Xsan vs GigE NAS?

metadreamer's picture
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We're looking at upgrading our Xsan (and all of its clients to new Mac Pros) as it's a 5 year old install and locked to 10.6.8.

I know that some places are marketing "video workflow" optimized NAS solutions over 10 gig E as an alternative. I assume these boxes just use standard AFP and file level storage.

Does anyone have a comparison of using one of those vs. Xsan? Seems like a higher theoretical bandwidth vs 4 Gb fibre (at least that's what our current switch and cards can handle)... But how does Final Cut Pro X and/or Premiere work with a file level storage system vs. Xsan? I assumed that Xsan would offer maximum compatibility for collaborating on files but I'm not sure if any changes to Final Cut X or these newer NAS boxes mitigated any issues.

billgarmen's picture

There are a few ways to do it, but a true NAS would just use AFP and you would move away from xsan all together. Xsan is a file level system, so the applications should not see any difference between the two.

brianwells's picture

Unlike a NAS, Xsan provides the computer with block-level access to the storage media. In addition, the Fibre Channel connectivity does not have some of the overhead and bottlenecks that are present in Ethernet. This is what enables Xsan to provide the consistent, high-bandwidth performance that is often needed for video editing.

However, it is possible to use a NAS solution with enough planning and effort. I recently spoke with someone from Small Tree and they emphasized that not all NAS hardware is optimized for the large files inherent with video media. So care would need to be taken to ensure that the hardware would provide the sustained throughput needed for your situation.

Another thing that Small Tree recommended was a dedicated Ethernet switch for the NAS clients. Evidently they have found that some types of other traffic would impact the ability to stream video.

Before moving to a NAS solution it would be good to make sure that your video editing software is fully compatible with the NAS you selected. For example, some functionality in Final Cut Pro X will not work with AFP or SMB shares as it appears to expect block-level storage such as Xsan. However, some have discovered that an NFS share will work, so make sure your NAS supplies this type of connectivity.

JSamuel's picture

Small Tree (US) ; GB Labs (UK) and RockStar Data (Ireland) all make great products. Utilising jumbo frames on 1G is typically wasteful. If you have Myricom cards on both ends of your 10G (even if you're going through switching) helps at 10G too.

A segregated video network is a must, much like Xsan's metadata network - physically segregated and dedicated hardware (although you can get away with VLANs for Xsan sometimes). If you have a far more open environment from an access perspective, locking down IPs and hardware and then going for NFS over AFP (although, SMB2 would be preferable if you have a NAS that supports it - properly) would provide a performance bump too.

Premiere works just great. We've built quite a few 10G/1G (1G access for producer stations and what not) networks for multi-NLE usage.

FCPX is an interesting one. DMGs actually may seem like a long way round, but is a great solution in 99% of environments. I believe Small Tree train the FCPX workflow to use DMGs as well.

Joel Samuel.
/thirtytwo - Apple Consultancy & Direction
Proud sponsor of Xsanity.com

All contributions are my own personal opinions - not those of any entity I represent.