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Anyone using XSAN anymore?

3798 Views 9 Replies Latest reply: Jul 4, 2012 8:11 PM by Ian L-F RSS
Kalagan Calculating status...
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Jan 4, 2012 2:25 PM

Hi all,

 

I was XSAN Certified when Version 1 came out, but haven't used it at all since then. I kind of still understand the big picture, but the day to day problems I am not up to date with.

 

So, how well does the free version of XSan that is included in Lion work? Any new issue to look out for? is the configuration pretty much still the same, MDC, Backup MDC, dedicated Metadate Volume, etc.

 

The reason I am asking these questions is because the editorial company I work for is considering migrating up to FCP 7 and newer Mac Pros, so we can Edit in HD. Up to this point we have been nursing along 16 Fiber Connected Edit bays and another 12 AFP Connected Producer machines that run FCP 5.1. This really has worked quite well, even now, we rarely have any problems except for Hardware that gets replaced, but it obviously doesn't handle HD.

 

Is it worth investing in XSan at this point when we migrate up to new machines, FCP 7 and Prores 422 HD?

 

Is it realistic to plan for the Producers to be able to mount the XSan Volumes via AFP and be able to playback Prores 422 files successfully over the network or would the Producers Machines need to be Fiber Connected also? the Plan (if we go to XSan) would be to build and XSan Volume from six 4Gig fiber controllers stripped together, so throughput on the fiber Network should not be an issue, but what about the Ethernet connected machines, can they handle Prores 422?

 

Are people successfully using the new Mac Mini with the San Link as the MDC and Backup MDC? Is there another approach?

 

I would really love some input on this stuff, because the XSan Discussion Board is not very busy these days and the current posts sound like the Permissions Problems that plagued version 1 have not been resolved.

 

What are the other options? How successful are they at handling a 15 seat Fiber Editorial House? Etc.

 

Any other info would be greatly appreciated.

 

Kalagan

  • Blaidd Drwg Level 1 Level 1 (70 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 5, 2012 7:04 AM (in response to Kalagan)

    The Xsan file system in Lion is no less capable and not too different to operate than the older Xsan versions you have used. Mac Minis with Lion Server and SANLink would work fine as MDCs.

     

    Regarding network clients, keep in mind the network will be the bottleneck whether or not you are using Xsan as the back end storage. At 220 Mbit/s for ProRes 422 1080i HQ, you won't be able to service more than a few streams over gigabit ethernet. For network users, you may need a workflow where users copy proxy media to their systems to edit with acceptable performance. I don't have direct experience with this, since it is more of a Final Cut question.

  • Strontium90 Level 4 Level 4 (2,905 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 5, 2012 5:46 PM (in response to Kalagan)

    So Lion Xsan is just as good if not better than that of previous versions.  It has been stable, predictable, and reliable.  That is a big statement coming from the early 2.0 days and before when who knew.  And, it is my opinion, there is still no better solution out there when building a collaborative environment for Final Cut Studio.  I can not speak for Final Cut X as I am seeing an erosion of my customer base as they are jumping to Premier and (gasp) Avid.  For the Premier migrations, Xsan has some legs.  But the Avid migrations are junking the Xsans that have run perfectly for these past few years.

     

    The concern I have and the trends I see is that no one is building new Xsans.  The loss of "server room class" hardware has really taken the wind out the sails of most places considering Xsan.  Couple that with the change from FCS to FCX and there are a lot of pro shops that feel abandoned.

     

    Now the crazy reality is that the mini is more than capable.  After all, compare this to the G5 Xserve you likely built your first Xsan on and the mini eats the G5 for lunch.  Sure, you need a lot of extra "stuff" like USB to Ethernet to get dual ethernet and the SanLink to get FC.  All this stuff produces a rats nest of cabling behind the mini but it is doable. 

     

    Also, here is the next concern.  Don't expect any help from Apple if you do Xsan under Lion.  Now that there is no "enterprise" software, there is no "enterprise" support.  The well has gone dry in my experience.  And I challenge anyone to find Lion specific Xsan documentation outside of man pages. 

