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Copan moves to indirect sales channel

The MAID lays many people off

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The lights are dimmer now

Copan, founded in 2002, invented its MAID technology to store massive amounts of data in densely packed storage arrays with three-quarters of the disks powered down at any one time to save on power costs and, by avoiding heat build-up, to enable drive enclosures to hold many more drives than ordinary drive arrays.

The Revolution array product was geared to answer customers' supposed green concerns, including restricted data centre electricity supply, and to take vast amounts of unstructured and little-accessed reference information off primary arrays, thus enabling them to be smaller and cheaper. The idea was that data on the arrays would be much more accessible than tape vault data.

That was true, and there was enough early success for investors to fund the company though several rounds, and for it to take on an aggressive and expansion-minded CEO, Mark Ward. In 2008 he greatly expanded Copan's development resources and built out a worldwide sales-office infrastructure.

But Ward's efforts were wasted. Customers did not buy the kit, which was heavier than normal arrays. Promising bids were lost because data centre floors were not strong enough to bear the load.

Then the recession happened and the green imperative customers were affected by turned out to be a chimera. They needed to save money, and buying a revolutionary array from a startup seemed a risky proposition - especially when mainstream vendors introduced drive spin-down into their arrays, and when Nexsan introduced graduated spin-down with faster access to data held on partially spun-down drives.

Customers with tape libraries continued to buy them, but then deduplication technology enabled a normal array to hold three to six times its rated capacity of data - or more - because redundant data was detected and ejected. As Data Domain's fortunes rose, Copan's sank.

The investors, through the board, fired Mark Ward in July; no new CEO or temporary CEO was named. Instead, leadership appeared to be in the hands of Dew, Santilli, and Layton. The company shut down sales offices everywhere outside the USA and shrank its sales structure there, as well.

In late August there was a surprise $3m funding round followed by rumours of an IBM interest in the company or its technology.

It's a sad event for the laid-off staff in this Christmas month. The investors may still have hopes of getting a return on their $110m total investment, though. Everything now depends upon the efficacy of the so-far-unidentified channel partners. Let's wish the remaining core of Copan good luck and an early recovery from the recession. The MAID may still yet sing. ®

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