Apple Fibre Channel compatibility with El Capitan

BlackF1re's picture

Good Morning Xsan deployers.
In the next few months i'll have to upgrade a Maverick Xsan to El Capitan.
This system still runs on MacPro 2012 equipped with the good old Apple Fibre Channel cards 4Gbit

Does anybody can tell me if there is any issue with these cards and El Capitan?

Thank you very much for your time

I'm using the Apple dual-channel 4 Gb fibre channel card in a 2009 XServe running OS El Capitan 10.11.2. The server connects directly to a Promise 4 Gb subsystem. The card, which has firmware is working fine. Based on Apple's website, this is the oldest firmware for the card.

It appears that from OS 10.7 the Mac OS has supported FC multipathing. The Promise E610f (Mac version) apparently does not support ALUA however. I've set LUN Affinity on the Promise to use controller 1 for the single logical disk. The second cable is connected to controller 2, which is not receiving or sending data (although it appears some frames are being sent from the server). Controller number 2 should be just for failover.

I could use some more bandwith. Would it be better to move the second cable to controller 1 and not worry about failover? How much benefit would there be? I could buy a 4 port card as well.

Thanks for your advice, Blackfire, and other experts.

JSamuel's picture


We have some of them in SonnetTech chassis, working fine :-)

lafoto wrote:

I could use some more bandwith. Would it be better to move the second cable to controller 1 and not worry about failover? How much benefit would there be? I could buy a 4 port card as well.

Thanks for your advice, Blackfire, and other experts.


Promise did go out of their way to fork the firmware and disable boot didn't they... But ways around that :-O Does the disable/enable LUN Affinity trick not work? (I vaguely remember that.)

If the reasonable budget is there to get a 4-port card that would be best, performance and link resiliency.

Joel Samuel.
/thirtytwo - Consultancy & Direction
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All contributions are my own personal opinions - not those of any entity I represent.

Thanks, @BlackF1re. So it's not possible to have a Mac startup disk on the E610f?

As far as I know you have to use LUN affinity with this model in the Mac environment. It appears this Promise unit doesn't support ALUA. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Yes, the 4-port card is probably the way to go. Cheers.

BlackF1re's picture

Thank you all for the answer, so it does works on El Capitan. This is excellent.

To also answer you guys: No, the E610f Promise Vtrak does not support ALUA. Promise introduced this in it's x30 arrays.
Also, i honestly never tried to boot a MacOS from a Fibre Channel Array.

To advice you for bandwidth optimisation, i would like to understand your Array configuration.
How many LUN do you have inside the E610f ?
I usually create 2x Raid 5 with 7 drives + spare each, and assign them one for each controller, obtaining 2x 4Gbit bandwidth = 700 MB/s in R/W doing a Raid 50 via software, or in an San cfg.
I only take advance of multipath for redundancy purposes, like connecting arrays and hba to multiple fibre channel switches

Personal Website:
Twitter: @GabrieleZanon83

Thanks for your reply. I have one array and one logical volume in the E610f. The volume is RAID 5 with 8 drives, not including the spare. So with one cable attached to one controller I was seeing about 300-325 MB/s RW. When I attached the second cable to the same controller I started seeing R/W speeds at least 380 MB/s up to 500 MB/s depending on the video format and file size used in AJA system test. So clearly a second cable makes a big difference.

Very interesting how you are using software RAID to achieve higher speeds. What software are you using for RAID 50?

Thanks again for your advice.

BlackF1re's picture

Hello Lafoto

Yes, Second cable makes a difference thanks to the multipath, capable to split the single Lun on multiple cable, But there's a way to optimise the situation even more:

I assume your E610f is only half populated with 8 drives instead of 16?
In this case you can create 2x Raid 5 of 4 drives each.
During the creation of the array, set the controller Affinity so you can map the Lun 1 to controller 1, and Lun 2 to controller 2
At this point, simply open Disk Utility on your Mac. You should see the Two Luns you just created (connecting one cable to ctrl1 and one to ctrl2). Use simply the Disk Utility to create a Raid 0 between the two Luns, and there you have a Raid 50 with Two Luns on different cables and controller to optimise performances and failover.

If your E610f is fully populated, you can do the same creating Two array Raid 5 of 8 drives (or better, 7 drives + spare) and merge them with Disk Util on Mac, or Disk Management on Windows.
I usually use 4 cables if i have an E610f + the Jbox expansion chassis.
In this case i create 4x 8 drives Raid 5, mapping 2 to each controller.

