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New disk array cheap enough for archiving

Copan launches a disk-based backup system positioned for long-term storage. What are the pros and cons?

Copan Systems, a new kid on the block in the storage market, today announced a disk-based archiving system that it claims offers the data protection features of disk at the price and scale of tape.

The Revolution 200T is purpose-built for write once – read occasionally applications, delivering 2-3 times the density and 10 times faster the access speed of tape, the company claims.

Copan believes Fortune 500 companies are caught in a stranglehold between the cost-benefits of tape versus the price of disk-based backup offerings that it says do not scale and are therefore unaffordable.

"When it's a choice between today's SATA systems and tape, they can't afford the disk because it is too expensive as a long-term solution to backup," says Dave Davenport, CEO of Copan.

He points out that EMC's recently introduced virtual tape library disk backup offering costs $14 per gigabyte compared with Copan's box priced at $3.50 per gigabyte. Neither of these comes down as low as tape, which costs between $0.75 and $3.00 per gigabyte.

Copan is betting that with the surge in interest around compliance, companies will be looking for a more reliable solution than tape for backing up data.

Copan's first customer, Data Return, says that to create an environment where tape offers the same kind of reliability as disk requires an unreasonable amount of effort and expense. "New approaches such as disk staging only address the problem of backup windows as all the data still goes to tape," says Sunny Vanderbeck, CEO of Data Return. He looked at EMC's Clariion DL, NetApp's NearStore and StorageTek's BladeStore product before deciding on Copan's system.

The Revolution 200T scales from 56 to 224TB in a single cabinet with up to 896 drives. It puts out 2.4 TB/hour is built on a MAID (massive array of idle disk) architecture. This means that only 25% of the disks are spinning at any one time, which increases the reliability of the system. "By managing the duty cycle of the drives we can get a much higher reliability rate out of SATA," says Davenport.

Analysts say that while this is an interesting technology, it could be a little too adventurous for the average IT manager. "There is a massive entrenched culture that has had nothing but tape for the last 20 years, says Arun Taneja, founder and analyst with Taneja Group. "Even as companies add secondary disk for faster backup and restores they still want to retain tape on the backend," he says.

In addition, analysts note that Copan's solution does not offer the removable feature possible with tape. Often companies will send tapes offsite or to a data repository company like Iron Mountain.

The Revolution 200T is shipping to beta customers today and will be generally available in Q3 2004.


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