Everybody knows the next release of the the Mac operating system will be called El Capitan. But how many people have heard of the DLC that comes with it? What is it, what does it do and how will it affect editors?
The world of shared storage in video editing is very different to standalone Macs with Thunderbolt or USB 3 drives attached. Single users might think nothing of upgrading their operating systems as soon as the update badge appears on the App Store, but you can't just do that when you have a large amount of data on a SAN connected to multiple workstations.
So there is a lot to do when upgrading and a lot of the processes are hard to reverse if things go wrong. You also cannot run a 10.9 client on a 10.10 SAN and vice a versa, the SAN and clients all have to be upgraded together. Difficult jobs, but it looks like things are changing.
A good example of this is the difference between Xsan running on Mavericks and Xsan running on Yosemite. With Xsan V4 (10.10), the admin features have been simplified and although it seems as if control has been taken away from the administrator, the changes have been made to make life easier.
So rather than Xsan taking the well worn Apple path of being quietly forgotten, it is being actively developed and one of the results of this is the new Distributed LAN Client that is a part of OS X El Capitan.
The invitation from Apple on the developer website
A Distributed LAN Client or DLC allows computers to connect to Xsan shared storage with an ethernet connection. Up until now, if you were running an Xsan shared storage facility, the only way you could connect clients to the data was by Fibre Channel. This is expensive, even more so if you have to buy the the converter boxes for Fibre Channel to Thunderbolt to get new Mac Pros or iMacs connected. You could of course share out a machine's connection via AFP or SMB, but you will face all the problems of using your link through another computer.
DLC will allow everybody with an GigE connection (two for the metadata?) to see the assets on the Xsan shared storage. Although high bandwidth work like ingesting or editing is still recommended to be connected with Fibre, ethernet clients will be able to browse and view quite happily. Speeds should be as fast as the IP infrastructure.
A shared storage example featuring Apple's DLC from Quantum.
The news has already got third party manufactures interested as the GigE connections will have to be connected together to the SAN. Quantum recently issued this Press Release which details DLC running with StorNext hardware. Apple's Xsan is based on the StorNext File System.
So the news got us thinking. In an effort to reduce price and simplify installation, will Apple look to put 10GigE on Mac Pros? Maybe the new USB-C connector will allow connection to shared storage in the future. Or will the fact that there is so much cheap ethernet networking out there it will become the best way to connect? We don't know, but the DLC in in El Capitan is another step forward to desktop shared storage solutions.