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Copan offers disc performance at tape cost

Copan Systems claims its new Revolution 200T library offers  hard-disc performance and Raid security at tape prices and scalability.

Scalable from 56TB to 224TB, the system uses Serial ATA discs in a Power-Managed Raid design. There can be up to 896 drives in a single cabinet, using fourteen drives per 3.5TB "canister".

Power-Managed means that only discs needed to restore information or for writing are spun up. After use they spin down and the remaining discs are idle. This reduces electricity use, both for turning the disc platters and for cooling the array. Less heat and vibration means the drives can be packed closer together, making the unit smaller.

Even taking into account the spin-up time, the Revolution 200T disc library is said to deliver 10 times the speed of a tape library. Spin-up time is estimated at 10 seconds. Access time in a tape library is typically between 30 and 40 seconds, going up to 80 seconds according to Copan chief technology officer Aloke Guha.

The 200T's array controller is simplified, compared with an array of constantly spinning drives, because I/O demands are smaller. It is also optimised for streaming large amounts of data rather than many, smaller random I/Os.

Powering down discs between periods of use increases their longevity, according to Copan, to SCSI disc levels. SATA drives generally can be spun up and down 40-50,000 times.

Copan claimed that existing disc technology is three to five times more expensive than tape. For a 100TB archive, the raw costs are $300,000 for a tape library or $1m for disc. A 100TB Revolution 200T will cost around $350,000. Dave Davenport, Copan president and CEO, said the product filled a "hole in the storage hierarchy".

According to the Yankee Group, a Clariion DL 700 costs about $14 per GB and holds up to 174TB. The Revolution 200T costs around $3.50 per GB - four times less - and holds up to 224TB, over three times more. A fully configured Revolution 200T will cost just over $780,000.

Copan cited research by the Enterprise Storage Group which states that the biggest problems with backup/recovery processes are that they both take too long and are too labour intensive. Disc-based backup has a higher success rate than tape, and the amount of data backed up to disc then to tape will increase by 12% over the next two years.

A tape library has an advantage in that tape cartridges can be removed for off-site vaulting. Guha believed tape will remain the preferred choice for archive storage, with disc being used increasingly for reference and fixed-content data needing to be online.

Tape libraries can also scale to far higher capacities than the Copan product. For example, an Adic Scalar 1000 tape library holds up to 125TB of raw data. Adic's i2000 holds up to 220TB of raw data. Compared with StorageTek's large Powderhorn libraries, the Copan unit is not even in the same capacity class.

The Revolution 200T has a virtual tape library interface and will work with existing backup/restore software from Veritas, CommVault and Bakbone, but running on Solaris and Linux servers only. Wider server O/S support is expected in a future release.

The Revolution 200T will be shippable in the US in the third quarter of this year. It should arrive in the UK by the end of 2005.

Chris Mellor writes for Techworld


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