Move over El Capitan, hello Yosemite!

With all this talk about El Capitan, Apple’s as of yet unreleased version 10.11 of OS X, and its wondrous new features in Xsan, I think it might be time to upgrade to last year’s breakthrough version of OS X, Yosemite. Sure, you might be excited by the press releases for the built-in DLC in El Capitan but seriously sane folks stay 1-year behind the bleeding nose upgrades provided by Apple. So if OS X 10.11 is all the rage before its released it must be time to seriously consider upgrading that working Xsan running OS X 10.8 or OS X 10.9.

In my case, I upgraded a working Xsan running on Mac Minis and OS X 10.8.5. Here are some screenshots from the process. As always think worked better than I could have expected, and it is a much easier process that one expects. But stay sharp kids, danger lurks when you wake the dreamer…. Upgrading a SAN is serious business and doing anything like this without proper backups is taking your life in your own hands. In my case, full disk backups on Promise Pegasus RAIDs and full tape backups using Archiware P5.

Download the Yosemite installer form the App Store. Install. Download the new Server.app from the App Store. Install. Now upgrade your Xsan. That’s it. You’re done. No surprises, aren’t you happy? Ha ha. I’m kidding. The fun is just getting started.

If you’re actually following along, this isn’t a step by step recipe. Go to Apple’s site and read this Kbase and check out the migration guide.

Restore Xsan

Restore Xsan

Step 1 is to launch the new Server.app, find Xsan Admin. Just kidding, it isn’t there. Enable Xsan, and choose to Restore a previous SAN configuration. That wasn’t hard. High five! Actually, we’re not done yet. Set up OD now. Go!

Step 2. Set up your Xsan controller as an Open Directory (OD) master. Does’t matter if it’s joined to another domain, Xsan keeps itself organized in OD, so you need it.

Set up OD

Set up OD

Step 3. Admire your upgraded SAN, “how lovely the flowers do smell…. life is good.”

XSAN LIST

Xsan list

Step 4. Where did my Xsan admin go? Where do I add clients? Where are my clients? Huh? What? Why did I upgrade a perfectly working SAN to this version? Ha ha.

Take it all in, take a good look at what you’ve done to your Xsan. What? Just so the editors could have the latest version of Final Cut Pro (v.10.2.1) which is only compatible with OS X 10.10.4. I see what you’ve done Apple, very clever indeed. Hmm…

Click on the “Save configuration profile” button and download the profile somewhere. Use this to set up the SAN on your clients. Distribute via Profile Manager or install it manually. Up to you. I haven’t gotten it to work with Munki quite yet. Installing it requires the admin password for the Xsan controller. How convenient.

When you client is configured you’ll see a Profile in System Preferences. Remove it and your client is un-configured. No more Xsan.prefpane to list volumes and mount or unmount them. Nope. That would be too easy. Learn to love “xsanctl”, as in “xsanctl mount Xsan”. Read some xsanctl tips in this Kbase

Step 5. Set up a backup Xsan controller. You have one of those, right? In my case, I had a client which I wanted to promote to be a controller.  But first what to do about its status a client of the Xsan?

backup cannot be client

backup cannot be client

Open Server.app, enable Xsan, join current Xsan as a backup controller and set up a replica OD. Confirm, confirm, confirm. Think about what you’re doing, then do it!

confirm OD replica

confirm

Apple wizards are the best wizards, uh, i mean Setup Assistants. No wizards here…. So, you’ve setup a backup Xsan controller, and OD replica, and now look in Server.app. How amazing is that… wait, what? Where’d my Xsan volumes go? Huh? Where are the controllers? Weird. Very strange. Not comforting at all.

Xsan 4 no SAN list crop 122815

The Xsan window eventually shows the volumes and controllers, bur geez, almost gave me a heart attack. It’s not like I never seen Xsan go bad before. Xsan 1 nightmare still haunt me. They do. Backups. Need more backups. Archiware P5 Backups, do it now!

OK, you’ve survived the uncertainty of Xsan upgrades…. But wait more minute… cat the fsnameservers (no, it’s not the name of a band, it’s a command). Check it out. Holy smokes, batman. Xsan 4 by default will set your metatadata network to the public LAN, something that’d would be laughed at years ago, but they do it now by default. Of course, upgrading our SAN kept out metadata network the same. But strangely the Xsan backup controller is set to use the public for metadata when the primary controller is not. WTF.

Change your metadata network. Read the Kbase, and once again wield xsanctl like a boss.

Affordable Shared Storage: Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN

Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN storage

Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN storage

I’ve mentioned the Accusys A16T2-Share Thunderbolt SAN storage before. I first encountered it at NAB 2015 back in April. It was truly a magical find. A 16-drive RAID unit with 64TB raw storage and ready to be part of your Apple Xsan using Thunderbolt connectors. No Thunderbolt to fibre channel adapters necessary, nor is a fibre channel switch required. Just plugin a Mac Mini as your Xsan controller, and there’s room for 3 other clients to plugin with Thunderbolt. Pretty neat.

