Apple has an odd relationship with enterprise computing. Their Xserve server products are strong, as is Leopard Server, and they have an excellent SAN file system, Xsan, that they just updated. Yet, Mac OS X is the last major operating system with no volume manager (thanks to the antiquated HFS+), and it looks like the company EOLed their Fibre Channel RAID product, Xserve RAID, today.
Let’s start with today’s good news. Apple updated Xsan with broader support for third-party Fibre Channel hardware, making a good product better. Although it requires Leopard, Xsan 2 now allows a single Mac to access multiple SAN devices, improving performance and flexibility. Geared towards the company’s primary professional customer base, Xsan lets a large number of Mac machines share Fibre Channel-connected volumes and file systems.
Now the bad news. I’ve long loved Apple’s simple Xserve RAID for the same reason I loved my old iPod – it was simple, lacking about half the features of my half-decade-old Nomad Jukebox, but so easy to use that I actually, you know, used it! The Xserve RAID was severely limited by comparison to every other enterprise storage array. No snapshots, thin provisioning, tiered storage, deduplication, etc, etc… But it worked. And that was plenty for the company’s core user base, especially if they were using it with Xsan, as probably 90% were. Before Microsoft coined “simple SAN”, Apple delivered it.
But no more. Now, the company redirects visitors to the old Xserve RAID URL to Promise’s web site, and their decent VTrak E-Class RAID system. This Fibre Channel RAID array is up to date with 4 Gb interfaces, SATA, and SAS, and, although basic, is not as stripped down as the old Apple product. But I’ll miss it. I especially loved the nifty LED activity bar graphs, the identifier buttons, and the Appley goodness of the industrial design.
Update: Yup, everyone is noticing the change now!