SATA-based Xserve RAID prototype escapes from Apple (photos)

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
It's not often that a prototype of an unreleased Apple hardware product escapes the company's kung fu grip and lands smack-dab in the lap of one of our loyal readers. But hey, that's what appears to have happened. So here's some fresh meat for friday:



What you see below looks like a run-of-the-mill Xserve RAID, though first appearances can sometimes be deceiving. The only noticeable change to the face of the unit is the presence of 6 fibre channel activity lights instead of two. However, a quick peep inside confirms the mounting suspicion. Apple has yet to commission the release of this puppy, which according to some internal stamping is dubbed "Q57."



A label on the unit refers to the hardware configuration as: '512MB/1000GB 4DRIVE/2GB FC'.*



Prototype SATA Xserve RAID



Changes to the internal hardware include:



Interior of new SATA ADM



Backplane of new SATA ADM



The pre-production unit contains SATA drive modules, which appear to be the same as those used with the currently shipping Xserve server component (not the RAID, which still maintains use of Ultra ATA drives). Of the four modules, a number are marked 'Accusys Q57', indicating that they may be marginally different than the SATA drive modules utilized by the current Xserve.*Increased maximum bandwidth and lowered power consumption of future SATA drives should both increase the efficiency of the Xserve RAID and allow for cooler operation.*



RAID Controller Module



Also changed is the RAID controller module, which no longer houses the fibre channel port.* Only the ethernet and UPS interface ports remain.



Six Fibre Channel Ports



The fibre channel ports are now incorporated in the cooling module.* Matching the increase in front activity lights, Q57 sports six fibre channel ports.



Xserve RAID Prototype - Backplane



When using the latest version of RAID Admin, the device firmware is reported as:* 2.0d32 dev/A3.10. Unfortunately, a large portion of the RAID Admin functionality is disabled. Currently shipping Xserve RAID units are operating on firmware version 1.5 and it appears that, while the administration software recognizes the prototype, it cannot be configured.*For this reason, the abilities of the 4 extra fibre channel ports cannot be determined.* *



On the currently shipping Xserve RAID, when one Xserve is connected to both ports it has access to all 14 drives. When two Xserves are connected (one to each port), both have access to 7 of the drives.* It's likely that newer RAID Admin software will allow arbitrary assignment of drives to any of six connected Xserves.* It is also possible that these newer Xserves RAIDs have an integrated 6-port fibre channel switch.* This won't be known until an actual release of the hardware when new firmware and admin software is available.



While it's not clear if and when Apple plans to update its Xserve RAID systems to coincide with those advancements present in Q57, the prototype presents a logical progression to their cutting-edge storage solution, allowing the company to standardize the Xserve RAID drive modules with those currently used in the Xserve.



Of course, Apple may also forgo the release of an SATA RAID completely in favor of an SAS-based solution.



Update: A reader points out the prototype consists of only half a RAID.



"There is only one controller in it, as current Xserves are actually two 7 drive RAIDS in an enclosure (when you want to access all 14 drives, you have to connect both controllers to the host, and then strip across the two volumes in software).



So I would assume that in a full Xserve, not a test / demo/ prototype, that it would have 2 controllers, 2 sets of 6 fibre channel ports, etc. as there is only 1 controller and 1 6 port fibre channel bay shown in the photos you have, but the spaces below them are meant to take those additional controllers / fan assemblies.



Also apple could be duplicating the fibre ports, as those are one of the major weaknesses of the xserves, the fibre ports are a single point of failure."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    emig647emig647 Posts: 2,454member
    That is a really cool find. If only getting more unreleased products was this easy. I'm actually pretty impressed with Apple's internal designs. They really take the time to make it a professional product.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    "But hey, that's what appears to have happened."



    ...
  • Reply 3 of 35
    Is ZFS better than RAID? I was just wondering whether ZFS would make RAID redundant.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    emig647emig647 Posts: 2,454member
    ""But hey, that's what appears to have happened.""



    LOL @ that
  • Reply 5 of 35
    emig647emig647 Posts: 2,454member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by matracer View Post


    Is ZFS better than RAID? I was just wondering whether ZFS would make RAID redundant.



    Though I'm not all that familiar with ZFS, I suppose that depends on what RAID configuration you're talking about?



    (does anyone know if the XServe RAID can be reconfigured to any type? ie. 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, etc.)
  • Reply 6 of 35
    I personally would love to see a new XServe RAID handle SAS drives (I haven't seen a SATA drive hit 15k yet, but I could be wrong). The extra fibre ports and the ability to access any array across either backplane through either controller would be very nice, but I know isn't likely.



    Quote:

    Is ZFS better than RAID? I was just wondering whether ZFS would make RAID redundant.



    ZFS can use RAID-Z across multiple drives (called a pool in ZFS terminology). RAID-Z is an adaptation of RAID 5. So, basically, if RAID 5 makes sense for your application, then ZFS should work fine. If you do a lot of writes where computing and writing the parity data that RAID 5 requires would result in a slowdown, then using a ZFS pool wouldn't be the best option. (I personally would use RAID 10 here, but everyone has a different level they like for different applications.) You could still use the ZFS filesystem on top of the hardware-based RAID ? stripe, of course.



