Active Storage Announces ActiveSAN

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On Monday, Active Storage, Torrance, CA,  announced ActiveSAN, a specialized Apple Xserve alternative that functions as a high performance metadata controller designed to meet the needs of broadcast and post-production professionals.

What Active Storage has done is combine the high performance Nehalem processor and a custom motherboard, built by Intel, in a 1U rack mountable system. It has features designed to meet the needs of enterprise professionals, such as expansion, redundant power and lights-out management. With a custom distribution of Red Hat Linux and Quantum’s StorNext plus custom interface software, ActiveSAN functions as an advanced, easy to configure and deploy metadata server for Apple Xsan and StorNext networks. It can completely replace the discontinued Apple Xserve that has served the same purpose before.


“Xsan users in high-pressure industries require datacenter-level quality products to manage their metadata, but also demand the ease of use and setup of Xsan,” said Alex Grossman, CEO of Active Storage. “Previously, that meant one thing: Xsan on an Xserve. But all that changes today with ActiveSAN.”  In addition, it’s designed to match the look and feel of their current ActiveRAID (RAID 5) systems. It will include the “ActiveSTAT,” a performance profiling application. “It’s StorNext made easy,” Mr. Grossman told TMO.

ActiveSAN is based on the company’s extensive experience with the broadcast, post-production, media labs and science markets. It will be demonstrated at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in April, 2011, with delivery of systems in the second quarter of 2011. Pricing and configurations have not yet been set, but are expected to be competitive with Apple’s Xserve.

Mr. Grossman explained to TMO that in those cases where a small to medium business or a workgroup needs a modest e-mail, web, file or database server, Apple’s current offerings, the Mac Pro and Mac mini with Mac OS X Server can nicely serve those functions. However, in the mission-critical, high volume video production fields of post-production and broadcasters, an enterprise-capable metadata server is required to work in concert with Storage Area Networks and the company’s ActiveRAID systems.  That’s what ActiveSAN was designed for.

Active Storage has also announced an ActiveSAN Training and Certification program open to certified engineers and system administrators. 



I watched the YouTube video and it appeared that Grossman said (with a swipe of his hand) there were eight SANs, which I took to mean eight Xeon 5500 CPUs—all pluggable. The product overview pdf doesn’t say how many processors it contains. Any idea?

I know many people were hoping for an Apple-certified Xserve replacement running OSX Server but it doesn’t make sense for a company called ActiveStorage to provide anything other than storage products. ActiveSan replaces the Xserve MDC but that was always a special version of the Xserve, not the typical server version.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Their positioning of this product is interesting. Even high performance storage is a commodity. Probably the most important part of a buying decision is continuity—knowing you can get more of the same from the vendor as you need to replace, upgrade, or expand. Apple kinda blew that, but AS thinks they can slip into place.

This product solves half the XServe problem space. The other half is having a high performance box running Mac OS X in a compact space. This is the Achilles Heel of the whole widget approach. Customers who depend on your whole widget for their long term prosperity are screwed if you discontinue the widget. And that will make smart customers very cautious about adopting whole widget items for critical needs.


I regret that Apple wasn’t able to reach a licensing deal for OS X Server with Active Storage or apparently with any other party.  As for Active Storage and its future big announcements, I suggest that Mr. Grossman carefully read or reread, as the case may be, the classic nursery rhyme about the boy who cried wolf.

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