Copan Takes Aim at Tape

Startup Copan says: Disk at the price of tape, that's the ticket

January 28, 2004

2 Min Read
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If theres a safe target for startups in the storage world today, it’s tape. At least, that’s the attitude that Copan Systems Inc. is taking as it comes out of stealth with an appliance it claims offers disk backup at tape price.

Copan’s ATA appliance, which remains at least three months from making its way to customers, boasts a new architecture that reduces the cost of secondary storage on disk to between $1 and $3 per Gbyte. That rivals the cost of tape, whereas disk backup usually costs in the $10 per Gbyte range.

Copan claims to drive cost down with design, densely packing drives into one box and rotating the order in which disks spin as they are activated. Copan claims to be able to put hundreds of terabytes of storage in one cabinet.

“They’re doing it by putting 10 pounds of disks in a five-pound bag,” says Arun Taneja of The Taneja Group. [Ed. note: Don't take that literally!] “[Copan] brings the price down by reducing power, space, and so on. Not all the disk drives are always spinning. An algorithm decides which stay on and which turn off.”

“It’s an interesting approach: They’re really creating a disk library instead of a tape library,” says analyst Randy Kerns, an Evaluator Group partner. “You spit them up [sic] and use them when you need them, just like tape.”Tape is an easy target for replacement. Even tape vendors are preparing for its decline by combining disk backup with traditional tape backups. Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK), Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS), and Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC) all offer disk backup options, but at a higher cost than tape backup. (See ADIC Slips a Disk into Backup, StorageTek to Punch Into Disk Backup, and Quantum Slips Disks Into Backup.)

Even if Copan finds success, don’t expect to see tape spinning in its grave anytime soon. “Tape isn’t going away,” Kerns says. “You still need removable media for certain business requirements and legal requirements.".

Copan CEO Dave Davenport agrees, but he says, “I don’t think we’ll completely replace tape. We will significantly reduce people’s dependency on tape.”

Copan could easily go away long before tape if people don’t depend on it -- and rather soon. The Longmont, Colo.-based company raised $14 million in its first round of funding, and Davenport hopes to complete another $20 million round in mid-year (see Copan Cooks Up Disk-to-Disk). The success of the product -- both in sales and the ability to attract partnerships from disk vendors -- could determine the company’s funding success.

“Our edge is a technology that solves a significant problem,” Davenport says. “For 30 years, customers have had an emotional desire for a disk-based alternative to tape.”Now he hopes they turn to Copan for their emotional rescue.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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