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Copan roadmap includes IPO, archiving on MAID arrays

Copan preps for an IPO, and has file system management, data classification and archiving on the roadmap for its MAID array.

Copan Systems Inc. is getting ready to go public, and plans to add software features to its massive array of idle disks (MAID) arrays this year, according to CEO Mark Ward.

"We'll file our S-1 [for an IPO] in the spring timeframe," Ward told this week. Ward said the company is not yet profitable, but he expects it to be by midyear.

Whether the company's shares will ever reach the public market isn't certain. When discussing his company's plans, Ward also brought up Dell's recent $1.4 billion acquisition of SAN maker EqualLogic. "Our investors want an IPO because it's the highest return on their equity," he said, but added, "We believe there's room for the next generation of independent storage companies. There hasn't been another EMC in the last 10 to 15 years. Why not us?"

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Copan opened a new R&D facility just up the road from EMC's headquarters in Hopkinton, Mass. this week, but Ward said that's because the talent pool of storage engineers in the Boston area is deep. Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems also have facilities nearby.

Ward intends to keep his engineers busy this year with a new roadmap that he said will add capabilities to Copan's Revolution product, which until last October was a virtual tape library only. The latest R300 model added data deduplication, NAS, archiving and block-level data access features.

Expanding the product's file system archiving capabilities is next on the release list, which also includes new file system management features as well as data classification.

In some cases, Copan will be going down paths where others have failed. File system archive startup Arkivio was rescued when Rocket Software acquired its assets, and data classification startup Scentric Inc. went under late last year.

Ward said his company will take a different approach. "In the archive world, people just want to move a copy of the data," he said. "We plan to give them a choice about whether or not they delete the primary copy."

Ward said Copan considered buying the Scentric's assets, but decided not to because Copan executives thought its product was too complex. "Customers want very simple solutions," he said. "They want to know when the last time data was accessed and if they can move it to a less expensive tier of storage."

Copan will also introduce an "always-spinning shelf" to its MAID arrays, which is an extension of its software-based "always-on sector" of virtual disks. With the always-spinning shelf, applications will always perceive that LUNs are available, like the solid-state cache used in primary storage arrays, but with spinning disks. Also on the docket: an updated API for application vendors in media, backup, archiving and digital video surveillance.

Copan was first out of the gate with MAID in 2004, but as often happens in storage, large vendors have latched on to what they consider a good idea. Hitachi Data Systems released a MAID system last year and EMC unveiled plans to come out with one.

Ward said that EMC CEO Joe Tucci has tried to freeze the MAID market with his announcement last October that all of EMC disk arrays will have the ability to spin down disks. "It's interesting to see all the industry heavyweights coming out and saying MAID is actually good for disk drives now."

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