Although tape has reigned supreme in storage archiving for some time, the exaggerated reports of tape’s death keep on coming. The latest affront to the ageless media comes from technologies designed to power down disk drives when not in use.
Exavio and Copan Systems are two companies looking at variations of MAID (massive arrays of idle disk) technology that prolong the life of disks and assist in bringing the cost of disk per gigabyte on par with tape’s price tag.
Dave Davenport, CEO of Copan Systems, explained that customers have been looking for a disk-based alternative to tape backup for a long time.
“Customers want something massively scalable that provides access to data like disk but at the price of tape,” Davenport said. “By 2006 people will no longer be carting around tape.”
Copan’s unnamed product, due in April, uses a MAID-based technology that allows serial ATA disks in an array to be started and stopped when access to a particular piece of data, on a specific drive, is needed. Copan thinks it can deliver a faster and more reliable disk-based solution for back-up and recovery at the same cost as tape.
Camberley Bates, vice president of marketing and business development at Copan, claims MAID -- along with 12 patented software techniques -- can prolong the life of the SATA drives, which were never designed to spin continuously. The drives were created to run inside laptop and desktop computers but have been increasingly deployed in enclosures with massive cooling systems to ensure they do not overheat. By powering up drives only when needed, Copan doesn’t have to spend more money to build a comprehensive cooling system.
“Our intellectual property lets us drive down the disk-slot cost,” Bates said. “We’re 25 percent of the cost of everyone else.”
She compares the forthcoming system with other dense, disk-based backup appliances such as the ATA-based systems sold by Nexsan Technologies.
Meanwhile, Exavio has also been using a MAID-like technology in its ExaVault product to power up and power down ATA disks as needed for customers storing digital media, such as video and audio.
The advantage of MAID-like technologies is similar to what one experiences with a DVD player compared to a VCR, said Ji Zhang, CTO of Exavio. He noted that with a DVD player it’s easy to find scenes, whereas with VHS technology one has to rewind and forward blindly -- the same way one has to rewind tape.
With disk storage, enterprises can locate data in milliseconds, while the mechanical nature of tape can take up to 10 seconds or more, Zhang said.
Fred Moore, president of analyst firm Horizon, said that low-cost, disk storage combined with MAID functionality may soon be as cost-effective as tape.
Moore added that tape vendors will likely embrace MAID once it is proven.
“But before tier-one [tape] players start to look at MAID, they first have to decide it is complementary or competitive,” to existing offerings, said Moore.