    Quote:

    Though I'm not all that familiar with ZFS, I suppose that depends on what RAID configuration you're talking about?



    (does anyone know if the XServe RAID can be reconfigured to any type? ie. 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, etc.)



    The current XServe RAID can handle 0, 1, 3, 5, 0+1, and what they call "Enhanced JBOD". I have no idea what is enhanced about it, as I have never tried it. (For those unacquainted, JBOD stands for "Just a Bunch Of Disks" and is termed "Concatenation" in Disk Utility's software RAID. It's just a series of disks treated as one volume with data written sequentially across the drives.)
  • Reply 7 of 35
    Integrating the fibre channel switch is a really nice touch.

    It's one less seperate component to purchase and to take up space.

    For Apple's target market this is going to make the XServe RAID an even better value than it already is.
  • Reply 8 of 35
    it's FAKE!!!11!!!2 you can't fool me, photoshop scammer!
  • Reply 9 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by matracer View Post


    Is ZFS better than RAID? I was just wondering whether ZFS would make RAID redundant.



    ZFS is file system software.

    RAID is hardware or software.



    The Zen File System incorporates principles found in RAID to increase reliabilty and performance.

    While there is overlap they are really complimentary technologies.

    Especially when ZFS is used on RAID hardware.



    Here is an analogy...

    GPS(Global Positioning System) is a set of algorythems for determining your position.

    It is a great system, but not if you don't have any satellites.

    Once you have satellites(hardware) to complement the system(software) then it is more useful.



    ***I know I am potentially opening a huge can of worms by just mentioning GPS***
  • Reply 10 of 35
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,665member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post


    ZFS is file system software.

    RAID is hardware or software.



    The Zen File System incorporates principles found in RAID to increase reliabilty and performance.

    While there is overlap they are really complimentary technologies.

    Especially when ZFS is used on RAID hardware.



    Here is an analogy...

    GPS(Global Positioning System) is a set of algorythems for determining your position.

    It is a great system, but not if you don't have any satellites.

    Once you have satellites(hardware) to complement the system(software) then it is more useful.



    ***I know I am potentially opening a huge can of worms by just mentioning GPS***



    THE IPHONE SUCKS WITHOUT GPS!!!!!!!!!! APPLE IS TEH DOOMED!!!!!!! GAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!
  • Reply 11 of 35
    Sweet! I'm in the market for a new Xserve RAID. I wonder when the update will be released?
  • Reply 12 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by King Chung Huang View Post


    Sweet! I'm in the market for a new Xserve RAID. I wonder when the update will be released?



    If past experience is any indicator, as soon as I buy the current model.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,406member
    I'm with bbatsell



    The Xserve RAID need to migrate to SAS.



    I'd like to see two different models hit.



    Deliver the same casing SAS XR with 14 drive bays. Then ship a 3U 22 drive bay XR with 2.5" SFF drives. This allows companies to tier their storage right in the RAID box. Use 15k SAS drives for your production data and SATA drives for your nearline storage. Works well with SAN file systems as well because you don't need basic stuff sitting on your expensive drives.



    Fibre is losing traction. Even Brocade is blinking and buying IP companies.



    Brocade aquires Silverback IP Data Vendor



    ZFS is nice as well. The checksum features go beyond what you get with a basic RAID 5 setup which cannot prevent corruption.
  • Reply 14 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post


    The Zen File System incorporates principles found in RAID to increase reliabilty and performance.



    Umm...

    ZFS stands (or stood) for Zettabyte File System.

    Zen is a philosophical approach to life.



    ...unless, of course, you're wanting to talk about a particular philosophical approach to file systems. In that case, wait until I leave the room before you start that discussion.
  • Reply 15 of 35
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,951member
    It looks nice, but not definitely not something I can afford. Personally, I'd prefer eSATA II with a port multiplier in an external box, though even those are still a bit expensive. That would be somewhere between the previous FC standard and the new one and well ahead of any gigabit link, in speed of course. FC and ethernet have a distance advantage to consider.
  • Reply 16 of 35
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jbh0001 View Post


    Umm...

    ZFS stands (or stood) for Zettabyte File System.

    Zen is a philosophical approach to life.



    Strictly speaking, ZFS once stood for Zettabyte File System but now stands for nothing at all.
  • Reply 17 of 35
    sjksjk Posts: 603member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Chucker View Post


    Strictly speaking, ZFS once stood for Zettabyte File System but now stands for nothing at all.



    As in zilch?
  • Reply 18 of 35
    sjksjk Posts: 603member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jbh0001 View Post


    Zen is a philosophical approach to life.



    ...unless, of course, you're wanting to talk about a particular philosophical approach to file systems. In that case, wait until I leave the room before you start that discussion.



    Hmm, that might be a discussion I'd enjoy having with people reasonable well-informed on that subject.
  • Reply 19 of 35
    So if there are three (or six) FC ports per controller, that would mean bandwidth of 6Gbps (or 12Gbps), right, providing you had enough ports for the machines as well?
  • Reply 20 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Chucker View Post


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jbh0001 View Post


    Umm...

    ZFS stands (or stood) for Zettabyte File System.

    Zen is a philosophical approach to life.



    Strictly speaking, ZFS once stood for Zettabyte File System but now stands for nothing at all.



    Hence the parenthetical "or stood" in my original post.
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