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Massive Array of Idle Disks (MAID) refers to a computer system that uses hundreds or even thousands of disk drives for near-line storage. Near line storage falls between online rapid access or disk storage and off line tape storage. Using a MAID system allows the amount of information being stored to be relatively unlimited, while keeping access to the information stored there as fast as possible. Using MAID storage is a way for organizations to limit the retrieval of information once it has been stored. The concept supports a write once, read occasionally methodology where the information moved into the MAID system is not accessed every day.
Disk drive and storage technology have been significantly improved over the past few years. These improvements in disk drives, such as the introduction of Serial ATA (SATA) drives which are built to be powered on and off as needed has reduced the amount of power needed to maintain and support MAID storage systems. The SATA drives can spin up when data stored within the MAID is requested and accessed, but will not need constant power when not in use.
Another benefit of the massive array of idle disks, as its name suggests, is that the MAID system is packed tightly into a storage unit but only 25% of the drives within the MAID system are designed to be in use at any one time. This will also assist in reducing the overall power needs of the MAID storage system while maintaining anytime access to the persistent data that is stored there.
MAID storage technology could revolutionize the way that long term data storage is handled by allowing items to be kept electronically and available at the push of a button. This could cut down the need for tape backup systems or even paper based storage. An organization looking to make any document available to any user or requester at any time or any location might be in a great position to consider a MAID storage system. The persistent documents could then be accessed from anywhere in the world without needing to locate the tape or file that a copy of the document might live within. Knowing that technology like MAID exists and might some day be very affordable, could allow the paperless office idea to come to life more quickly than could ever have been expected. As the price of disk drives continues to fall and the technology gets better and better, MAID systems and constantly available persistent data may change the way that all organizations handle their data.