After reading ZDNet storage majordomo Robin Harris' post this morning I couldn't help but ponder the implications of Macs having a native implementation of Sun's ZFS network scalable file system in the latest versions of Mac OS X Snow Leopard client and Snow Leopard Server. Finally, a compelling reason to use Macs as file servers.
I must admit, I've been rather ignorant of the concept of using Macs for servers. Actually I wouldn't use the word ignorant -- I know what Mac servers are capable of. I just find it obnoxious that I actually have to buy an XServe to do it, rather than buy some generic IBM, Dell, or HP box with the established corporate support structure I can rely on rather than some boutique operation as part of Steve Jobs' cadre of Insanely Greaters. I know, I know, I've been harping on this for a long time now. I've suggested x86 versions of Server should be freed to be virtualized and run legally on clones, that Apple should consider involving the Open Source community to improve quality control of drivers, et cetera. Apple is too stubborn and short-sighted on short term profits rather than look at things from the big picture. Sadly, It won't happen likely until Steve Jobs is no longer part of that corporate culture.
A recent conversation with an industry executive, Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Parallels, however, changed my mind a little bit about Mac Servers. Parallels is releasing its state-of-the art hypervisor technology for the Mac first. Why? Because it represents a niche market that isn't being addressed by the big boys, and as it turns out, unlike their desktops, the price of Apple XServe systems are somewhat competitive with Dell, HP and IBM. And with Mac's new ZFS technology, it makes a lot of sense to put a few XServes into your existing environment. Sure, ZFS exists on Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris, but right now ZFS pool administration requires a bit of UNIX skills to administrate effectively -- that is unless you go with an OpenSolaris appliance distro like the way-cool NexentaStor.
You can bet that with Apple's laser focus on nice GUIs that ZFS pool administration will be a breeze -- and if they are smart, they'll figure out how to administer Solaris-based ZFS storage pools (and hopefully, Linux-based ZFS storage pools if the licensing ever switches to GPL) from a Mac. That would immediately make Macs the ultimate power tool of your Storage administration department. Combine ZFS storage pools with SAMBA and NFS exports and Mac storage administration units, and you got one heck of a dynamic storage environment.
Where does this leave Windows and its aging NTFS filesystem technology? Well, not so good. However, Microsoft could theoretically port ZFS to Windows, and put it at parity with Mac on that front. I mean, its not like Microsoft doesn't have a technology sharing alliance with Sun. They may have not have done anything substantial with it, but it does exist, at least on paper. Maybe Sam Ramji and his crew should have a fresh look at ZFS.
Will the ZFS capabilities on Mac OS X alter your IT landscape? Talk Back and let me know.