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Re: xSan Setup for FCP/FCS - help for a noob!

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Dave KleeRe: xSan Setup for FCP/FCS - help for a noob!
by on Jul 31, 2009 at 9:51:14 pm

Hey David, sounds like we have very similar shops, and your questions are very reasonable.

First and foremost, I just want to mention how scary it is to build an Xsan in this day and age with the older, Apple RAIDs. I love them -- they've treated me very well. I still use them today. But, they aren't made anymore, and replacement parts are difficult to locate. If you have a major issue with them, you're in trouble. Not to mention RAID technology has come a long way since those things were built. I'm replacing mine this summer. But, budgets are tight for everyone, so if you've got to move forward with your old Apple RAIDs, I totally get it.

Onto your questions:

1. What is the best use for the rest of this controller?

Best practice says: nothing. You want your metadata pool to be as responsive as possible, so you want nothing to interfere with it on that controller. That controller should do nothing but access metadata.

Personally, I have the remaining four drives of that controller formatted as a RAID5 "Admin" pool. In Xsan, I have an affinity for that pool mapped to an "Admin" folder on the SAN. I store administrative files in there like software install disk images, a backup disk image of my standard edit suite build (along with retired edit suite builds), and a versioned backup for all FCP Project files (*.fcp) that runs on the SAN overnight. I very, very rarely need these files, but sometimes they're handy to have on the SAN -- like when I'm building up a new edit suite computer after hours, or need to restore an old project file version when someone's auto-save vault wasn't set correctly. It's mildly useful. I just couldn't bare to waste the space.

2. I now have 5 controllers/LUNS. According to best practice for HD video/FCS SANS the video affinity should be in multiples of 4 LUNS. In this case I have 1 extra. What should I use it for as well? Or can the video affinity contain 5 LUNS without issues? I would hope there is a use for this space in FCP.

I, too, have been told to run even numbers of identical LUNs (never heard multiples of four -- always multiples of two with a minimum of four of the older Apple controllers) for best performance in a "media" storage pool. However, my old Xsan ran five LUNs for about two years without a problem. Performance was great. If you want to do that, I don't think it's an issue -- unless you're pushing uncompressed HD and need to squeeze every possible ounce of bandwidth out of your SAN. I think the gains from having one extra controller in your SAN outweigh the performance loss from having an uneven number of LUNs.

However, another option you can consider is to use that fifth controller as a direct-attached drive connected to one of your servers as a normal file share. If you're like me, you have edit suites on the Xsan, but several other computers in the building not attached to the Xsan. You can take this fifth controller and use it as a "Bridge." When you need to get files from your Xsan to other computers, copy those files onto the Bridge. When you need to put files on the Xsan from desktops without Xsan access, copy them to the Bridge first, then copy them onto the Xsan later.

If you're implementing Final Cut Server you might not need this workflow, but instead you might need a place to store all your final cut server proxy files and version data. There again, this extra half of a RAID might come in handy to be directly attached to your Final Cut Server.

But, if you really just need to build an Xsan with these RAIDs and are good for general file sharing and direct attached storage, I don't think you need to be nervous about having five LUNs in your media pool. Should be fine.

As you know, the choices you make when creating your Xsan can't easily be taken back later (without rebuilding it), so just make sure you consider your options carefully. Good luck, and please post back if you have more questions!

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