SGI buys assets of COPAN

Silicon Graphics News
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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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Studios move to network storage

Silicon Graphics News, Storage
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Infostor has an interesting article on effects studios’ gradual migration away from direct attach storage (DAS) to new networked storage solutions. If you’re not that up on the difference between DAS, NAS, and SAN, this is an excellent introduction with some great explanatory diagrams.

When it comes to the storage infrastructure underpinning your digital content operations, you have three choices: direct-attached storage (DAS), network-attached storage (NAS), or storage area networks (SANs). And in studio environments, the trend is clearly away from DAS toward networked storage architectures such as NAS or SAN.

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Silicon Graphics FAQs
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XFS is SGI’s scaleable, high performance extent-based filesystem. CXFS is an evolution of XFS that allows multiple clients to access the same filesystem at the same time on your SAN.

As systems scale and data volumes grow, access to, and manipulation of that data becomes a serious bottleneck.

I’ve found that many people are unaware of CXFS, or it’s benefits, and in general there’s a fair amount of confusion over the difference between concurrent access to a SAN filesystem versus shared cluster filesystems, as provided by something like Clustered VxFS.

So, I’ve collected together some documents and information which will give a good grounding on CXFS, and hopefully help show what an impressive feat it is.

DMF – Data Migration Facility – is a valuable tool that can live off the back of CXFS. You might be familiar with the concepts of HSM – Hierarchical Storage Management. DMF is pretty much the same thing.

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