Thunderbolt SAN talk at Mac Admin meet up

Big thanks to Ross at Ping Identity for organizing and Jamf for sponsoring the Mac Admin meetup on September 9, 2015.

We filled the tiny meeting room and we will have to expand to the larger conference room (or theatre) next time. It was a well attended meetup with much discussion of the earlier day’s Apple announcements, new OS X “El Capitan” and iOS 9 changes and how this affects management products like Casper which have had to move the binary because of the new SIP implementation in OS X.

I opened up the meet up with a presentation on Storage, SANs and the new Accusys Thunderbolt SAN A16T2-Share product.

The goal of my presentation was to give a quick overview of SAN technology as I’ve seen it change over the last 10 years: from Fibre Channel, to iSCSI to PCIe and Thunderbolt based. The last change to Thunderbolt based SANs is the most interesting for small video production workgroups or anyone that likes working on small scale shared projects but needs a decent bandwidth at an affordable price. Block level storage (SANs) is straight forward storage tech for users and applications to interact with without having to negotiate network protocols (AFP, SMB, or NFS). It’s never been quite that affordable until now.

Having built a lot of Fibre Channel based SANs for media and entertainment companies and post-production editors in corporate environments I know how awesome and fast and solid these SANs are. Lots of editors and clients can hit a large SAN and it won’t blink. Thirty or Sixty users is not unusual. But not everyone believes in fibre channel or the idea of pulling fibre cables. It is surprisingly a large stumbling block to building large SANs, “no, we don’t want fiber cables”. True, sometimes clients have objected to gigabit Ethernet too, but that’s another story.

I found that iSCSI, especially with the DDP units I’ve set up, has been a great alternative to fibre channel. Not fiber cables to pull. Just use the CAT6 cables already in place. Great Ethernet based SANs using 1 x or 2 x CAT6 cables per client, or even 10G. Works well. Very well indeed. It’s been great for smaller (and larger) clients who want a great Ethernet iSCSI SAN solution without needing fibre channel cables, switches, HBAs, Thunderbolt adapters, etc.

That’s why when I stumbled across the Accusys Thunderbolt storage I was kinda really excited. No fibre channel to Thunderbolt adapters. Just use Thunderbolt cables. Brilliant! Finally a solution for small workgroups. And there’s so many video groups sprouting out of every corporate office, or boutique VFX or post-production shops that have been struggling with small NAS solutions that were not meant for video production. Now you can get that SAN that you’ve wanted, you can really get that block-level storage at an affordable price. Instead of working locally and copying raw footage and finished products  back and forth across slow network links they can work in a small video group with high speed storage. Sa-weet. (Can you tell I’m excited?).

I’ll include the presentation PDF here as a link if anyone is interested. I’ve added a link at the end from Accusys on how to build an Xsan with the A16T2-Share. Yes, Xsan from Apple still exists and is bundled with the OS for free. Building a SAN is pretty easy and everyone can do it. Don’t forget your backups though.

Lastly, anyone interested in attending any meetings for the upcoming MacDevOps:YVR (June 16-17, 2016) drop me a note. I added the email in the presentation document.

MatX_SAN_Accusys-Thunderbolt_2015

2 thoughts on “Thunderbolt SAN talk at Mac Admin meet up

  1. I have been wondering – is this product simply some black magic to get iSCSI working over thunderbolt instead of 10gb? I know that Ethernet performance over Thunderbolt is crap, but I’ve been wondering if iSCSI sings a different tune – since its meant for block level data transfer between direct attached storage anyway. Probably a little farfetched, but I’ve been meaning to try a Frankenstein setup of my own testing this…

    • No black magic needed. It is not iSCSI. Thunderbolt is an extension of PCI-e. The magic is the PCI-e switch built-in to the box, that allows 4 thunderbolt connections to share connections to the storage. Xsan allows shared access to what they can see (the LUNs). Accusys makes PCI-e shared storage as well, that’s where the idea of a Thunderbolt version came about, I imagine. No extra connectors needed. Just Thunderbolt.

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