It’s not for everyone. There’s a limit to the length of Thunderbolt optical cables. And there’s only 3 clients possible using one last Thunderbolt connection for an Xsan controller. But this could work well for small work groups. The magical 4-seat SAN setup is finally here. Bob Kite, master SAN builder, would be happy.

I’ve just gotten word that this unit is available for sale now, as it was recently certified by both Apple and Intel. I believe the street price is approximately $9900 USD, but don’t quote me on that. Information is still emerging on this new product. I do hope to get my hands on one to do some real world application testing. Including testing resilience to failure (drive removals, raid rebuilds, etc).

If the reliability of the Accusys hardware is good, and backed up with solid support then this could be a great product.
Of course, it kinda goes without saying that all storage, including Shared SAN storage, needs solid backups. My preference where possible is a second tier disk (NAS/SAN/DAS) and tape. My preferred vendor is Archiware which makes the very excellent product P5.
With over 10 years of experience with Xsan and setting up storage systems I have learned to always setup excellent backups. Restoring files when a RAID or SAN fails is crucial. Using an a RAID, such as the Accusys Thunderbolt A16T2-Share, as a SAN would be come with a recommendation from me to all my clients to have a secondary Thunderbolt RAID unit of the same size to sync it daily and to use P5 Backup with LTO 6 tape drives (preferably in a tape library). You never can be too paranoid with a client’s data. That’s what my clients pay me for. To plan for failure. I love setting them with excellent SAN storage, but I must counsel them to build also an excellent backups system. Better safe than sorry.
The price point on this A16T2-Share Thunderbolt RAID is attractive, and when it is released many clients in small shops may very well consider it. At approximately $10K US for 64TB of shared storage with free Xsan 4 it is a pretty sweet deal. Add another $5-10K for a large backup RAID drive, and another $5K for a tape library and $2K for Archiware P5 Backup and the cost adds up. But having an affordable price for the main SAN storage makes this a very real possibility for some clients who have been struggling with editing video on NAS like QNAP, Synology or Drobo.

Munki discussion groups

As posted on the munki-dev list by Greg Neagle and posted https://github.com/munki/munki/wiki/Discussion-Group, a list of discussion groups related to Munki:

Discussion group for the development of Munki is here: http://groups.google.com/group/munki-dev

Other related discussion groups:
General Munki discussion: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/munki-discuss
MunkiAdmin: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/munkiadmin
MunkiReport: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/munkireport
MunkiWebAdmin: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/munki-web-admin
Sal: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/sal-discuss
Simian: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/simian-discuss

Mac IT training

I’ve been asked about Mac IT sysadmin training ideas, and I thought perhaps sharing some initial ideas might help other aspiring Mac IT sysadmins.

It’s hard to recommend a training site or specific place for Mac IT training these days. It used to be that you could sign up for a Unix SysAdmin or bash scripting class and that would be most helpful. And those both are helpful but Mac IT specific technologies are discussed at Mac IT conferences such as MacTech in LA (and periodically in other cities), PSU Mac Admins (Penn State), MacIT (San Jose), MacSysAdmin in Sweden, MacDeploy in Calgary and MacDevOps:YVR in Vancouver. As well as Apple sponsored camps for ACNs (Apple Consultants). Some of these conferences post their video online for free (PSU, MacSysAdmin and MacDevOps) so these are great resources to learn from.

Online learning: there are resources such as mail lists which have lots of helpful Mac Admins: mac-enterprise (MACENTERPRISE@LISTS.PSU.EDU), munki-dev (munki-dev@googlegroups.com), munki-discussion (munki-discussion@googlegroups.com), autopkg (autopkg-discuss@googlegroups.com) and the Slack MacAdmins channel (http://macadmins.org) and perhaps lots of other places I’m forgetting.

The most important is local meetups, and right now we’re not hosting anything in Vancouver. But I do want to start some local meetups here to encourage fellow Mac Admins to help each other out learning MacDevOps skills and getting into the greater Mac IT sysadmin community. There are great meetups in many cities across North America and the world. Finding out where they are means looking at afp548.com for info, or check out Watchman Monitoring’s new Mac Meetup site: http://www.macmeetups.com/find/, or check on Jamf Nation (https://jamfnation.jamfsoftware.com/index.html). Lots of options.
Here in Vancouver we are also contemplating some more in depth workshops for the next MacDevOps:YVR conference and perhaps sooner than that. How to get started with Mac IT technologies and how to build a beautiful Mac Admins community by being a part of it, and sharing what you know with others.
Anything you all want to learn specifically? What do you want to know about? Let me know.