Disk For Archive Is Not Dead

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.

George Crump

December 10, 2009

3 Min Read
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In his recent blog "Copan's MAID Fades away," 3PAR's Marc Farleypredicts that MAID is dead and that we can forget about disk forarchiving applications. I usually agree with Marc but this time not somuch. 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 myopinion, was that it was a stand alone system with a single purpose. Iftheir sales people and engineers couldn't convince you that MAID wasthe right solution they had no other option. Comparatively companieslike EMC, Nexsan and Hitachi have implemented spin down technology asmerely a feature within their arrays. You can implement MAID now or inthe future. Its up to you, but it's there when you are ready. Also someof these companies can offer several stages of MAID that will providesome power savings at significantly less performance loss as opposed tothe all or nothing condition that Copan presented.

Disk archive is also gaining traction. The economics of a diskarchiving project are too compelling not to consider in this economy.In disk archiving, spin down is just one potential capability amidst ahost of other requirements. In disk archive you need the ability toensure data integrity over the course of a decade or longer, theability to scale the archive infinitely, the ability to optimize thestorage of the data with deduplication and compression, the ability tofind data within the archive and potentially the ability to maintain achain of custody with WORM lock down of files.

Potentially, most important is how moving data to the disk archive hasevolved. Most disk archive systems have moved from a proprietary APIaccess to a network file system access like CIFS or NFS. While APIshave a role to play, having the simple access of a network mount pointmakes adoption easier. It allows customers to manually move data to thearchive, as we discussed in our blog "Manual Moves" over at InformationWeek or to leverage File Virtualization techniques, as we discussed inour recent article "What is File Virtualization?".

To some extent I think Copan fell victim to the first moverdisadvantage, they were very early to market with MAID and densestorage. Since their first systems, which were primarily focused onbeing a disk backup solution, much has changed. Power management wasnot the concern for as broad a section of customers as it istoday. They had to take most of the arrows for explaining what MAIDwas, and they had the sole responsibility to convince people that driveswould 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 intoit as you feel it makes sense for your environment.

On the archive side, cost of disk continues to plummet, moving data tothe archive has become significantly easier, but most importantly, theneed is more severe. When Copan first opened the doors unstructureddata was not the critical problem that it is today. File based data isdrowning many data centers, and I think we have just now reached thetipping point where storage administrators are prepared to makesignificant investments in unstructured data management processes.

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