Copan's MAID takes games developer up a level

Constrictions on space, power and cooling led a video-hungry London-based operation to opt for a densely-packed Copan box for its online storage needs.

A central London-based games development operation has avoided a £400,000 spend on datacenter expansion by spending £600,000 on half a petabyte's worth of Copan MAID storage.

In a total project cost of £1.5 million, the business – a Japanese-headquartered consumer and professional electronics supplier which Copan cannot name for contractual reasons – has implemented two 252 terabyte Copan Revolution 300T arrays, one each at its London site and its Liverpool mirror location.

The business's data holdings are growing at a rate of between 100TB and 120TB per year. This is overwhelmingly comprised of rich media files and high definition video which has to be kept online indefinitely for the business's developers.

The solution is scalable to 673TB at each site with the addition of extra shelves and the arrays are installed with replication and virtual tape library software. The business will also use the Copan equipment in conjunction with Symantec Veritas NetBackup and Quantum StorNext data management software.

James Barr, infrastructure manager for the business says, "We were pressed for space. We needed more storage but had no room for it."

He adds, "With our existing EMC Clariion [arrays] we were looking at 21 extra racks, more power going in, more air conditioning, another UPS, extending the building at a cost of £400,000 and probably a cooling tower on the roof. So, we decided to look at a more cost effective and space efficient solution."

Copan's massive array of idle disks (MAID) technology packs a large number of disks into a small space while minimizing power and cooling needs by only spinning up active drives. This approach gets close to tape in terms of storage density and achieves greater capacity per rack-space than any other disk-based product.

"We were pressed for space. We needed more storage but had no room for it."
James Barr,
infrastructure manager
Idle disks are spun and their health verified periodically in what Copan calls 'disk aerobics'. Data access times are longer than they would be for spinning disks but far more rapid than would be the case with tape-held data.

Hamish Macarthur, chief executive of analyst group Macarthur Stroud International, says, "MAID arrays appeal to businesses that want online archiving, to speed up back up or for use in VTL or continuous data protection type environments. Data deduplication is also well suited to MAID because it is far better suited to disk-based solutions because of the need to reconstruct data as part of the process."

He adds, "MAID gives a high service level in terms of access but at a cost comparable to tape. Because of the ability to power down disks Copan's MAID rates highly in the power and storage density equation."

Copan claims the industry's highest storage density of 44.8TB/sq ft and a power density of 90TB/kilowatt, which compares to 4TB/kilowatt for Fibre Channel and 17TB/kilowatt for SATA disk products.

The firm looked at several vendors' products but settled on Copan, with whom Barr had been impressed after seeing demonstrations at Storage Expo.

Barr says the business looked around the market for other similar products but didn't find anything that fitted its needs. He says, "We looked at Nexsan's SATAbeast, which is also a MAID array, but found it not to be as intelligent, as well as lacking the ability to link discrete blocks of storage. We also looked at EMC and HP products but couldn't get capacity of more than 100TB."

He adds, "It is very cost efficient and very good on heat and power and needs little intervention from the IT department once it's in place with users able to get to what they want easily."

The total project time was six months, of which procurement took two months, with, says Barr, a great deal of time spent on contract negotiations.

Barr's only gripes with the devices are to do with size – physically and in terms of capacity. "If I had a wishlist it would be for Copan arrays to come in standard rack sizes. We'd also really like to see it come in smaller sizes for sites where we need to keep 30TB to 40TB but don't want to keep it on an online SATA array that's spinning away all the time."

Read more on Data protection, backup and archiving