Lion's best storage feature: free!

Lion's best storage feature: free!

Summary: Lion isn't just i-candy for the Mac. It throws storage geeks some nice high-end features - at an unbeatable price. Does this signal new commitment to high-end storage for pros?

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TOPICS: Storage, Apple, Hardware
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Lion isn't just about icandy for the Mac. It throws storage geeks some nice high-end features - at an unbeatable price. Does this signal new commitment to high-end storage for pros?

Much consumer goodness Lots of low-end semi-goodness in Lion. I say "semi-goodness" because most of it relies on the aging and corruption-prone HFS+ file system.

HFS+ loses data - I have - but most people won't know why and won't blame Apple. Nor is it something Steve will obsess about - unless it happens to him.

But the ability to retain previous versions of files, to open an app or document to where you were when you quit, and autosave are all good-to-great features. If only their foundation were more robust.

Users will wonder how they got along without them after 3 days. I know I will.

Free the Xsan 2 But the bigger news is on the high-end.

Scale-out storage clusters are popular in high-end applications. Amazon's Dynamo key-value store and Google's BigTable are good examples.

Apple's Xsan - their version of Quantum's StorNext cluster file system - is popular in Mac-based video production and scientific apps. Today Xsan 2 costs $999 per seat.

Next month: free. Oh yes, you'll have to buy a couple of $49 copies of Lion Server to get the Xsan host software. Not too shabby.

Everyone - like video production shops - can have a cluster file system for almost free.

The almost is due to today's hardware requirements: Fibre Channel - a fast, low-latency block protocol popular in enterprise data centers - host adapters and switches, RAID arrays and dedicated metadata controllers. But if you have a half-dozen tricked out Mac Pros you can probably afford the extra cost.

Xsan isn't Fibre Channel for the rest of us. Apple has simplified installation, but you still need to know your way around volumes, LUNs, storage pools, switch configuration, multi-pathing and MDC failover.

Yet low-end FC kit is much more affordable than it used to be. For a few grand you can have a small FC SAN that can scale as your needs grow.

NFS v4.0 Also new: an NFS v4.0 client built into Lion. Most folks are happily using v3 clients and the advantages of v4.0 aren't compelling. But v4.0 is a step to the much more capable v4.1 - the version that includes parallel NFS.

pNFS is a way cool architectural enhancement that enables considerable bandwidth and concurrency gains through parallelism. User and application interfaces are unchanged while performance zooms.

Just one dot-release to go.

The Storage Bits take For the huge majority of Mac users the state-saving feature will be huge. While it will work best with SSD-equipped Macs, I'm told it does OK with hard drives too - popping up a picture of your last desktop/apps/docs and then loading them when you click on one.

But for people who want to do Big Things with their Macs, free Xsan is a major win. The interesting question is: how will they make money when it's free?

I expect they'll keep their margins up by adding new - not free - features, like deduplication, snapshots, storage tiering, automated archiving and replication that serious data junkies love. These features are already available in Quantum's StorNext product, so the engineering effort is low.

The more interesting possibility concerns hardware. FC gear is still not cheap, and with Thunderbolt standard on most pro Macs, small Xsan low-cost FC-over-Thunderbolt (FCoT - you heard it here first!) clusters offering extreme performance would be drool-worthy.

There's also no reason Xsan couldn't use iSCSI over Thunderbolt or soon-to-be-common 10Gb Ethernet. Apple could make many cash-strapped video pros very happy with that.

Comments welcome, of course. I like versioning file systems, but the versions in Lion only approximate the functionality. Better, but not best.

Topics: Storage, Apple, Hardware

About

Robin Harris has been a computer buff for over 35 years and selling and marketing data storage for over 30 years in companies large and small.

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15 comments
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  • "Corruption-prone HFS "

    Stating opinions as facts does not make them so.
    fr_gough
    • He's equal opportunity

      @fr_gough

      He's stated the same about just about every FS in use today... I say we switch to file cabinets and paper.
      croberts
      • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

        @croberts
        Independent, peer-reviewed research has found that popular file systems are corruption prone.

        I'm just the messenger, Trinity.
        Robin Harris
      • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

        @croberts ....pencils have really problematic leads that tend to get dull or break with use.
        Feldwebel Wolfenstool
    • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

      @fr_gough Um just not even researching doesn't make it go away. http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=corrupt+prone+hfs%2B

      Apple was going to replace it with ZFS but work was halted for possible licencing issues with Sun and Oracle.

      The only other OS that has a worse file system is Windows but that is a whole other story in it's self. It is bad that Apple hasn't changed to a more modern file system. Maybe btrfs?????
      mtelesha
  • I like he's worried about Mac profits

    What do you mean, how will they make money? ITunes and the fact that Mac products generally cost 20-30% more at a minimum should about do it. Let's not forget that Linux and Windows already handle this for fairly low or no cost.

    There's no "experience" to over-sell consumers on in storage.
    A Gray
    • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

      @A Gray
      I'm worried about how Xsan will make money. Money-losing groups don't do well at Apple.
      Robin Harris
    • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

      @A Gray

      <i>"the fact that Mac products generally cost 20-30% more at a minimum"</i>

      Stating opinions as facts does not make them so.

      Can you find sub $500 Windows laptops? yes, but Apple doesn't sell cheap. The hardware that Apple puts into the machines is decent hardware, and honestly the best running windows machine I have ever seen runs on-top of Apple branded hardware.

      I bought my first a Mac, a Mac Mini, here about 4 months ago. It is a little engine that does. I boot-camped Windows on it, and it is the most stable running Windows I have ever seen, Best of all, while idle this little guy only sips power, less power than a 15W 60W equivalent CFL light bulb. And for a Machine that only has a Integrated Video Adapter, this thing can render games pretty good. It is the best performance I have ever seen coming out of an integrated video adapter. Windows Experience Index is 5.5.

      To be honest I bought this thing out of morbid curiosity. I was looking to replace my desktop, I wanted something that was compact, powerful, used little power, and generated very little heat. My last tower, a custom built guy pumps out so much heat, that my entire upstairs climbed 10degrees F every time I ran it. I live in MN, Winters get to 30+ below, there were times when I ran this, that the heater didn't even kick in upstairs, In fact it kicked the temp to 80+ degrees, and I keep my Thermo set at 72 in the winter.

      The thing is, is I am getting away from PC gaming, so I don't need the raw power anymore and the heat to go with it, so I was pleasantly surprised with the Mini's performance. I will say that my next laptop, will likely be a Mac Book Pro, and I will likely boot-camp Windows on that as well, that isn't to say that I don't use OSX, I do actually, more than the Windows side these days, but that is because most of what I do is Web based anyway, I could run Linux and be perfectly happy for most tasks. I only ever use windows for games mostly now days. After that I think I will roll the Mini into a little home server, attach a Drobo to it, and use it to serve up my files, music, and movies. I think Amahi would run really well on that guy.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

    The article doesn't mention if Lion will finally support iSCSI; which other Unix systems have supported for years; and most non-apple servers can now boot from iSCSI.
    emiliosic
    • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

      @emiliosic
      No word on iSCSI, which means no iSCSI either.
      Robin Harris
    • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

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  • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

    Versioning File Systems?

    It's 1983 and VMS has a versioning file system
    Nothing to see here, move along now...
    Lord Minty
  • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

    Very nice.
    james347
  • RE: Lion's best storage feature: free!

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