I was chatting with Per Olofsson on a recent episode of the MacDevOps podcast about some recent fixes with relocatable Python he did for MunkiReport version 5.7.0 and I happened to mention how much I love my MR dashboards with custom hot keys. He is a long time user of MunkiReport but hadn’t heard that you could make custom dashboards and I couldn’t remember where I had heard of it or even how I made them. Pretty typical of tech these days I think. You learn something, you make something and then you move to the next thing and forget what you were doing or how you did it. Well, thanks to documentation we can share the knowledge and spread the love.
The MunkiReport wiki actually has a short entry which explains how to make a custom Dashboards. Basically, add some YAML files in the dashboards folders and you’re done. Follow the Read Me file for instructions. Pro Tip: Use the Widget Gallery in MR to find useful pieces to build into your dashboards. Note: I’ve added these custom dashboards to my local folder which is set in my “.env” to be outside of the main munkireport folder so it easier to update across version upgrades.
In the old days we used to forward ports. On your router the traffic for a server or service went to a port (where a number represents a service, some which are defined, but can be arbitrary) and to a destination IP address. Well, wouldn’t you know it, if ssh is port 22 or web traffic is on port 80 then everyone and their port scanner comes knocking. So then your firewall is tested, and then auto-ban and geo-block and emails go out. What if we could avoid that and not open (or forward) any port to make services work across the internet?
Tailscale is a mesh-VPN which uses WireGuard to securely establish a mesh (point to point) VPN of your devices. Suddenly your iPhone can securely send files to your Mac or raspberry Pi across the world. How cool is that? In today’s advanced lesson: you can backup and sync your Synology NAS using Archiware P5.
Step 1: Setting up Tailscale on Synology
It honestly used to be harder than this, these days you can simply add the Tailscale package via the Synology package center app and you’re done. Almost. There’s one more step.
Step 2: Set up Outgoing VPN access via Tailscale which requires editing some files (which necessitate Terminal and remote login access). This only has to be done once but future updates may require fixes. This was tested in DSM 7. Pro tip: only allow remote access to a restricted and time limited account so you don’t leave it on accidentally.
Step 3. Install Archiware P5 on Synology NAS
Using Archiware P5 to Backup and Sync your NAS is a good thing if you’re already using Archiware P5 to backup and sync all the other things, then at least you have only one dashboard to look at. I use P5 with my clients to backup their shared storage to LTO and it makes sense to backup all the things no matter where they are with P5 also. With Synology NAS package center it’s a simple one-click install for P5. Add your P5 clients to your P5 server via Tailscale and you’ve got a secure setup.
This post is just a quick overview of using Tailscale to set up your P5 clients (which is your Synology NAS in this case).
Thunderbolt Xsan in a box. I’ve written about the Accusys T-share in 2020 (and in 2015 when I first found this cool tech). What’s different now? New year, new macOS. And a new challenge: can we build Xsan only using Terminal? No apps. It’s the journey that counts, right? One nerd’s journey to make an Xsan with macOS 11 Big Sur cli. Destination adventure with family fun, next stop a blinking cursor on a command line prompt.
make —Xsan —-bigger
Sudo make me an Xsan sandwich. I wish it were that easy! Stick around for the two or three commands you do need.
Xsan goes Terminal
Important commands for using Xsan have always been cvadmin and cvlabel (cv is short for centravision the original creators) but more recently xsanctl and slapconfig are important for creating the SAN and the OD (Open Directory) environment. Read the man pages, search the web, read some help documents. This blog is for entertainment and occasional learnings.
If you don’t have a fibre channel switch and fibre channel hardware RAIDs do not worry. You can build a useful Thunderbolt based Xsan with a little bit of effort. Just a little bit of peril It’s not too perilous, don’t worry.
Apple includes Xsan for free in macOS. Xsan is Apple’s fork Quantum’s StorNext SAN software. Want large fast storage made for Final Cut Pro editors, just add Xsan. Download Server.app from the Mac App Store and make your Xsan. Easy peasey. Right?
Why? Why are we doing this? Nothing beats fibre channel or Thunderbolt SAN speed for editing. Network attached storage (NAS) at 1GbE is barely usable. NAS at 10GbE is much better but still has road blocks for editors. Fibre channel or Thunderbolt with a big enough raid behind your SAN then life is great. Xsan can be shared by a small or media sized team of editors, producers and assistants.
