XServe RAID vs. The Batmobile

When you think of Apple, you probably think of iPods and Powerbooks and iTunes. Apple is well known for making chic and sexy hardware and software. It’s a consumer company, right? Not entirely. Apple also makes server hardware, including some very high-quality storage arrays, and it seems that I’m not the only person who likes their storage solutions.

We’re using XServe RAID arrays as part of the early storage for the NDNP project. Currently, we have four machines, each with dual, independent fibre channel SAN busses, with each bus servicing seven disks. Each machine has roughly 4 TiB of usuable storage, giving us a total of 16 TiB of very sexy storage.

Yes, even Apple’s rack-mounted hardware is sexy. The case has a fine, brushed metal finish. There are numerous useful status LEDs on the front, including blue LEDs for the disk activity lights. Further, there are blue LED meters on the front that show real-time storage bus utlization, reminiscent of the CPU load meters on the once-red-hot BeBox.

The only problem with Apple’s hardware is the density. Our hardware is located on Capitol Hill, and space is at quite a premium. As part of our experimentation, we recently added a NexSan SATABeast to our collection. This monster, affectionately called The Batmobile, has 20 TiB of storage in a mere 4u, for a ratio of 5 TiB/u. Each of the XServes is 3u in height, so compared to the XServe RAID ratio of 1.3 TiB/u, the NexSan is the clear winner. We have yet to really put the Batmobile through its paces, though, so performance and maintanence may be a differentiating factor.