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Green Storage - Trends and Predictions

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor

There's a lot of nonsense in the media about so called "Green Storage". This article blows away the puffery and clears the air for a better view of forward looking genuinely green data storage technologies.


One of the fastest growing segments in the storage market recently seems to be the Green Storage press release.

I'm getting a lot more of these than I used to.

The typical story runs something like this:-

exciting news! - GreenDiskCo today launched a new RAID system / tape library / Green Storage Software Manager which uses 50% less electrical power.

- more -

It goes on to quote an astonishing market research report from some tame lackey soothsayer which reveals that "electricity is a big percentage part of the cost of running a datacenter!"

(That's just in case you had the misconception that all those fans you hear whirring around have clockwork innards which are wound up every night by the datacenter minions. And just in case you've also ducked years of bombardment from Sun's marketing rays about its CoolThreads.)

Strange but true...

Datacenters use a lot of electricity. And a lot of what's sitting in those racks is actually storage. Bet you didn't know that either.

Luckily the ecologically sensitive marketers at GreenDiskCo are altruistically minded and don't want you to worry too much about how to fix this new problem. They have a solution which links back (surprise, surprise) to the first part of their press release.

- more -

GreenDiskCo's press release concludes on the optimistic note that you can save tens of thousands of dollars (that's worth a dolphin) - maybe even millions of dollars (that's worth a whole whale) and if you're the type of big government user who never disconnects old systems which you've stopped using because you don't know which racks they are in you win the star prize - a cuddly family of polar bears clinging onto their dwindling ice cube.

Punchline...

Here's the link to the order form. Click and fill in your PO number to save the planet. Alleluja. Now you can go back to doing the boring everyday stuff.

I get these kinds of stories from PRs every day. Sometimes every hour (it seems like).

If you're a regular reader of the mouse site - you may be thinking - I don't remember seeing them. And you'd be right - because I don't publish stories which are untrue, deliberately misleading or complete nonsense - unless the point of doing so is to tag on an "editor's comment".

The disappointing thing is you aren't going to make any savings at all (compared to buying new stuff from their main competitor - GrayDiskCo) because when you look in detail at where the alleged electrical power savings will be coming from - you notice that it's simply from using the latest generation of disk or tape - and they all use the same stuff inside their boxes anyway.

Unfortunately this muddies the waters for the genuine purveyors of storage technologies which really can make a difference. Here's my list of "green" storage priorities. reliability - You may be surprised I put storage reliability at the top. There's a lot of work to do in this area - but I want you to think about how different storage environments would be if disk drives, for example, never failed.

You wouldn't need RAID for local data protection. That would cut through the disk array population like a dose of bird flu - taking out 20 to 50% of all disks. Another benefit of reliable disks is you wouldn't need to keep changing the installed storage population as often as you do now. That would halve the amount of disk storage you buy in a 10 year period - to just the amount you need for new capacity - and not to manage attrition due to disk failues and increasing errors. Halving the number of disk drives manufactured in the world - by making them last longer - is green.

compression - if done in real-time at wire speed - can recycle maybe 40% of capacity.

dedupe - reduction of data footprint depends on what's in the archive - but double digit percentage is realistic.

shift to solid state drives - I'm not talking here just about the lower power consumption of flash SSDs compared to hard drives in notebook or blade server applications - but I'm also including the massively high power consumption RAM SSDs. The last one looks strange at first - but the effect of SSD acceleration if used appropriately - is to speed up application performance - which means lower power processors, or less processors, and possibly even a halving of the total number of servers in the enterprise.

There are many more tweaky little green storage technologies I could have mentioned - but they are mostly evolutionary trends. It's the revolutionary stuff which you haven't already been doing which will make the difference.

And the good news? - Is that the green storage trend will make your applications run faster - and save you money too. So the true cost - is the effort spent thinking about it (which you have already started) and the time spent making plans to evalauate these technologies.

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Footnote:- there are other types of so called "green" computing I could have mentioned above instead of the GreenDiskCo example.

