Copan, Quantum automate file archiving with MAID array

Copan bundles Quantum's StorNext file system with its MAID arrays as both companies try to branch out beyond the data backup space.

Copan Systems has struck up a partnership with Quantum Corp. to bundle Copan's Revolution MAID array with Quantum's StorNext clustered file system for file archiving applications.

Steve Wilson, a Copan systems engineer, said the bundle consists of Copan's Revolution 300 array with either a network attached storage (NAS) or virtual tape library (VTL) connection, a blade server acting as StorNext's metadata controller and the option for two more server blades acting as CIFS or NFS gateways in front of StorNext's proprietary protocol. Copan will preconfigure and install the bundle for customers; the system will be available early in the fourth quarter.

Copan already has an archiving product called File Archiver, but it requires integration between applications and the Copan system so that Copan can make copies of the files and remove them from their original repositories. "File Archiver is a 'pull' archiving system that draws data out of other repositories," Wilson said. "This is more of a 'push' method that lets applications write data to a standard interface without requiring special integration with Copan." While File Archiver also includes compliance features, such as search and indexing for e-discovery, the bundle with Quantum is meant to serve as a repository for stale data in order to free up primary storage.

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Customers still need to point the applications writing data to the new repository, and the repository must be attached directly to the Copan device. If customers want an automated tiered NAS infrastructure, they can use file virtualization or migration tools, such as Acopia's ARX switch or EMC's DiskXtender.

Copan's Revolution MAID will integrate with StorNext through a feature Copan recently introduced to its arrays, a shelf of 40 "always on" drives that allows for more rapid ingest than with a 100% MAID system. The "always on" drives also allow partners to integrate applications with Revolution systems without understanding the array's drive spin-down patterns.

StorNext can automatically migrate data according to policy within the box from "always on" to spun-down MAID storage, or to the Copan VTL shelf for long-term storage. Copan's File Archiver can be set up at a secondary site to pull content from the bundled product for off-site data protection and disaster recovery. For the first release, StorNext will move data between tiers within one Revolution chassis that can scale to more than half a petabyte.

Beyond backup

All of this is part of a push by both companies to diversify their products beyond the primary focus on virtual and physical tape-based backup products. In part, this is due to a general decline in sales of tape, as reflected in the most recent earnings reports from tape vendors, including Quantum and Overland.

The MAID technology that Copan introduced to storage is now used by other vendors and is catching on as a green technology. But, Wilson said the company needs to focus more on the "consumability" of its products.

There are still questions about whether MAID sales have lived up to marketing hype. According to Jeffrey Hill, senior research analyst with Aberdeen Group, a July survey of 177 storage administrators asked which technologies they were using to boost storage efficiency showed only 8% of respondents using MAID.

"I think users might not understand the value proposition, or the feature is considered too expensive," Hill said. There's also a lingering air of risk around MAID, stemming from debates in the early days of the technology about whether powering off drives damages their longevity.

"It's pretty hard to quantify MAID adoption because it's a feature in so many products now," said analyst Brian Babineau, Enterprise Strategy Group. "But what we're seeing is a lot of adoption for technologies that improve efficiency, and MAID is definitely one of them."

While NAS is gaining steam over virtual tape in the backup world as proven by the success of NAS-based products, such as Data Domain's data deduplication arrays, the NAS interface has its own challenges, Babineau said. "If it's a net-new application, the customer may prefer NAS," he said. "But the appeal of VTL for legacy applications is still that it doesn't require changes to the environment."

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