Oh, ok. There is one problem. Apple did a major upgrade of Xsan (now version 7!) in macOS 11 Big Sur but apparently they took out the Xsan config in Server.app. (Note: This is what I was told early on and what seemed to be confirmed by Apple’s recent Xsan cli guide. It turns out that Xsan’s disappearance in Server.app to not be totally correct). Xsan is there in Server.app if you upgrade to macOS Big Sur but when you install Server on a clean macOS there is no Xsan visible in the app. Hmm. What do we do? Apple published a very nice handy guide about how to build Xsan in Terminal. So let’s get started. This is fun.
What do we need? 1) Hardware raid. Ok check I have an Accusys T-Share. It’s a raid with Thunderbolt switch built in. 2) Mac. Ok I have a Mac Mini. 3) A network. Some cables, a switch and a DNS server. Ok I have a new raspberry Pi. That’s perfect.
Step 1. Hardware raid. With the Accusys T-Share I just have to plug in some clients with a Thunderbolt 3 cable. Let’s fill the RAID with drives. I picked two different sizes. One group of larger disks for a data LUN (main production storage) and two smaller disks for a raid mirror to be used as metadata storage.
Step 2. A Mac running macOS Big Sur 11.5.2. Download the Accusys Mac installer on your Intel Mac (M1 is not supported with the T-Share yet as of this blog post).
The raid. Not only a great movie it’s the central part of this production media network for creatives. Once the drives are in the raid we have to make raid sets which become LUNs for Xsan. RAID5/6 for the data LUN and RAID1 (mirror) for the metadata LUN.
Read the label. Using Xsan cvlabel
Normally after we create RAID sets in the hardware raid utility we would open up Server.app and label the LUNs for Xsan use. But since we are now hardcore SAN architects we can use Terminal and the cvlabel the command to do this the hard way. Well, it’s not that hard but it can be intimidating the first few times. It’s much easier to label new LUNs than stare at a broken production SAN that has lost its labels. StorNext fun times. More about in another blog post.
Whether using Server.app in the good old days or cvlabel to label your LUNs now you should all be familiar with the command to list available LUNs. For larger SANs that won’t mount the first thing I’d check is see if the LUNs are all there. You don’t want a SAN to mount if it’s missing an important piece of itself.
This command lists available LUNs. It’s handy to know. Do this before trouble arises and you will be a cool dude when trouble happens. It does that occasionally. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, IT motto.
To create labels for newly created RAID arrays use cvlabel to output a text file of the unlabelled LUNs, make some minor changes then label those LUNs. Create the template files first:
Edit the file. I like nano. Maybe you like vim. Or BBEdit. Or text edit. Change the name of LUNs from CVFS_unknown to whatever you like. I like to name LUNs based on the hardware they originate from so that I can find them, remove them, fix them or whatever I need to do for troubleshooting. Trust me. It’s a good idea.
*WARNING* This program will over-write volume labels on the devices specified in the file "/Users/xavier/Desktop/cvlabel". After execution, the devices will only be usable by the Xsan. You will have to re-partition the devices to use them on a different file system.
Do you want to proceed? (Y / N) ->
Requesting disk rescan .
Congratulations this is the hardest part. You’ve labeled the RAID arrays as usable LUNs for Xsan. Ok, just kidding that’s not the hardest part. Have you ever heard of Open Directory? Do you fear LDAP and DNS? Well, maybe you should. It’s always DNS. Just saying.
DNS (domain name system) is just a fancy word for a list of IP addresses and host names. Using the raspberry Pi with dns masq installed we can populate the list of hosts for the Xsan and then we are golden. Hopefully if we did it right. Turns out we can make mistakes here too. Don’t use “.local” domain names. I did. It was late. I blame being tired. Changing them to “.lan” worked better.
Next up we finally create an Xsan in terminal. Or do we? let’s check the hostname first. It’s always DNS.
scutil —get HostName
scutil --set HostName XsanMac.lan.
And now we make very big Xsan using the Xsan guide example
It was at this point that it started falling apart. It was late. I had messed up my DNS with “.local” and the Xsan wouldn’t go past this basic OD setup. I did what I always do and reach out to my Xsan colleagues and I got some curious feedback. “What do you mean Xsan isn’t in macOS Big Sur Server.app?” Hmm. I don’t see it on a fresh install. On an upgrade from 10.15 Catalina I do. So, uh, Where is it? And then it was revealed. In the View menu. Advanced. Ugh. It’s right there. Almost staring right at me. When I opened the app it said it couldn’t create an Xsan with my “.local”. That was helpful. Fixed that and Xsan with my pre-labeled LUNs was super quick to set up.
