Mark Ward, CEO, Copan

"It's great that the 800-pound gorillas are waking up to the fact that spinning down drives does not affect reliability, it actually increases reliability."

January 11, 2008

5 Min Read
Network Computing logo

As the ringleader in the move toward MAID (Massive Array of Idle Disks), Copan Systems has been hawking the advantages of the technology since 2003. Now, as storage managers become increasingly concerned about spiraling data center energy costs, MAID is coming into its own as a 'green' solution.

[To review, MAID systems typically use a small number of spinning disks that serve as a cache for a set of non-spinning, passive disks. If a data request is not found in the cache, the appropriate passive disks are powered up.]

Big storage vendors are on to the trend. HDS's recently announced take on MAID, and EMC's plan for spin-down capability across all of its arrays.

Copan's not standing still, either. Byte and Switch recently caught up with CEO Mark Ward to get the inside story on where MAID technology is today, and where it's going from Copan's perspective. Here's our record of the talk:

Byte & Switch: What advice would you give to a user looking to deploy MAID technology, and what are its shortcomings?Ward: The first thing is to identify the data types that are appropriate, that is, specifically, persistent data that is written once and read infrequently. The data types that best fall into that category are archived data, backup data, and tiered storage.

MAID is not intended to be a replacement technology for transactional storage or very high I/O-rate storage. The whole concept of MAID is to spin down the addressable LUNs when they are not being written to.

You would never put, for example, an Oracle database on MAID as its primary storage platform -- the SQL queries that are written against it would be constantly spinning up and spinning down the LUNs in an unmanageable fashion.

Were you to deploy MAID for a very high-transaction application like SAP, it would also not be the right technology, because the feedback would be poor.

Byte & Switch: MAID is still regarded as something of an emerging technology -- what sort of take-up is it experiencing?Ward: I believe that the enterprise storage market, including tape and disk, is near the $20 billion range. Disk accounts for about $13 billion, and half of that is MAID-addressable.

We have over 130 customers, 30 more than we had about a quarter ago, and the vast majority of our accounts are Fortune 500-type firms, such as and Credit Suisse, the Nasdaq, and the Sony Corporation. These are all current customers.

We have shipped over 35 Pbytes of MAID technology, and we have just opened up our Asian operations with offices in Tokyo, Singapore, and Beijing.

Figure 1: Mark Ward, CEO, Copan Systems

To Page 2Byte & Switch: Users have complained that there is currently no silver bullet for solving data center power problems, be it MAID or any other 'green' technology. What is your take on that?

Ward: I agree, I don't think that there is any silver bullet. Clearly, in the server world, virtualization has been one way to limit the growth of servers, but as copies of data continue to grow, people will continue to backup and archive that data.

We believe that MAID, like server virtualization, is one of the technologies that will have to be implemented, and we see the next convergence happening in the networking layer, with more people choosing IP. That is going to eliminate Fibre Channel switches and other protocol-specific switching infrastructure -- it's the whole idea of putting more data across one network, rather than having multiple networks.

As for cooling, I personally haven't seen much innovation. Most of the people that were working with are targeting their server, storage, and network infrastructure.

Byte & Switch: What do you make of EMC and HDS's recent power-saving efforts around spun-down disks?Ward: It's great that the 800-pound gorillas are waking up to the fact that spinning down drives does not affect reliability, it actually increases reliability. But by adding spin-down, as announced by HDS or EMC, it's simply a software feature on a storage technology. We started with a clean sheet of paper, so we can generate massive power savings.

Byte & Switch: Last year was a busy one for Copan with the addition of de-duplication to your MAID systems and $32.5 million in Series D funding. What does the 2008 roadmap look like?

Ward: We will be expanding our offering in data protection to include not just VTL but disk-to-disk backup with Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and NetBackup. That will be available in Q2.

We will also be introducing a new archive solution -- it will be a read/write file system that is MAID-aware. It's a writable file system that allows NAS customers, NetApp filers, for example, to move their infrequently accessed files to a Copan system without losing online access to them.

We will be developing the software ourselves and we will be introducing our first version of it in Q1.You will also see some major enhancements to [Copan's Revolution] platform from a power and cooling and density perspective, but that's later in the year.

Byte & Switch: Are there any plans for other financial incentives partnerships, such as the deal with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) that Copan signed last year?

Ward: We have gone to a number of other power consortia, like Con Edison, to drive similar initiatives. We're also looking to take that overseas -- we have a meeting next month with Tokyo Electric.

There's an energy group in Austin, Texas, for example, that is almost up to speed with a similar deal to the one with PG&E. There will be other partnerships announced this year.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Copan Systems Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Tivoli

  • Nasdaq

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Oracle Corp.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights