minor miracle: Together, they seem to have made Mac a legitimate server and storage platform.

Before, "we didn't really consider running Mac as a server platform," says Rich Kruszewski, network administrator at advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day. But since Mac OS X became a "viable operating system" with release 10.2, the firm has purchased 29TB of Xserve RAID, and is considering a move off its Novell servers for file and print in favor of Mac OS X, he says.

The sheer volume of storage behind Mac platforms is growing, too, reports Eric Newbauer, director of operations at Studio Network Solutions, St. Louis, which specializes in configuring storage area networks (SANs) for the professional audio production industry. "We used to deal with subterabyte systems," he says, "but now, with Xserve RAID, it's like, 'How many terabytes do you want?'" At $3/GB with 7,200 rpm ATA drives, "Apple has done a fantastic job bringing to market a product that people perceive as a really good value," Newbauer says.

Riding in on Xserve RAID's coattails is a slew of specialized storage software aimed at this emerging market. In the backup space, BakBone Software has ported its NetVault backup software to Mac OS X, as have Atempo with its Time Navigator and Avail Solutions with its Integrity software.

Adding bells and whistles to Xserve RAID is also an area of focus. "Like everything Apple, everything looks pretty, but the performance is average," says Randy Batterson, director of strategic alliances and OEMs at Atempo. And while "it can scale forever," it's also missing some key enterprise features such as snapshots and replication.

To fill in Xserve RAID's holes, TBWA/Chiat/Day purchased the storage in conjunction with the SCE 510 Network Storage Controller from Candera, which provides features such as storage virtualization, simplified provisioning and replication.

Wenzel Data, Stillwater, MN, is also developing a storage controller that works in Mac environments. Running on a dedicated Xserve server, it can front any Fibre-connected array or tape library, and the company is working on an iSCSI version.

And let's not forget about Apple. It also hopes to capitalize on its users' thirst for better storage management. This spring, it announced its Xsan, a clustered file system based on StorNext from ADIC. With it, demanding users, such as digital content creators, can gain shared data on a Fibre Channel SAN at speeds much higher than a file server could provide.

This was first published in August 2004

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