Cash back for power saving

Companies that buy a storage array from Copan Systems could receive money back from their energy utility in return for the power they have saved

Copan Systems, the storage vendor, has come up with a novel way for companies to get cash back for saving on their energy usage.

Depending on the power utility, companies that buy one of Copan's storage arrays will receive money from the utility in return for the power they have saved. The first power company to join the scheme is US utility Pacific Gas and Electric, which will give its customers up to $10,000 (£5,049) once their Copan array has been installed and they have saved a certain amount of energy.

According to Copan's senior vice president for business development, Roger Archibald, the company will receive nothing from the deal other than the initial system sale.

The rationale behind the scheme is in the nature of Copan's persistent storage model. Persistent storage sits halfway between online storage and off-line backup. Online backup needs to be fed constantly with power, while tapes sit offline and are accessed infrequently. Data in Copan's persistent storage arrays sits online to begin with, but will then be moved to an offline drive after a period of time. The offline drive comes back online if the data residing on it is required.  Power is turned on regularly for these drives, and a full diagnostic check is carried out on the data to make sure it is still accessible. Copan calls the technology Maid, for massive arrays of idle disks.

Due to the patented technology that stores the data, the arrays are very dense — with up to 448TB on one frame. The cost is around $90,000 (£45,448) for one shelf, which works out at $3 to $5 per terabyte.

The racks are also particularly efficient. According to Copan, only 46 fans are needed on a full cabinet in comparison with up to 100 or more on a conventional disk sub-system, which would need to be stored in six cabinets for the same capacity. There are similar figures for processors, cables and power converters. The company this week joined the Green Grid, a group of technology vendors that has been established with the aim of reducing power usage in corporate data centres.

Copan's customers include the NHS in the UK, which has bought five systems for use on the data spine. BT is another UK customer. Worldwide customers include the Nasdaq stock exchange, Nasa and Symantec.