Copan CTO Talks Up Future of MAID

Vendor looks to team up with Oracle, Sybase, and Microsoft

August 29, 2007

5 Min Read
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MAID specialist Copan is planning to bulk up its database archiving and records management strategies starting next year, according to CTO and founder Chris Santilli. (See Copan Gets New MAID and Copan Validates MAID.)

Copan is one of a number of vendors, including Nexsan, Fujitsu, and NEC, that are currently touting MAID as a way for users to reduce their storage costs by dynamically powering disks up and down in response to access demands. (See Nexsan SATABeast Roars , Fujitsu Adds NAS to Eternus, and NEC Intros D-Series.)

MAID systems typically use a small number of spinning disks that serve as a cache for a set of non-spinning, passive disks. (See Will New Head MAID Clean House?, Time Warner Cable Picks Copan, and Finisar Buys (and Saves) AIFOtec.) If a data request is not found in the cache, the appropriate passive disks are powered up.

In an interview with Byte and Switch today, Santilli urged users to see MAID as more than a means of saving power and disk space, explaining that Copan has its eye on adding to its value as as an archiving tool.

For starters, Copan will enter the the database archiving market full tilt. "We will give users direct access to the data," Santilli says, explaining that this will streamline the vendor's existing archiving strategy.At the moment, Copan has a partnership with Oracle for archiving structured data, although this requires the use of a VTL from Copan's OEM partner FalconStor.

Now Copan is looking to add software that will run on top of its MAID operating system, acting as an interface between Oracle's APIs and the LUNs on its own array. "What's going to be new is that there will be no need for a VTL between the Oracle database and the MAID platform," says John Mellon, Copan's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, adding that this could save users money and remove a layer of complexity from their data centers.

Copan is currently deciding whether to develop this software itself or use code licensed from data archiving specialist OuterBay, now part of HP, or Princeton Softech. (See HP Hops on OuterBay, Oracle Validates OuterBay, Princeton Softech Calls for Testing, and Users Pick Princeton Softech.)

"Our customers have been asking for this," says Santilli, adding that Copan plans to support SQL Server and Sybase as well as Oracle. (See 3PAR Supports Oracle 11g, Sybase, Mendocino in Dev Deal, and Zmanda Backs Up MySQL.) Database archiving will be offered by Copan sometime next year, he states.

Also on the roadmap for Copan is records management software that can trawl through unstructured data. "Whether it's emails or health care records, there's demand from both customers and partners," says Santilli. He says Copan could tailor its software to manage data for specific applications or vertical markets, such as oil and gas.At the moment Copan offers some archiving of unstructured data through its Millenia software, although this is read only. "The next generation of our unstructured archiving will be full read/write on our platform," says Mellon.

Copan will enlist partners for this project. A number of software vendors, including Mimosa and RenewData, are already working in unstructured archiving, though Santilli refused to reveal who Copan is working with. (See Mimosa Raises $17M, RenewData Enhances E-Discovery, and SAIC Stretches Database Limits.) The CTO was a little more forthcoming on time frames, confirming that the souped-up unstructured offering will be available in early 2008.

Copan is also looking to extend its presence in the energy sector over the next few months, following on the vendor's recently announced partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). (See Copan Pushes Power Savings and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).) The California-based utility now offers financial incentives to PG&E customers that buy MAID storage gear from Copan.

"We're talking to other energy companies, and they are looking at doing power rebates and credits," he says, although he would not reveal which firms Copan is negotiating with.

Some users have already highlighted the savings offered by MAID systems, citing the ability to shave as much as 75 percent off their energy costs by powering down disks.Despite the apparent energy benefits, MAID is still an emerging technology. Specific details on the size of the MAID market are hard to come by, although Copan says that its customer list now numbers around 100.

MAID users aren't likely to stop asking for the kind of value-added features Copan is considering. Some have also urged vendors to emulate Fibre Channel technology, which typically has two controllers per drive, offering redundancy in the event of a problem on the path to the MAID disk drive.

Although the disks used within Copan's MAID systems do not have dual ports, Santilli says that the vendor has tackled this issue by building a specialized chip into the canisters which contain the drives. "The chip allows us to dual-port all 14 drives," he explains, adding that this offers two paths to each drive.

The other issue cited as a major drawback of MAID is performance compared to other disk-based technologies such as SATA and optical disk. Since disks must be woken up and spun in response to an access request, the performance won't match that of already spinning disks.

Even Copan admits this. "If I was in an environment that was a heavily transactional environment, I wouldn't use MAID," says Bill Mottram, the vendor's vice president of corporate marketing. "But if I was in an environment where data has to be accessed less frequently, it's not an issue."

  • Copan Systems Inc.

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Mimosa Systems Inc.

  • Nexsan Technologies Inc.

  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)

  • OuterBay Technologies Inc.

  • Pacific Gas and Electric Company

  • Princeton Softech Inc.

  • RenewData Corp.

  • Sybase Inc.

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