I’ll have to play with the cli set up again soon. Because there were some strange formatting it recommended to me when I tried some variations of the xsanctl createSan. I’ll dig into another day when I have more sleep. Ha ha.
There’s a lot of useful commands in macOS Big Sur Xsan which was upgraded to v7. You can check which version of Xsan you have in macOS with the cvversions command.
In Catalina (macOS 10.15.7)
File System Server: Server Revision 5.3.1 Build 589 Branch Head BuildId D Built for Darwin 19.0 x86_64 Created on Tue Jun 22 21:08:03 PDT 2021 Built in /AppleInternal/BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-630.120.1/buildinfo
In Big Sur (macOS 11.5.2)
File System Server: Server Revision 7.0.1 Build 589 Branch Head BuildId D Built for Darwin 20.0 x86_64 Created on Wed Jun 23 00:32:35 PDT 2021 Built in /System/Volumes/Data/SWE/macOS/BuildRoots/d7e177bcf5/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-678.120.3/buildinfo
There’s a lot of cool new binaries in Xsan v7. We will dig into those next post. For now enjoy this and go forth make some Xsan volumes with Thunderbolt or fibre channel storage. It’s fun.
I am so happy to install macOS Big Sur 11.5.1, now that it is a ready for production. Have fun with macOS Monterey those of you on the bleeding edge. For media professionals using Xsan in production storage environments August is a great month to update to the soon to be yesterday’s bad boy Mr. Big Sur.
Upgrading to a new major version of macOS can be fraught with peril for a fleet of mac devices but it is potentially fatal for a production SAN environment. That is why we wait. We want a nice stable storage system for our Final Cut Pro editors and other media creatives so it is safe to be one version behind. Less drama that way. We prefer our dramas to be on AppleTV+
Watch TV Upgrade Xsan
It is not boring to watch AppleTV+ while upgrading Xsan
The Xsan upgrade to Big Sur was pretty much not exciting except for one funny roadblock that I had set up myself last as a kind of booby trap for “future me”. More about that later. First the boring stuff. The last few weeks have been very busy updating and re-writing documentation in Pages.app and running multiple redundant full and incremental LTO backups with Archiware P5, syncing to nearline archives, and archiving finalized projects to the LTO shelf in paradise (sounds more exciting when you put it that way don’t you think?). Updating and re-writing documentation can sound like a waste of time but “future you” will appreciate what “past you” was doing today. And today I had fun updating Xsan to macOS Big Sur. Now I must write down all my thoughts before I each too much vegan vanilla ice cream and slip into a food coma.
“Planning for disasters, while hoping for none” is the IT mantra. We planned hard and we were ready to restore Xsan from Time Machine, if we had to. Not a joke. The server is backed up by Time Machine. The data is backed up to LTO, nearline archives racked and stacked in a server room and on redundant thunderbolt RAIDs which are parked on electric trucks ready to blast off at the earliest sign of danger. Well, everything except for the last part. Would be nice. And cloud backups for those clients that want them. Plan for the worst, pay for what you can to keep your business operational and lessen the impact of mechanical failures, human oopsies, or ransomware. Sysadmins are indistinguishable from malware sometimes, but we mean well. More seriously, humans makes mistakes and break things (that, me!) but ransomware is real and my elaborate backup and archive planning has saved a few customers this year.
Xsan volumes are typically made of up fibre channel RAID arrays. Nice icon!
Preparation is key. Be prepared. Get ready. Psych yourself up. I used Greg Neagle’s installinstallmacos.py to download macOS Big Sur as a disk image and had that and the App Store’s Server.app downloaded beforehand and not be dependent on internet access (production SANs are not always internet accessible). It is both true and not true that you can setup Xsan in Big Sur with the Server.app. It is true you need the Server.app for an upgrade from macOS Catalina 10.15.7 but if you’re starting from scratch in macOS 11 you will be building your Xsan in Terminal. Have fun! (We will cover this in a future post).
Server.app manages only three (3) services for an Xsan upgrade: Profile Manager, Open Directory and Xsan. In macOS Big Sur new setups of Server.app Xsan is gone. Why they haven’t taken out Profile Manager and not kept Xsan instead made me scratch my head. No one in their right mind is using Profile Manager to install or manage profiles, they’re using commercial MDM vendors. But Xsan in macOS Big Sur (11) is not only production ready storage SAN awesome it has been upgraded to be compatible with Quantum’s Stornext 7 (previously it was only v.5)
Profile Manager does not belong here. Long Live Xsan!!