For example:- datacenters which offset their CO2 contributions by paying carbon offsets, planting trees or using wind power.

In my view carbon offsets are on the same morality plane as paying poor starving people in Africa to diet instead of you. Instead of shifting the burden of the datacenter footprint elsewhere - or fudging the issue - the sustainable answer is to do more with less.

There are some great market opportunities here for genuinely green products.
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StorageIO Founder Publishes Book - Green and Virtual Data Center
Stillwater, Minn.- January 27, 2009 - "The Green and Virtual Data Center" - is a new book (376 pages, MSRP $79.95) by noted author and StorageIO founder Greg Schulz.

The book sets aside the political aspects of what is or is not considered green to examine the opportunities for organizations trying to grow their business while being environmentally friendly in an economically efficient manner. Addressing multiple technology domains and disciplines, it looks at design and implementation tradeoffs using various best practices and technologies to sustain application and business growth while maximizing resources, such as power, cooling, floor space, storage, server performance, and network capacity. ...StorageIO profile
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SNIA Publishes Draft Document on Green Storage
London, UK - January 26, 2009 - SNIA announced today the availability for public review and comment its initial Green Storage Initiative Green Storage Power Measurement Specification.

Among others, one proposal is for an Idle Power Measurement specification reported as raw GB per Watt (GB/W). ...SNIA profile, Storage ORGs
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Santa Announces Green SSD Server Acceleration Initiative
North Pole - December 2, 2008 - Texas Memory Systems and Santa today announced an initiative to replace all monolithic RAID storage at the North Pole with energy efficient and super fast solid state disks by the end of 2009.

This proactive move is expected to reduce the energy required to process the "Naughty or Nice" lists by up to 50%. ...read the case study, ...Texas Memory Systems profile
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Adaptec's New Spin on Idle Wastrel Disk Array Power
MILPITAS, Calif. - September 3, 2008 - to significantly increase the energy efficiency of disk-based storage, Adaptec Inc. today kicked off its green power initiative.

Adaptec Intelligent Power Management is a new capability that allows users to easily custom-configure storage systems to reduce power consumption by up to 70% without sacrificing performance. It's integrated into all of Adaptec's Series 2 and 5 RAID controllers and is compatible with 122 disk drives across 5 leading vendors. It's ideal for applications with large blocks of idle time, such as disk-to-disk backup, e-mail archiving and file and print servers. It allows drives to be operated in 3 power states:

1) - Normal operation - full power, full RPM

2) - Standby - low-power mode that spins disks at lower RPM during idle periods; and

3) - Power-off - disks not spinning.

In addition, blackout periods can be set in which power management features are disabled, such as during peak IT activity periods.

IT managers can configure banks of disk drives to operate in different power states at varying times, and automate the drives to spin up and down according to drive usage patterns. When drives are accessed during pre-configured spin-down to Standby or Power-off modes, Intelligent Power Management quickly and automatically powers these drives back up, as needed, so performance is not impacted.
RAID controllers Also, the Adaptec RAID controller automatically monitors drives that have been powered down for an extended period of time to ensure systems are still fully operational, allowing Intelligent Power Management to help reduce drive failures and increase drive life expectancy. ...Adaptec profile
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Green is the Color of My AutoMAID's Hair
Editor:- June 25, 2008 - I just noticed Nexsan's "Green Storage Blog" today.

Nexsan was an early evangelist of disk to disk backup and I wondered what had become of them (because everybody's doing it now - just as everyone will soon be selling SSDs.)

Their blog about AutoMAID brought back memories - because I couldn't remember what "AutoMAID" stood for. (And I can't be bothered to look it up in my storage glossary either.) But the concept sounded quite familiar.

Nexsan's Gary Watson says "It's the idea that when a drive is not in use, it is gradually spun down (the heads are unloaded first which reduces air resistance in the HDA, then after a further period of inactivity the drives are reduced to half their nominal RPM, and then if it remains idle we put it to sleep). AutoMAID takes advantage of the fact that typical Fibre Channel command timeouts are in the realm of 60 to 120 seconds, which is plenty of time to pop the drives back into full speed mode if an I/O request comes down the wire."

