Apple has officially announced Xserve RAID, its 3U 2.5TB rack storage system.

The device offers fourteen independent ATA/100 drive channels furnishing up to 2.5TB of storage. Dual independent-RAID controllers with up to 1GB controller cache memory provide fully redundant storage. The device offers a dual 2GB Fibre Channel host interface.

Each 180GB Apple Drive Module uses a dedicated drive channel, maximizing the 400MB per second (MBps) industry standard Fibre Channel host connection.

Xserve RAID scales in capacity and performance through adding extra drives, or networking more Xserve RAID systems.

The device also provides RAID level 5 throughput, which supports real-time HD 1080i video editing.

Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing said: "Xserve RAID is an industry breakthrough product, offering up to 2.5TB of high-performance redundant storage at just over $4 per gigabyte, a fraction of the cost of storage from Dell, HP, Sun or EMC."

Xserve RAID has been designed for "a robust working environment", clims Apple. Its enclosure is easily accessible, it uses a modular component design and delivers continuous visual feedback through lights on the front and rear panels. Power and cooling modules can be replaced in seconds, the company claims. The unit also has a built-in audible alarm to alert administrators to local failures.

Apple has used Java to provide the RAID Admin software. This software provides detailed event notification about the system and will automatically despatch email alerts once a problem is encountered. The software also lets administrators manage their RAID systems remotely over TCP/IP. The software supports Rendezvous, Apple's zero configuration networking technology - this means it can automatically discover and connect to Xserve RAID systems over any IP network.

Xserve can be easily connected to Xserve RAID using Apple's newly-introduced 2GB Apple Fibre Channel PCI card (£398). This offers a throughput of up to 400MB/s and ships with two high-speed 2.9m copper cables and accepts Small form-factor Pluggable copper or optical transceivers for use with fibre-optic cables.

The product ships in March and is available in three configurations:

Xserve RAID for an estimated retail price of £4,999 includes: dual independent RAID controllers with 128MB cache per controller and support for up to 512MB cache per controller; dual 2GB Fibre Channel ports with 200 MBps throughput per channel; four 180GB ATA/100 Apple Drive Modules; 720GB RAID 0 total available storage; and 8MB on-drive cache.

The £6,199 Xserve RAID includes: dual independent RAID controllers with 128MB cache per controller and support for up to 512MB cache per controller; dual 2GB Fibre Channel ports with 200 MBps throughput per channel; seven 180GB ATA/100 Apple Drive Modules; 1260GB RAID 0 total available storage; and 8MB on-drive cache.

The £8,999 Xserve RAID includes: dual independent RAID controllers with 128MB cache per controller and support for up to 512MB cache per controller; dual 2GB Fibre Channel ports with 200MBps throughput per channel; fourteen 180GB ATA/100 Apple Drive Modules; 2520GB RAID 0 total available storage; and 8MB on-drive cache.

All prices include VAT.