In the simplest case using some file system protocol such as NSF or CIFS is sufficient (and desirable): that's how I share the ZFS file systems where I archive my photos, my video, my music and so on. Sharing such file systems with another UNIX, Windows or Mac OS/X (just to cite some), it's just some commands away.
In other occasions accessing a file system is not sufficient: that's the case with Apple's Time Machine, which is expecting a whole disk for its own sake connected locally.
Fortunately, integrating ZFS and Time Machine is pretty easy if you're running a COMSTAR-enabled Solaris. Although setting up COMSTAR is a very well documented topic by the Solaris and OpenSolaris documentation, I'll give you a walk through the necessary steps to get the job done and having your time machine making its backup on a ZFS volume. You'll end up with the benefits of both world: a multidimensional time machine which will take advantage of ZFS snapshotting and cloning capabilities.
The steps I'll detail in the following posts are:
- Setting up Solaris COMSTAR and configuring an iSCSI target port for a ZFS volume.
- Setting up Mac OS/X as an iSCSI initiator and configuring Time Machine.
With such a solution, you will need no USB/FireWire/anything-else drive hanging around. You won't need to rely on consumer drives which implement some kind of file system sharing protocol which, as explained earlier, won't fit into the time machine use case.
Just a network connection and a box to install Solaris, ZFS and COMSTAR, and you'll provide a scalable, enterprise-level, easy to maintain solution for your storage needs.