Installing macOS 11 Big Sur and upgrading Xsan to v7 is compatible (in my testing) with macOS 10.14 Mojave, 10.15 Catalina and of course macOS 11 Big Sur. If you don’t believe me check out this not updated in forever Apple’s compatibility chart.
Ok, by this time you get the idea I’m an expert, right? I’m ready to upgrade. But I run into my first real road block. And I have only myself to blame. I can’t launch the macOS Big Sur install app. It is blocked. “Contact your administrator”?! I am the sysadmin. Oh, ok. That’s me. What have I done now? I installed Hannes Juutilainen’s Big Sur Blocker last year, that’s what.
Of course I installed that. With Munki. On all my Mac clients that were upgraded to macOS Catalina. (And of course my Xsan controller has Munki!). But no worries, let me read up on my last year’s blogpost about it to figure out how I installed it, there must be a launch daemon or something.
this is not how I expected it to go
Hmm, no didn’t mention there. And where is that pesky launch daemon that I can unload and get to this Big Sur install. Oh? It’s a launch agent. Unloaded. Hmm, still no. Ok, delete the app from /usr/local/bin, hmm, nope. ok kill the app process. Ok, now we can install macOS Big Sur. Sorry for the delay. I had told Munki to uninstall the bigsurblocker app and it did for every other Mac, I swear, really. It did.
So ready for macOS Big Sur. Oh wait, we noticed that you’re running Server.app and well, we don’t do a lot of the same things anymore in the new Server.app so maybe this is a warning.
So a lot of progress bars and stuff. See my last upgrade blog post and it’s the same as installing macOS Big Sur on any Mac, except this Mac Mini is running an Xsan production SAN environment with a lot of RAID arrays in a server rack or two. Ok, yeah, just run the installer.
After macOS Big Sur is installed zip up your older server.app and drag in your new one (or use that fancy App Store app to do it for you if you’re lazy). Click a bunch of buttons (see all my old blog posts) and launch the new Server.app.
So we have to wait while the bag of scripts that is Profile Manager gets updated but no one uses it but it’s the most important app in Server.app now, no I am not bitter why do you ask. Xsan is awesome.
Time to restore from your old Xsan configuration. Wheee…..
Activate your Xsan and carry on upgrading all your Mac clients. Note: I did test macOS Mojave 10.14, macOS 10.15 Catalina and of course macOS 11.5.1 Big Sur Xsan clients. All worked.
Upgrading Xsan with macOS Big Sur is easy if you’re going from macOS Catalina. Starting from scratch is another story to be covered in another blog post. Also not covered is certificate issues from self-signed certs breaking when I upgraded my Munki and MunkiReport server. That’s definitely another blog post. It’s just a webserver. Just. A. Web. Server. What is so hard? haha
With more than one Xsan controller it used to be recommended to upgrade the secondary before the primary but it is now best practise to upgrade the primary first to maintain the sanity of the OD data.
Xsan Upgrade Step by Step:
Clone the controllers. (+ Time Machine backups) Turn off the clients. Stop the Xsan Volume. Run cvfsck on the volume. **Upgrade the primary. Confirm the secondary can see the primary. *Upgrade the secondary. Confirm the secondary can see the primary. Check SAN access on both controllers.
Apple’s Final Cut Pro has a new proxy workflow. It’s even easier than before. Make proxies on import, or transcode afterwards. Create a new proxy library or copy events with only proxies, so many options to fit the workflow you need. It’s quick to upload smaller proxies to the cloud and work remotely with your team. Re-connect to the original footage for outputs, colour grading and archiving your project when you’re done.
Final Cut Pro and the Proxy Workflow
“Take your creativity anywhere. Maximize portability and performance by creating proxy copies of your media — as low as 1/8 size — in ProRes Proxy or H.264. The latest proxy engine allows you to create a proxy-only copy of your library to share locally or via the cloud and displays original media if proxies aren’t available. Third party tools such as review and approval app frame.io can also generate and deliver proxies to a Final Cut Pro library.” (Apple.com)
I’ll go over the basic workflow for making proxies and getting your library ready for use with Postlab or other similar cloud collaboration tools…. Seriously, there are no other similar tools! But we’ll go over how to keep your library small and light.
