In his recent blog "Copan's MAID Fades away," 3PAR's Marc Farley predicts that MAID is dead and that we can forget about disk for archiving applications. I usually agree with Marc but this time not so much. I believe that MAID is not dead and more importantly, neither is disk for archiving. MAID (massive array of idle disks) has already moved on. The challenge that Copan Systems had, in my opinion, was that it was a stand alone system with a single purpose. If their sales people and engineers couldn't convince you that MAID was the right solution they had no other option. Comparatively companies like EMC, Nexsan and Hitachi have implemented spin down technology as merely a feature within their arrays. You can implement MAID now or in the future. Its up to you, but it's there when you are ready. Also some of these companies can offer several stages of MAID that will provide some power savings at significantly less performance loss as opposed to the all or nothing condition that Copan presented.
Disk archive is also gaining traction. The economics of a disk archiving project are too compelling not to consider in this economy. In disk archiving, spin down is just one potential capability amidst a host of other requirements. In disk archive you need the ability to ensure data integrity over the course of a decade or longer, the ability to scale the archive infinitely, the ability to optimize the storage of the data with deduplication and compression, the ability to find data within the archive and potentially the ability to maintain a chain of custody with WORM lock down of files.
Potentially, most important is how moving data to the disk archive has evolved. Most disk archive systems have moved from a proprietary API access to a network file system access like CIFS or NFS. While APIs have a role to play, having the simple access of a network mount point makes adoption easier. It allows customers to manually move data to the archive, as we discussed in our blog "Manual Moves" over at Information Week or to leverage File Virtualization techniques, as we discussed in our recent article "What is File Virtualization?".
To some extent I think Copan fell victim to the first mover disadvantage, they were very early to market with MAID and dense storage. Since their first systems, which were primarily focused on being a disk backup solution, much has changed. Power management was not the concern for as broad a section of customers as it is today. They had to take most of the arrows for explaining what MAID was, and they had the sole responsibility to convince people that drives would power back on when you needed them to. Remember disk aerobics? Now MAID is much less of a all or nothing decision. You can ease into it as you feel it makes sense for your environment.
On the archive side, cost of disk continues to plummet, moving data to the archive has become significantly easier, but most importantly, the need is more severe. When Copan first opened the doors unstructured data was not the critical problem that it is today. File based data is drowning many data centers, and I think we have just now reached the tipping point where storage administrators are prepared to make significant investments in unstructured data management processes.George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for datacenters across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, ... View Full Bio