Copan Gets New MAID

Adds dual controller, replication, and 'disk aerobics' for its virtual tape library

October 12, 2005

3 Min Read
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Copan Systems Inc. today tweaked its MAID (massive array of idle disks) architecture, taking another shot at eliminating tape and trying to distinguish itself in a growing field of virtual tape libraries (VTLs). (See Copan Expands Portfolio .)

Copans Revolution 200TX is the startup’s first major upgrade to the Revolution 200T virtual tape library (VTL) it started shipping in April 2004. (See Copan Sweeps Up $25M and Copan Takes Aim at Tape.) The new rev has dual controllers for better performance, and allows data replication across distances for disaster recovery.

Copan also improved what it calls the system’s “disk aerobics” to automatically monitor drives to detect failures, and mirror data from suspect drives to spare drives.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Copan’s MAID underlying technology. MAID powers the drives in an array up and down in an attempt to save energy and extend the life of SATA disks. These dancing disks distinguish Copan from the growing roster of VTL competitors, which is no longer solely the domain of startups as it was when Revolution 200T launched.

VTL uses the same backup software as tape, but backs up to disk for faster backup-and-restore times. When Copan came out of stealth, VTL was a relatively new concept and Copan’s main competition consisted of startups Diligent Technologies Corp., MaXXan Systems Inc., and Sepaton Inc., as well as tape vendors such as Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC), Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS), Overland Storage Inc. (Nasdaq: OVRL), and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) looking to cover their disk bases.Now the largest disk vendors do VTL, too. EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) has been in the game for more than a year; Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) entered through an OEM deal with Sepaton earlier this year; IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) launched its VTL product this week; and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) is expected to launch a VTL product based on technology it acquired from Alacritus by early 2006. (See EMC and HP Spin Disk, IBM, MS in Virtualization Push, and NetApp Annexes Alacritus.)

With major vendors on the scene, Copan faces a greater challenge in convincing users to try its unique approach. At least one Revolution 200T customer, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) software systems specialist Matt Johnson, says Copan’s first whack at MAID solved two of the problems it targets: reducing backup times and extending the life of SATA drives.

Johnson says his tape backups were lasting all night and spilling over into the next business day. With Copan, he says backups take less than five hours. UTMB also keeps more than five weeks of backup on disk for immediate restore.

“We literally were running out of time slots to fit additional backups in the rotation,” Johnson says. “This was impacted by backup hardware failures that would cause a chain reaction, failing all backups for the night. These exact same backups now take approximately four-and-a half hours.”

As for extending the life of SATA, Johnson says he typically changes three SATA drives per month on his SAN but has yet to lose a drive on the Revolution 200T in six months. Johnson says he intends to evaluate the Revolution 200TX in his quest to get rid of tape completely. For now, he needs off-site tape for disaster recovery.“I would like to see an entirely disk-based solution where we can remove tape and tape-associated failures completely from the backup process,” he says. “This would include the ability to mirror to a remote location for disaster recovery protection."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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