Part One – Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro 10.5 is the newest version of Final Cut Pro (which drops the “X”). Ready for Apple Silicon Macs and backwards compatible with macOS 10.15.6 (Catalina).
This new proxy workflow is compatible with Final Cut Pro X v10.4.9 and 10.4.10 as well the newest version 10.5. There were extra bug fixes (LUT for proxies) and new methods (copy new library with proxies) in 10.5 but the addition of the automatic proxy creation on import started with 10.4.9.
First step. Check your import preferences. Final Cut will refer to these when importing. The most important thing to check is that “leave files in place” is selected. This helps us keep the library light and portable. Especially important for editing with Final Cut Pro and Postlab. Keep all media and cache files outside of the library. The second this to check is to choose your proxy format (Pro Res Proxy or H264) at the size you want.
Choose how small or how large you want your proxies to be. Smaller proxies are faster to transfer and take up less storage but may not be ideal for editing your specific camera footage. Try to find a format that works best for your edit workflow.
You also have the option of creating proxies form footage that exists already in the library. Choose “Transcode Media” and select your options.
Part Deux – Editing in the Cloud with Postlab
Once you launch Postlab and login you’ll want to create a production and a library to edit. You have the option of importing an existing library or create a new one. Remember, only import your library if it is super light weight and the media is stored outside (not inside) the library.
Importing a lightweight Final Cut Pro library involves creating a name, writing a description and choosing the media location. If editing off centrally shared storage (on premise) or in the cloud (i.e. Postlab drive) then use “Shared” option. If everyone is using their own storage (external hard drives, NAS, SAN, etc) then choose “Individual”.
If you are creating a new empty library in Postlab then be sure to check the Postlab preferences – Templates tab to select what version of Final Cut Pro for the default empty library and if you want to use a Final Cut Pro template you’ve created already. This is a powerful option for keeping a team working with standard set of tools.
Now we start editing. Click “Start Editing” in Postlab. Final Cut Pro will open with your new library.
When you’ve made changes and want to check your Final Cut Pro project back into Postlab switch applications back to Postlab from Final Cut Pro and add a comment.
Once you’ve checked your project in a few times you’ll notice the list of comments you or your team have made with each check in. These will help you decide what project to revert to, if you need to. The icons (on the right) will allow you to revert, open a copy or export out the version you select.
Lastly, there is the status menu which you can use to mark the progress of the project.
I hope this helps you get started with the Final Cut Proxy workflow and ready to use Postlab too.
Setting up your very own Xsan at home… What could be more exciting? Nothing like SAN storage to cure those stacks of hard drive blues. Don’t have a spare fibre channel switch or fibre channel storage at home? No problem Grab some thunderbolt storage from Accusys and join the fun.
I am testing the A12T3-Share 12-drive desktop Thunderbolt RAID solution to build my Xsan. Accusys also have a 16 drive rack mounted raid storage box if you want to install a nice pro set up in the server room you have tucked neatly in your home office. Ha ha. Seriously, the 12 drive unit is whisper quiet and would be a great addition to any home lab or production storage setup. I mean, aren’t we all doing video production at home these days? And even if we are doing a proxy workflow in the clouds, we still need to store the original footage somewhere before it goes to LTO tape, or backed up in the clouds (hopefully another cloud). A few years ago I tested the Accusys 16 drive Thunderbolt 2 unit and it worked perfectly with my fibre channel storage but this time I am testing the newest Thunderbolt 3 unit. Home office test lab is GO!
It is a pretty straight forward setup but I ran into some minor issues that anyone could run into and so I want to mention them and save you all the frustration by learning from my mistakes. Always be learning. That’s my motto. Or “break things at home not in production”, but if your home is production now, then break things fast and learn very quickly.
First step is to download the software for the RAID and you’ll find it on the Accusys website.
(I found the support downloads well organized but still a bit confusing as to what i needed)
The installer is not signed which in our security conscious age is a little concerning, but examining the package with Suspicious package should allay any concerns.
The installer installs the RAIDGuard X app which you will need to configure the RAID.
Of course, RAIDGuard X needs a Java Runtime Environment to run. Why is this still a thing? Hmm…
RAIDGuardX will allow you to configure your connected Thunderbolt hardware.
Configure the array as you like. I only had four drives to test with. Just enough for RAID5.
Choose your favourite RAID level. I picked RAID5 for my 4 drives.
