Green Data Storage With MAID - InformationWeek

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11/5/2008
01:36 PM
Roger Smith
Roger Smith
Commentary
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Green Data Storage With MAID

Data centers use staggering amounts of energy, so it's not surprising nonstandard ways of cutting power consumption are quickly gaining the attention of data center managers. One of these is MAID (Massive Array of Idle Disks) storage technology that employs a large group of disk drives in which only those drives in active use are spinning at any given time.

Data centers use staggering amounts of energy, so it's not surprising nonstandard ways of cutting power consumption are quickly gaining the attention of data center managers. One of these is MAID (Massive Array of Idle Disks) storage technology that employs a large group of disk drives in which only those drives in active use are spinning at any given time.Designed for Write Once Read Occasionally (WORO) applications, MAID reduces power consumption and has the added advantage of prolonging the life of the drives. Developed in 2003 by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, MAID was first commercialized by Longmont, Colo.-based Copan Systems.

MAID is a new storage technology for long-term, online storage of persistent data that takes advantage of a newer generation of SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) disk drives that are designed to be powered on and off. This allows denser packaging of drives in large-scale disk storage systems since only 25% of disks are spinning at any one time. MAID is an alternative to traditional power-hungry disk-based storage or inexpensive and slow tape backup options. Like tape, MAID disk drives only power up and spin disks when the information on those disks is needed, which makes them well-suited for backup/recovery, replication and archiving applications. According to Copan co-founder Will Layton, MAID technology is able to bring the largest amount of data on-line, and does it in the most efficient way possible.

Layton says that energy consumption for data storage is becoming a major concern to the federal government, where snowballing storage requirements and the increasing volume of spinning disks is creating a large and growing energy crisis. Copan has expanded its federal business by 700% since 2006, which Layton attributed to the following reasons:

1--In 2006, Congress passed Public Law 109-431, which mandated that federal data centers must install energy-efficient computer servers.

2--In 2007, the Supreme Court amended the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which cover e-discovery of critical evidence during federal court cases and mandated large-term storage of all data.

3--An executive order (signed by President Bush) to save energy that has driven high-level CIO's within the government to be concerned about data center efficiency.

Asked if powering off data servers is equivalent to the standard-practice of powering off drives in laptops and desktops, Layton responds: "Although similar, it is really not the same. Data protection, long-term retention, and lowered cost are values that MAID delivers. This is more than just simply powering off drives. By power managing drives, Copan MAID delivers a different scale, density, and power consumption while being more reliable than other vendors."

Layton asserts that that are two aspects to data center energy efficiency. "Server virtualization has been part of it with processors/CPUs," he says, and "MAID has been the key part for storage." He maintains that using a MAID storage approach that doesn't rely on traditional disk arrays in data centers can yield a 5x reduction in footprint and deliver a cost saving of 75% to 90% per energy unit of storage.

Persistent storage rivals Nexsan, Hitachi Data Systems, and EMC have all come out with their own "spin down" or MAID drives in the past year, but Copan continues to innovate with new enhancements designed to make Copan's MAID more enterprise-ready than the competition. These enhancements include data deduplication (the elimination of redundant data) as well as data replication and data encryption capabilities.

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