SGI buys assets of COPAN

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In an odd bit of news, SGI have bought the assets of COPAN systems. COPAN built clever MAID devices – essentially storage clusters that could spin down when not used. MAID – Massive Array of Idle Disks – was designed to provide archive storage using cheap disk instead of expensive tape.

Through a friend I knew someone high up in COPAN who left a while ago to take up a similar position at 3PAR. COPAN had some clever ideas and some neat products, which sadly wasn’t enough to keep the company going in the current climate.

What’s odd about this is – why have SGI bought the remains? MAID is a clever idea and slots quite nicely into people’s existing HSM offerings. (HSM – Hierarchical Storage Management – is all about long term archival storage, and nothing to do with the appalling series of films from Disney which my kids seem to love so much. I weep for the future etc. etc.).

MAID was a perfect fit for a client I recently worked with who were doing digital imaging archiving – but unfortunately it’s a niche product and the vendors involved seem to miss out on the large bids. (In this case they went with standard RAID offerings from HDS). If SGI are going to try and punt pure MAID storage they’ll be facing similar issues.

SGI do have some solid HSM products – but they also have a very diversified product portfolio, and the company seems to still be struggling to find a unified identity for it’s solutions. Adding another bundle of products into the mix seems pretty risky, especially with the fallout from the latest bankruptcy and the takeover still rumbling on.

Do SGI really have that many customers saying “Hey, I’d like to buy some Altix ICE/Altix CE/Altix UV kit, but you don’t have any MAID storage on the proposal, so we’ll be going to IBM/HP/Dell?”

I could see this working if SGI take the COPAN technology and integrate it into their own products. I’m thinking of something along the lines of the old CXFS kit, which had a couple of Origin 300 heads in the top of the storage rack to handle CXFS metadata. It would require a chunk of engineering resource, and then an even bigger chunk of sales and marketing to shift the boxes – but could SGI pull it off?

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