The first gotcha that got me was this surprisingly simple and easy to overlook section. “Assign LUN automatically” asks you to choose which port that LUN (the configured RAID) will be assigned to. If you don’t check anything like I didn’t in my first run through then you configure a RAID5 array that you’ll never see on your connected Mac. Fun, right? Ha ha.
Xsan requires a sacrifice…. I mean, a LUN (available RAID array). Check your Fibre Channel in System Information. Yes, this is from the thunderbolt storage. Hard to believe, but it’s true!
Setting up enterprise grade SAN storage requires a trip to the Mac App Store. Server.app
Open Server.app, enable Xsan, create a new volume and add your LUN from the Accusys Thunderbolt array. Set the usage to “any” (metadata and data) since this is a one LUN test setup.
Pro tip: connect your Xsan controller to your Open Directory server. Ok, just kidding. You don’t have an OD server in your home office? Hmm… Create an entry in /etc/hosts instead.
If you’ve set up your SAN volume then you will see it listed in the Finder.
Easy shareable SAN storage is possible with thunderbolt RAID arrays from Accusys. No more Fibre channel switches needed. Small SAN setups are possible for creative teams without a server room. This setup was a quiet 12 drive RAID and a Mac mini. Add some Thunderbolt cables. There are four thunderbolt 3 connections and you can add more with an additional RAID. Up to 8 connections with one of them for the Mac Mini running the SAN. Not bad at all. And Xsan is free. Add a Server app from the App Store, but the Xsan client is free and built-in (Xsan has been included with macOS since 10.7 so many years ago). Fibre channel protocol (even through Thunderbolt) is faster than network protocols and great for video production. Fast and shareable storage at home. Or in your office. Thunderbolt Xsan. T-SAN.
Summer time or anytime is a good time to run a minecraft server. And when I am not troubleshooting IT networks, planning SAN storage upgrades, running a DevOps for Dummies bookclub and the MDOYVR podcast then I like to upgrade my minecraft server.
Every time there is an update to the java client there is demand from my users (uh, I mean, my kids) to immediately stop all other work (hey kids, I’m working here! let Dad work) and upgrade the minecraft server.
Like all other IT domains where there are variety of solutions and software fixes to problems, it would seem that Minecraft has official server downloads as well as the unofficial artisanal craft versions. I’ve tried a few, and some out of desperation… there was an incident with netherite blocks and the server wouldn’t start anymore but the Ppaer minecraft server fixed the issues!
The normal routine is that when an official release comes out the other versions may not be up to date as quick, so it’s back to the official versions.
Summer time is beta testing time. A new macOS beta cycle with Big Sur is upon us. Test early, and test often. With all the excitement of Big Sur in the air, it’s time to look at Catalina.
Our day to day production Xsan systems do not run beta software, not even the latest version of macOS, they only run tested and safe versions of macOS. I always recommend being a revision behind the latest. Until now that meant macOS 10.14 (Mojave). With the imminent release of macOS Big Sur (is it 10.16 or macOS 11?) then it’s time to move from 10.14.6 Mojave to 10.15.6 Catalina. It must be safe now, right?
Xsan is Apple’s based Storage Area Network (SAN) software licensed from Quantum (see StorNext), and since macOS 10.7 aka Lion it has been included with macOS for free (it was $1,000 per client previously!).
Ethernet vs Fibre Channel vs Thunderbolt
A SAN is not the same as a NAS (Network attached storage) or DAS (direct attached storage). A NAS or other network based storage is often 10GbE and can be quite fast and capable. I will often use Synology NAS with 10GbE for a nearline archive (a second copy of tape archive) but can also use it as a primary storage with enough cache. Lumaforge’s Jellyfish is another example of network based storage.
Xsan storage is usually fibre channel based and even old 4GB storage is fast because … fibre channel protocol (FCP) is fast and the data frames are sent in order unlike TCP. It is more common to see 8GB or 16Gb fibre channel storage these days (though 32GB is starting to appear). And while fibre channel is typically what you use for Xsan you can also use shared Thunderbolt based storage like the Accusys A16T3-Share. I have tested a Thunderbolt 2 version of this hardware with Xsan and it works very well. I’m hoping to test a newer Thunderbolt 3 version soon. Stay tuned.
Xsan vs macOS Versions
We’ve discussed all the things that the Xsan is not and now what is it? Xsan is often created from multiple fibre channel RAID storage units but the data is entirely dependent on the Xsan controller that creates the volume. The Xsan controller is typically a Mac Mini but can be any Mac with Server.app (from Apple’s App Store). The existence of any defined Xsan volumes depends on the sanity of its SAN metadata controllers. If the SAN controllers die and the configuration files go with it then your data is gone. POOF! I’ve always said that Xsan is a shared hallucination, and all the dreamers should dream the same dream. To make sure of this we always recommend running the same version of macOS on the Mac clients as well as the servers (the Xsan controllers). And while the Xsan controllers should be the same or at a higher macOS version level it can sometimes be the opposite in practise. To be sure what versions of macOS are interoperable we can check with Apple’s Xsan controllers and clients compatibility chart and Xsan versions included in macOS for the rules and exceptions. Check the included version of Xsan on your Mac with the cvversions command
File System Server:
Server Revision 5.3.1 Build 589 Branch Head BuildId D
Built for Darwin 17.0 x86_64
Created on Sun Dec 1 19:58:57 PST 2019
Built in /BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-613.50.3/buildinfo
This is from a Mac running macOS 10.13
Host OS Version:
Darwin 17.7.0 Darwin Kernel Version 17.7.0: Sun Dec 1 19:19:56 PST 2019; root:xnu-4570.71.63~1/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64
We see similar results from a newer build below:
File System Server:ServerRevision 5.3.1 Build 589 Branch Head BuildId DBuilt for Darwin 19.0 x86_64Created on Sun Jul5 02:42:52 PDT 2020Built in /AppleInternal/BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/XsanFS/XsanFS-630.120.1/buildinfo
This is from a Mac running macOS 10.15.
Host OS Version: Darwin 19.6.0 Darwin Kernel Version 19.6.0: Sun Jul5 00:43:10 PDT 2020; root:xnu-6153.141.1~9/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64
Which tells us that the same version of Xsan are included with macOS 10.13 and 10.15 (and indeed is the same from 10.12 to 10.15). So we have situations with Xsan controllers running 10.13 and clients running 10.14 are possible even though macOS versions are a mismatch, the Xsan versions are the same. There are other reasons for keeping things the macOS versions the same: troubleshooting, security, management tools, etc To be safe check with Apple and other members of the Xsan community (on MacAdmins Slack).
Backups are important
Do not run Xsan or any kind of storage in production without backups. Do not do it. If your Xsan controllers die then your storage is gone. Early versions of Xsan (v1 especially) were unstable and the backups lesson can be a hard one to learn. All later versions of Xsan are much better but we still recommend backups if you like your data. Or your clients. (Clients are the people that make that data and pay your bills). I use Archiware P5 to make tape backups, tape archives, nearline copies as well as workstation backups. Archiware is a great company and P5 is a great product. It has saved my life (backups are boring, restores are awesome!).
Xsan Upgrade Preparation
Before attempting a macOS or Xsan upgrade please check your backups. Test your restores. Your SAN volumes should be backed up. I backup of all the san volumes on nearline Thunderbolt raids and a Synology NAS as well as LTO tape backups and archives. That’s the SAN data, the creative files that the clients care about, but what about the Xsan itself? The Xsan controller has configuration files. How do we save those?
Xsan config files are here:
Make a disk image of the config files before an upgrade and one after.
Lastly, copies of all config files before and after all updates and migrations.
I have restored my Xsan from a bad macOS upgrade using Time Machine. Yes, it works. Believe it. The Mac Mini clone is also ready to take over (hat tip to Alex Narvey for this methodology). Lastly the config files by themselves can help restore the Xsan when all the files appear to be gone because the Xsan has lost its mind. Save them, and save yourself. Use this opportunity to update your documentation.
List all the Time Machine backups:
sudo tmutil listbackups
You can also list all your LUNs (fibre channel RAID building blocks of the SAN volumes) and keep this updated in your documentation. Helps troubleshooting why a SAN volume won’t mount.
sudo cvlabel -l > ~/Desktop/cvlabel-xsan.txt
Check check all the backups
Before the actual upgrades backup your data (and test your restores), backup your Xsan controllers (and double check) then download the macOS installers. I use installinstallmacos.py to download my installers). In my recent Xsan controller upgrade from 10.13 in preparation I downloaded the latest 10.14.6 and 10.15.6. I also downloaded the actual Server.app installers from various macOS installs to be ready (in case of network difficulties on site during an upgrade).
