By adding de-duplication technology based on FalconStor's SIR (single instance repository) Copan has increased its effective storage capacity twentyfold with the Revolution 300 array, and reached tape levels of storage cost. This could be a tipping point in the disk versus tape long term data storage contest.

SIR is a sub file level de-duping capability. After files have been backed up to a Copan Revolution MAIDarray, a post-ingestion de-duplication process is run and, on average, customers reduce the physical space allocated to the raw data to a twentieth of its original size. The data ingest rate is 800MB/sec.

Copan's Jon Mellon, worldwide marketing and business development SVP, says that de-dupe, in effect, turns a 672TB Revolution drive array into a 6PB+ one. He says the cost per gigabyte on this product is a mere 26 cents.

MAID arrays (massive array of idle disks) pack many more disk drives into an array than is usual. The majority of them are spun down at any one time, reducing the energy supply and cooling burdens and thus helping to ensure that he capacity per square foot of floor space of a Copan rack is very much greater than ordinary drive arrays.

Hitachi Data Systems has just introduced a similar power-down feature in its mid-range drive array product.

We have previously written about a possible 12:1 de-dupe ratio for Copan through de-dupe. Twenty to one is much better. Some customers are getting more than this.

This is tape storage territory. The product has been beta tested with several large customers and is positioned as an enterprise-class data archive storage device. Existing Copan customers include AOL, which is a Sun customer. Copan has a reseller agreement with Sun. Another customer is BT, which is supplying Copan storage to the UK NHS for tier 4 use in its new spine infrastructure.

This de-dupe addition puts Copan far in advance of competitor Nexsan with its AutoMAID technology, and also in front of HDS which could introduce its own de-dupe functionality, courtesy of Diligent whose de-dupe technology it resells.

It would not be surprising if Nexsan revealed it was talking to FalconStor about supplying SIR as well.

Replicating a de-duped MAID array's contents to a DR site could result in a 95 percent reduction in the bandwidth needed compared to a non-de-duped array. That makes replication much more viable.

According to people familiar with the technology area, it may be the case that Copan is in the equivalent of a marketing dead-end though.

The Revolution product has tape-like capacity but not disk-like performance as disks have to be powered up when data is wanted from spun-down drives. It may not satisfy people that want disk-like performance and not those either that want tape reliability and absolute low data ownership cost and running costs.

The suggested argument is that starting up the drives uses more energy than idling them at at a steady speed, just as a car uses more fuel accelerating to cruising speed than at cruising speed. The actual energy consumption of a MAID array may be higher than anticipated because of this - not that anyone has done any comparative measurements. Nor have the people spoken to carried out any performance measures to see how fast data restoration off spun-down MAID drives compares to data restoration from off-line tape cartridges in a tape library.

MAID is a very new technology. What is certain is that a de-duping MAID product radically increases the storage capacity of a Copan array and radically decreases the cost per gigabyte of storage. That changes storage economics.

Arun Taneja, founder of the Taneja Group, said: "There has perhaps been no hotter category of storage than data de-duplication over the last year, and its merits are well documented. By adding MAID into this equation, COPAN Systems is redefining the storage economics of managing persistent data, particularly for the needs of large enterprises."

ReiJane Huai, CEO, FalconStor Software, said: "FalconStor is proud to be teaming up with COPAN Systems to further advance the business benefits of the MAID architecture. FalconStor will continue to MAID-enable its mission-critical storage services such as replication, archiving, and WORM to help corporate IT maximise business continuity with minimal equipment and operating cost."

It is likely to be the case that increasing limitations on datacentre energy supplies, floor space constraints and growing green concerns will increase the numbers of people willing to examine Copan's product offer. The MAID just became more attractive.