At the Xserve launch yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs offered a technology preview of a forthcoming companion product for Xserve.

As an unreleased product, Apple kept the details scanty. What is known is that the previewed product is a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) storage device that Apple plans to introduce by the end of 2002.

The product may signal Apple’s entry into the storage market. Insider sources tell Macworld that Apple has hired key personnel to manage this strategy, chosen from high levels of the storage industry.

Data protection Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced Alex Grossman, Apple’s director of server and storage marketing yesterday, who explained the device, MacCentral reports.

Grossman explained: “RAID is all about data protection – all critical components are redundant. Dual RAID controllers – drives, power, cooling are all redundant. 14 independent hard drives, and each RAID controller connects to seven of them.”

At 3U (3.5-inches) in size, the rack-optimized storage unit includes 14 drive bays capable of holding one 120GB ATA drive each – in the same hot-pluggable format as Xserve. That adds up to a huge 1.69 Terabytes of total storage. This device will offer dual 2GB fibre channels on system and 400MB/second storage throughput.

Each RAID controller has its own ATA controller, and there’s 128MB of processor cache in the RAID processor. The device also has built-in fans to keep the device cool.

“It’s an amazing companion storage-product,” Jobs enthused. Pricing has not yet been announced.