Hope this helps

Personal Website:
Twitter: @GabrieleZanon83

Thanks, Blackfire! Great idea. So Apple took away software raid in El Capitan. Apparently you can still do software raid using Terminal, however. What about SoftRaid? Have you or anyone else used this?

BlackF1re's picture

Hi lafoto

True. Apple removed from the GUI the possibility to create the extremely simple Raid 0 and 1. Honestly, this is another drop in a jar about to burst. We IT Pros are left in the dust with overpriced workstations and unsupported software.

It's still possible to create them via Terminal:

Type the following to obtain the list of physical drives connected to your Mac:

diskutil list

You'll find the drives listed like this plus the details regarding each one

Now, let's assume the disk2 and disk3 are the disks you want to use to create a Raid

To create a Raid 0:
sudo diskutil appleRAID create stripe [arrayName] JHFS+ disk2 disk3

To create a Raid 1
sudo diskutil appleRAID create mirror [arrayName] JHFS+ disk2 disk3

Because of this, companies like softRaid took advantage and they ask for money for such a feature.
Honestly, i think asking for 49$ for just creating such a simple thing like a Raid 0 and 1 is stealing, while adding the Raid 5 possibility is really cool in the "pro" version, but they should let the basic function (Raid 0 and 1) for free.
That is why i never used it.

Hope this helped

Personal Website:
Twitter: @GabrieleZanon83

abstractrude's picture

as an IT pro your complaining that apple is requiring you to use terminal ? This is the same ridiculous complaint as when people say they don't like OS X's version of apache. If you dont like it install your own.

p.s. I have to use terminal to create LVM and raids in every version of linux I use.

-Trevor Carlson

BlackF1re's picture

Hi abstract.
This is not a matter about the use of Terminal. As almost everybody here, i have no problem in using it, and this is just another function deprecated from the GUI. Not an issue for me, but an issue for many others.
As i said, this is just another drop in the jar that started to fall in November 2010, when Apple officially discontinued the Xserve. That was truly a sad day for me.

Personal Website:
Twitter: @GabrieleZanon83

Thanks for the tips, BlackF1re. I wish this was only about Terminal, Abstractrude. Unfortunately, for many of us involved in serious creative work it's looking more like we've reached the Terminus with Apple.

All of our creative staff is on the Mac platform but our IT chief is pushing for us to move to Windows. He is right ultimately. Why should we have to buy a bunch of expensive adapters just to properly use our Mac Pro workstations? Why don't we have a real Mac server that takes PCIe cards and has dual power supplies?

We are willing to pay a bit more for the Mac experience but at some point it just becomes excessive.

abstractrude's picture

The problem is they don't make computers with multiple drives in them anymore. It is a feature less than 1% of their customers use, RAID just isn't a GUI feature anymore. I think Windows might be a better OS for you, everything is in the GUI.

-Trevor Carlson

abstractrude's picture

I know its hard to change but Apple does things differently. I think for most larger post environments windows and HP Z series computers make sense. The future is predictable and straight forward.

OS X as a product is pretty good. There are a lot of holes, but most creative folks still like it better than Windows.

I really like the Mac Mini MDCS but I also like third party servers and storage.

As for the rest of the product line, what features are you missing? You can use OS X with any server you want, what function was OS X server/xserve doing for you that cannot be tasked by third party servers.

You can use a MacMini when it makes sense. For example a Mini with PCIeFlash and a 10GbaseSR adapter will let you pump images out at 1000MB/s. 5 years ago that was 50x the cost.

The reason the xserve existed was because there were no server options or support for Macs. I deploy mac environments with third party servers all the time, they work great. Stornext is one of those tools.

-Trevor Carlson

Good points, Abstractrude. I agree that HP's Z series looks like the long term solution. Windows has improved a great deal and is no longer horrible compared to the Mac OS as was the case a decade or so ago. Apple is moving in the direction that's best for their business and many of us will likely have to do the same too.

While you're right that a third party server can work well in a Mac environment, at present you still need to buy adapters for the local machines if you need to use SAS, eSATA or 10G ethernet, DVD/CD burner or just need a few more USB ports. I love working on the cylinder Mac Pro but my desk is a mess with all the accessories. The round shape does nothing to hide all the cords. It's not a pretty sight.

Thunderbolt is great but I'd like to see a more flexible Mac Pro concept.