Apple Xserves up enterprise treats

In an effort to earn industry status as more than just an alternative to the PC, Apple Computer Corp. on Monday made a play for the enterprise and announced its first storage venture along with a new Xserve offering.

The company has gone for aggressive pricing and performance as key lures for its Xserve redundant array of independent disks (RAID), a 3U rack storage system that offers 2.5TB storage capacity enabled by 14 independent ATA/100 drive channels, and performance of up to 400MB/sec.

Fully redundant storage is offered through dual independent RAID controllers with up to 1GB cache memory, the company said, and performance is delivered through a dual 2 gigabit Fibre Channel host interface. Each 180GB Apple Drive Module uses a dedicated drive channel to maximize the 400MB/sec., industry standard Fibre Channel host connection. The Xserve RAID is capable of scaling in capacity and performance, Apple said, by adding more drives or additional Xserve RAID systems enabling unlimited expansion.

At a starting price of approximately US$5,999, the Xserve RAID also comes with Java-based RAID Admin software offering detailed event information and e-mail notification in the case of system error. The software also lets administrators manage and monitor multiple Xserve RAID systems remotely from any Internet browser over transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) using a secure encrypted password. Apple also said through its Rendezvous networking technology, RAID Admin can automatically discover and connect to Xserve RAID systems over any IP network.

Xserve RAID will be available through Apple and Apple authorized resellers in March.

In addition to the storage product, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple also released an upgraded version of its Xserve 1U rack servers. Keeping with its aggressive pricing strategy, the new Xserve comes with dual 1.33GHz PowerPC G4 processors, up to 2GB of 333MHz Double Data Rate (DDR) memory and up to 720GB of hot-plug storage, for a starting price of US$2,799.

Two full-length 64-bit, 66MHz PCI slots offer up to 533Mbps throughput allowing for easy expansion to external SCSI and Fibre Channel devices including the Xserve RAID system.

Also included is the unlimited client edition of Apple’s Mac OS X Server software with built-in file and printer sharing and features remote management and monitoring tools.

“I think that it is a good announcement for Apple customers and it certainly makes sense,” said Alan Freedman, research director storage, servers and workstations with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto. “If they can do this with a limited R&D budget to up-sell their customers first with servers and then with storage, it makes sense to successfully acquire all the revenue from their captive accounts as they can. They are not going to take over the market with this, but it is really good for their install base.”

The new Xserve will also be available in March from Apple and Apple authorized resellers.