To me this shows that it's easy for marketers to create buzzwords which obscure meaning rather than help it. I've listed RAID's many other aliases in an article on the RAID page if you want to collect the full set of RAIN, RAIGE raggerty verbiage.

Disk to disk backup In case you're wondering about my headline I should explain. I'm color blind. So my AutoMAID's hair could be green - just as her eyes are red - and mine is turning a paler shade of gray. And when I saw Procol Harem live in the mid 1970s they only had 2 good songs in the whole set - and no, like you - I can't remember the other one.
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EcoRAM Slims Server Watts
SUNNYVALE, Calif - June 24, 2008 - Spansion Inc. today unveiled plans for a new class of memory, called EcoRAM, designed to solve the growing energy consumption crisis in data centers.

When combined with Virident Systems' new GreenGateway technology announced today, Spansion EcoRAM can help slash energy consumption by up to 75% in Internet data center servers, and offer 4x the memory capacity of traditional DRAM-only servers for the same energy consumption.

This is accomplished by leveraging the standard memory DIMM form factor while requiring little platform modification. The complete solution will empower IT Internet data center managers to break from the constraints of DRAM-only servers. ...Spansion profile, RAM
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The Greening of Hitachi's Hard Drives
SAN JOSE, Calif - October 22, 2007 - Hitachi GST today launched its most energy efficient desktop hard disk drive - the Deskstar P7K500.

Using 40% less power than earlier models Hitachi's new disks have idle power utilization of 3.6 watts on the 250GB capacity model and 4.8 watts on models with capacities of 320GB or greater. Similarly, the P7K500 has reduced its active power requirements. The new disks spin at 7,200 RPM, have SATA or PATA interfaces and are available in the following capacities:- 250, 320, 400 and 500GB. ...Hitachi profile
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Asigra Affirms that Data De-dupe is Green
TORONTO, Canada - September 24, 2007 – Asigra Inc. today announced additional benefits of data de-duplication technologies for large distributed enterprises.

In the de-duplication process, duplicate data is deleted, leaving only one copy of the data to be stored regardless of how many or where the multiple copies reside. Data de-duplication technology rapidly decreases both data storage costs and energy usage.

When applied to remote site backup, it also increases network and backup performance. Eliminating the transfer of duplicate information can reduce traffic over the WAN and on local and remote backup servers by as much as 4x. The result is faster and more reliable data recovery, with reduced energy usage that is likely to make environmentalists proud. ...Asigra profile
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UK Users Pass the Buck for Greener IT
London, UK - June 25, 2007 - Nearly 70% of UK businesses have no target to reduce their carbon footprint research by the Green Technology Initiative reveals today.

79% do not link power costs to hardware spend or IT budgets.

Across the board the survey reveals a story of businesses believing in the concept of greener IT but failing to translate that into action, instead they are looking to suppliers and to the Government to carry the responsibility for bringing down emissions. ...Green Technology Initiative
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Western Digital does that Green Drive Thing
LAKE FOREST, Calif - July 23, 2007 - Western Digital Corp. today announced its GreenPower family of desktop, enterprise, CE and external hard drive products.

The new GreenPower family will ship in capacities from 320G to 1T and will save up to 40% in hard drive power consumption, or as much as $10 per drive per year (compared to other manufacturers' terabyte drives). ...Western Digital profile
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Kanguru Launches Eco Drive
MILLIS, Mass - July 19, 2007 - Kanguru Solutions today launched "the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient external hard drive on the market" - the Kanguru Eco Drive.

With 3 built in Power Saving modes, the Kanguru Eco Drive automatically gauges hard drive usage to reduce power consumption by up to 75% and extends the life of the hard drive itself.

The USB drives are available in capacities of up to 750GB. SATA support will be available soon. ...Kanguru profile
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