Apple preps new storage system

Apple Computer Inc. has introduced a new storage system to complement its Xserve Unix-based server and has upgraded the server.

Both products will begin shipping in March, said Alex Grossman, the company's director of server and storage hardware product marketing.

The storage system, a Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) system called Xserve RAID, can hold up to 2.5 terabytes of data and can move data at up to 400 megabytes/sec, he said.

Although it faces Dell Computer Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., EMC Corp. and other heavy hitters in the competitive arena, Apple intends to offer high quality and low price, he said. For federal customers, the new storage system starts at $5,519, and the server starts at $2,239.

"You get a RAID system that offers really high performance, and you deliver that with data integrity at this low cost," he said. "We think it opens a lot of doors for us for people who haven't considered the Xserve because we didn't have an end-to-end solution."

But other companies are also making server moves. On Feb. 10, Sun introduced a new line of compact, high-powered blade servers, including an attached storage system. Last November, Storage Technology Corp. introduced a disk storage system based on the "blade" concept, clustering multiple storage drives on thin cards that can be configured as needed.

Officials at Apple reseller Government Technology Services Inc. (GTSI) said they see growing interest in Apple's server products, including the new Xserve RAID boxes.

Lewis Bean, GTSI's business development director for Apple products, said one federal customer, a research agency, has a team of six or so people who are converting their imagery and video analysis operation from PCs running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software to Apple machines. Part of the plan is to phase out the storage each researcher maintained on the desktop PC and consolidate it on the network. The researchers are evaluating the Xserve RAID as a way to do that.

Still, this type of conversion from PCs to Apple systems seems more the exception than the rule right now. "I have not personally seen a lot of unseating of Microsoft servers [by Xserve] in the enterprise," Bean said.

Besides the Apple faithful, where interest in Xserve is highest, Bean sees the new Apple server making some inroads in the Internet server space, where Linux-based computers have been strong.

"Because the Apple servers use Apache [a popular open -ource Web server] and other open standards, and it's not IIS [Microsoft's Internet Information Services Web server], there are a lot of network managers who think it's a significantly more secure platform to deploy outside the firewall," he said. "So we have seen a lot of adoption there."

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