     

    The final thought is the cost.  Xsan is still based on FC storage and FC storage is expensive.  Meanwhile, we see Thunderbolt storage coming in significantly cheaper and potentially faster.  And oddly enough, when you connect a Thunderbolt array to a Lion system, the Xsan pref pane becomes visible.  So does that mean that the future holds a Thunderbolt switch and Xsans can be build with TB storage?  We already know that TB can push Ethernet, video and data over one cable.  Does that mean a TB XSan will no longer need a second ethernet port for metadata?

     

    I don't know, but Apple's drive toward smaller and smaller products, driven by the desire to kill the PCI architecture, points in this direction.  If there is ever a replacement of the Mac Pro (I am in the camp that believes the product will be quietly retired with no direct replacement) it will be a double sized mini with 4 TB ports, dual ethernet, and no expansion slots.  Just look at the new products from AJA and Blackmagic.  All their products are going to TB breakout boxes. 

     

    So I feel the traditional model of Xsan may be fading.  In either case, my customers are not buying the solution, much to my great sadness.

  • Strontium90 Level 4 Level 4 (2,905 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 6, 2012 5:49 AM (in response to Kalagan)

    I've looked at a bunch of other solutions.  You can roll a StorNext SAN with Mac clients.  You can go with the ActiveSan but I feel the MD controllers are way over priced.  All the MetaSAN, TigerSan, you_name_itSan products just don't do it for me.  And the iSCSI stuff just isn't fast enough unless you build a 10GigE network and at those prices FC would be better.  The Isilon stuff made me jittery a few years ago.  It might be worth a look now.

     

    The funny thing is that Apple really had an amazing solution here.  For about $100K you could build a solid, high performance, SAN for a small workgroup.  Xsan and the supporting products (FC Studo, Compressor, FC Server, etc) made for a very fine suite of tools to allow unprecedented levels of productivity.  And over time, the one underlying demand of all my customers has been Spotlight support.  Volumes aover 20 TB scream for an easy find solution and Spotlight, even with its growing pains, fit the bit nicely.  Going to any other these other products takes that away.

     

    Now, I am not a hater for FCX.  I get it.  I really do.  I see that Apple is setting a foundation for the future in which tape base workflows are not longer used.  A full digital workflow is more efficient, etc.  But this is not an industry that changes on a dime.  It takes time to replace cameras, build new workflow, etc.  The main concern is that Pros will have gone elsewhere before Apple gets FCX accepted.

     

    Ok, I have been on the soapbox way too long.  The bottom line is that there are alternatives.  The drawback is that these alternatives have some limitations when compared to the advantages of Xsan.

  • Ian L-F Calculating status...
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    Feb 22, 2012 8:25 PM (in response to Kalagan)

    For those interested I have just invested in an Xsan system under Lion.  I bought 9 Xserve Raids off ebay for less than $2000 total.  I now have close to 24tb of shared storage with FCP and I could not be happier.  It is snappy and just great.  Management is easy and I just love everything about it.

  • Strontium90 Level 4 Level 4 (2,905 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 24, 2012 9:02 AM (in response to Ian L-F)

    And that is the rub.  Xsan is really a great solution for a specific problem.  But since that specific problem (video editing and post shops) seems to not be a concern of Apple any more, this is a great solution without a need.

     

    Congrats on the setup.  Keep them healthy.  Make sure you have a backup and look for some spare controllers.

  • Ian L-F Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 24, 2012 10:05 AM (in response to Strontium90)

    Don't even get me started with Apple and pros: first Shake, then Xserve Raid, then Xserve, then Final Cut Pro/Server, then Lion server, etc......

     

     

    As it turns out when management saw the energy bill, over $6000 more per year they want me to invest in another solution that is a bit more modern and won't cost as much.

  • cinedigital Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 16, 2012 6:42 AM (in response to Ian L-F)

    Get a 12 or 16 bay 4 or 8Gb Fibre Channel RAID and you'll have better performance and much lower power consumption. Keep the stack of XServe RAIDs if you have the space - they impress clients!

  • Ian L-F Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 4, 2012 8:11 PM (in response to Strontium90)

    There is still plenty of support for Xsan on Lion - the support contract still exists and they are still at the call center.

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