Startup Hatches Disk Library

Believing that enterprises are willing to eschew tape storage for disk-based systems, storage startup Copan Systems unveiled a disk library it believes will revolutionize the market for backing up seldom-used files.

The Longmont, Colo., company is positioning the Revolution 200T as the first and only storage machine to deliver a disk-based data repository with the performance, availability and protection of disk and the price and scale of tape.

Copan President and CEO Dave Davenport Davenport told the Revolution 200T is geared for backing up and restoring hefty programs such as scientific research applications in Fortune 1000 companies for long periods of time; the product scales from 56 terabytes to 224TB in a single cabinet with up to 896 Serial ATA drives.

“Think of it as a refrigerator or a closet where you put a 1,000 disk drives in it,” Davenport said. “This is for data that is for back-up/recovery or compliance data that is accessed sequentially, or write once, read rarely or occasionally. But we can move up to 2.4 terabtyes of data per hour in and out of our system, which is faster than tape.”

Davenport said that due to pressures in the market for faster back-ups and better recoveries, as well as legal compliance and a general trend to bring more data online, there is an increased focus on the marketplace for the disk library because of an increase in reference or secondary storage data.

Copan, which launched in January, hopes to be at the forefront of that disk evolution.

After all, enterprises spent $1.7 billion on disk-based storage in 2003, according to Michael Peterson at Strategic Research and Enterprise Storage Group claims that 53 percent of all protected data will be backed up to disk at some point in two years.

Other disk-oriented systems are cropping up, albeit with different architectures. For example, the Revolution 200T is geared for a higher-end of customer than the Clariion Disk Library EMC launched two weeks ago, which is a “tape emulator” tailored for medium-sized businesses.

Revolution 200T is indicative of how the market for back-up and recovery hardware and software is evolving to meet the performance requirements and budgets of enterprises. The need for high-performing products has crystallized in the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA, which place stringent demands of corporate record keeping.

Tape has been a reliable mainstay for years, but the complaints users have with it is that it can be too slow to handle the heavy demands of the digital age, or operationally intensive. But disk storage is not without its cons either, often proving to be too expensive for cost-conscious businesses.

The market is changing, the CEO said, and Copan is trying to follow the change to success. Traditionally, disk back-ups have been restored to tape, but are increasingly being stored as from disk-to-disk to tape, with an interim staging level where SCSI drives are being replaced with cheaper Serial ATA drives.

Serial ATA, which is expected to have a profound impact on lowering the cost of storage and is one of the aspects that make Revolution 200T so appealing. Analysts approve of Copan’s new product.

Enterprise Storage Group Founder Steve Duplessie said that while IT managers have finessed to strike a balance between tape and disk, that Copan offers a “disk-based archive solution of massive scale with robust TCO advantages that doesn’t impact current IT processes.”

Davenport said key features of Revolution 200T architecture include “Power-Managed RAID,” which provides greater data protection by spinning only the drives necessary to meet the needs of the application to reduce heat and vibration, and “Disk Aerobics,” patented technology from Copan that monitors and manages drives to increase their reliability and longevity.

The initial version of the Revolution 200T, available in the third quarter
2004, will be a virtual tape library, which will be quickly followed by a
disk-based file and block system, according to Davenport. It will be priced
at $3.50 per gigabyte, uncompressed, below $2 compressed, which is less
expensive than most automated tape systems.

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