Finally! Upgrade the Xsan and macOS
An overview of the upgrade steps as outlined by my esteemed Xsan colleague Bob Kite:
When you upgrade macOS it will warn you that you have Server.app installed and you might have problems. After the macOS upgrade you’ll need to download and install a new version of Server.app. In my recent upgrades from macOS 10.13 to macOS 10.15 via 10.14 detour I started with Server.app 5.6, then install 5.8 and finally version 5.10.
After the macOS upgrade I would zip up the old Server.app application and put in place the new version which I had already downloaded elsewhere. Of course you get a warning about removing the Server app
Install the new Server app then really start your Xsan upgrade adventure.
Restore your previous Xsan setup.
If everything goes well then you have Xsan setup and working on macOS 10.15.6 Catalina
Part of a series of blog post on the “Best of 2018”
Part 1: the iMac Pro and FCPX
The year started off with the new iMac Pro and Final Cut Pro X 10.4. Both new hardware and software were released in December 2017. New awesome hardware and software to start of 2018.
FCPX and the iMac Pro have proven themselves to be a great combination that has been amazing for FCPX editors everywhere. The new colour grading tools and other enhancements were warmly received in FCP X 10.4. The power of the iMac Pros was not exaggerated. Excellent pro hardware.
FCPX works great on a MacBook Pro and internal storage, with Apple’s Xsan and fibre channel or with Lumaforge Jellyfish 10GbE over NFS. I worked with all different setups in 2018 and happy to report that editors kept editing and left the storage and backup worries to me (and I didn’t worry since I’ve got Archiware P5 watching my back).
Working with the Jellyfish I installed the P5 Linux agent to backup and archive to tape. Getting the Jellyfish to back up to my P5 server running on a Mac Mini couldn’t have been easier. Through the year I worked with Archiware to make improvements in the P5 Archive app so that my editor clients can archive and restore more easily on their own. Works well and look forward to working more closely with both companies to help make awesome setups for FCPX editors and creative professionals everywhere.
NAB and FCPX
The week before NAB 2018, Apple announced a new version of Final Cut Pro X with support for closed captions, and the brand new ProRes RAW codec.
NAB in April is always a busy month with announcements from all companies in the media production and media asset management world and Apple’s public talk at NAB showing off new features so soon after their last major release was unexpected but very warmly received.
Of course there was one more major event in the 2018, in November there was the FCPX Creative Summit.
I attended this year and it was awesome. Apple released a brand new version with 3rd party integration in the form of extensions. This is huge. This will be amazing for FCPX editors who want to stay in FCPX and do their editing work but integrate with other apps.
What was the FCPX creative summit?
⁃ rendez-vous in Cupertino with Final Cut Pro editors, studio owners, plugin authors, creative apps vendors
⁃ Visit to Apple HQ. With Apple Pro Apps engineers, QA, managers and everyone involved.
⁃ In depth discussion of the next version of FCPX extensions which allow third party integration deep into the app for example: Frame IO for review and approve or Keyflow Pro or Cat DV media asset management apps.
⁃ Great team of people organizing. This event had multiple tracks and lots of great sessions for everyone. Well done. Enjoyed it immensely. Everyone using Final Cut Pro or involved in this creative universe should be there.
2018 was great year for pro hardware and software. The iMac Pro and the constant stream of FCPX updates kept us grinning from ear to ear. Great stuff. Awesome year.
You’ve successfully installed Archiware’s P5 backup and archiving software on your backup server following my previous blog posts and after it has run smoothly for a while you decided to upgrade the version of P5 on your server, but how do you do this on the Lumaforge Jellyfish storage? I’m glad you asked.
There are a couple of ways to update your P5 agent, and I will show you the built in way in Archiware’s P5 software. Surprisingly after many years of using P5 I have never used this method before. I’ve been using Munki for years to upgrade all software on my Mac clients including P5 and on Linux and Solaris servers I’ve just done it by hand. Install over top of the previous version and voila upgrade! But what if you didn’t want to ssh in as root and just install over top, what if there was a better way? I present to you the official “Update client” dialog box. It’s nice.
Updating client software assumes you’ve set up clients in the P5 server clients section, This is needed when you want to use these server agents to designate their attached storage as a backup, archive or sync source. And also, this assumes you’ve updated your server.
During the update process there are some nice dialog boxes to let you know what is happening.
And afterwards you can test your client with a Ping test.
Success! Looks like we’ve updated our client successfully. How wonderful. And no need to mess about in Terminal with a root shell. No telling what kind of trouble we could get into with those elevated privileges…. much safer this way.
Thanks Archiware for making this great software. I depend on it every day.