Low-cost Mac storage network released

Mini-SAN on the market

2Degrees Frost claims to have developed the cheapest storage area network (SAN) in the world, for Mac OS X users.

Based on Coraid’s ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE) technology, Mac EtherDrive comes as a fully configured storage bundle, including a Mac OS X driver.

Customers get networked storage accessed over Ethernet with a lower-level protocol than the emerging iSCSI storage standard. This means that the TCP/IP processing burden of iSCSI is absent and TCP/IP offload cards (TOEs) are not needed. Coraid calls it a “thin protocol”.

The networked storage is scalable from a terabyte to multiple petabytes (an upper limit has not yet been found). It supports RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10, and the serial ATA drive modules are hot-swappable.

There are some points to bear in mind, however. Since AoE is not a routable protocol, access is limited to the local Ethernet segment. Also, the protocol is openly available — it is included with the Linux 2.6.11 kernel — but storage products that support it are only available from a few suppliers, such as Coraid and, for Mac users, 2DegreesFrost. The Ethernet switches have to have flow control functionality in order to get the best throughput and minimise packet collisions.

Coraid’s EtherDrive products are available for Windows, Unix-Linux, Solaris and BSD.

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