Editor’s Note: The following update is from Tim Standing, VP of Software Engineering, Mac, at OWC.
With the release of macOS13 Ventura, I wanted to provide all of our customers with an update on the development of the next release of SoftRAID,: SoftRAID 7.
Once the shipping version of macOS Ventura arrives, we will perform our final tests with it and SoftRAID 7, making sure there are no last-minute changes that Apple introduced which adversely affect SoftRAID or OWC storage hardware. I want to make sure that this upgrade cycle does not cause any problems for our users. We anticipate shipping SoftRAID 7 within the next two weeks.
No Visible changes, lots of internal changes
Every few years, Apple introduces a new version of iOS or macOS which looks very similar to the previous changes but has a lot of internal changes which improve performance or fix problems users are encountering. SoftRAID 7 is just like these macOS releases. There are not a lot of visible changes but there are lots of internal changes. These improve the performance and reliability of SoftRAID and will be a benefit for all our customers. I have outlined some of these changes in the following sections.
Every two years, we perform a security review of all the source code for the SoftRAID application, softraidtool, SoftRAID Monitor and the driver. We always start this process by reviewing the most up-to-date information on malware and the techniques used to gain root access to macOS. We then review all the source code looking for instances where malware could use these techniques to gain access to macOS through the SoftRAID driver or application. We do not want to be like other utility applications and have the notoriety of being a door through which malware takes control of your Mac.
This year, in our ongoing effort to provide the most secure storage software, we engaged a team of outside macOS security experts—one of the most experienced teams in their field—to review the SoftRAID driver source code. They performed a thorough review and identified several points where malware could have exploited the driver to gain control of macOS.
We know of no instances where these vulnerabilities are being actively exploited but I want to close these vulnerabilities before they are discovered. All of these suggested security enhancements are now part of SoftRAID version 7. I learned a ton in this process about making software more secure.
New driver loading architecture
In Apple’s continued effort to make macOS as secure as iOS, they have been increasing the checks the OS performs before loading third party drivers. Over the past two years, the driver loading process has become particularly onerous and it has become our #1 customer support issue.
Users are confused about the steps they must perform to get the SoftRAID driver to load. With SoftRAID 7, we have a new UI which, along with our new support pages and instructional videos, make this process much easier. We have further enhancements in SoftRAID coming which will make this process completely transparent.
New macOS software architecture
In the 20 years we have been developing and shipping SoftRAID, macOS and Mac hardware have undergone many significant architectural changes. We have always made changes in SoftRAID in anticipation of these changes.
SoftRAID was the first RAID software on macOS to support startup volumes, TRIM on SSDs, use all the cores in your Mac’s processor, and have complete support for Intel processors. With SoftRAID 7, we are continuing this tradition by introducing a new architecture in anticipation of upcoming releases of macOS. We want you to rest easy knowing that when a change gets introduced, SoftRAID already supports it.
Improvements in macOS Ventura
Over the past 10 years, we have enjoyed a great relationship with Apple software engineers and have helped them identify and fix many problems with the storage software in macOS. This relationship has grown over the last year, and we have been instrumental in getting Apple to fix many problems in macOS storage software.
This new release of macOS fixes a kernel panic bug which has been affecting a small number of SoftRAID customers who are using Macs with Apple silicon. If a customer was using a RAID 4 or 5 volume and connected it to their new Mac, it would automatically restart. This affected a very small number of customers, but those who encountered it found it very reproducible.
There are many other changes in macOS Ventura, or coming soon, which make it the most reliable version of macOS I have used.
If you use the volumes on your Mac intensively, say for ingesting or editing video, producing music, or editing photos, I would encourage you to wait for the release of SoftRAID 7 and then upgrade to macOS 13. This is especially true if you have a Mac with Apple silicon.
Perpetual license, Upgrade + Support Plan
While a lot of the software industry is moving to a subscription license model, we don’t feel this is appropriate for storage software. Why should you have to pay monthly to use storage hardware you already own? So, we will continue to provide a perpetual software license for SoftRAID.
OWC is introducing the Upgrade + Support Plan, which will give you access to future SoftRAID upgrades and our world class customer support. If you received SoftRAID as part of a bundle with an OWC storage enclosure, you will be automatically enrolled in the Upgrade + Support Plan for the length of your hardware warranty. If you purchase SoftRAID software separately, you will be enrolled for one year. You can then pay an annual fee to remain enrolled in the Upgrade + Support Plan.
My team spends almost 20% of our time, tracking down and characterizing problems with macOS. We then submit these as bug reports with Apple and work with their engineers to get fixes incorporated into upgrades or new versions of macOS. In addition, we train and staff one of the best customer support teams in the Mac market. Subscribing to the Upgrade + Support Plan enables us to provide more frequent updates and feature additions as well as provide world class customer support.
Thanks for your time and thanks for using SoftRAID.