Ask most CIOs today what comes into their minds when asked about their response to the challenge of better protecting the environment, better recycling of computer consumable waste is probably number one. Sensible – especially given the WEEE Directive – but as interest in green computing grows, that’s bound to change. It’s increasingly likely we’ll start looking at other parts of the IT stack to see what aspects of resource utilisation make sense to try and rationalise. Take power and storage, for instance.
Storage is - almost notoriously - a rapidly growing part of company infrastructure. But as we merrily accumulate more and more hard disks, SANs, NASs and all the rest, is much thought being spared for the underlying energy costs of running what is after all ultimately a bunch of power-demanding electromechanical devices?
“Poor use of data storage is a big culprit of energy waste,” thinks David Scott, CEO of storage specialist 3PAR, which markets so-called ‘thin provisioning’ ways of using storage. “Especially if no more than 10-20% of total deployed storage is actually in use. We need to find better ways to do this.”
There are at the least some thought-provoking data to back up the case for thinking how we could be using our storage assets. Each disk drive needs 65 watts to be operated and cooled; in 2006 there were 105 million installed in multi-user systems, according to market watchers Gartner. Multiply that by 65 watts times the number of hours in a year you have a high total kilowatt expenditure. Scott calculates that just supporting those 100 million-plus spinning disks would need 35 million barrels of oil this year alone.
The company claims that if their customers have, as they claim, bought a half to a third less disk drives than otherwise might have been needed this is equivalent to cumulative energy savings of $3m to $6m and crude oil savings of 20 to 40 million barrels. This calculation is based on the difference between the 12 petabytes of storage it has sold which ‘really’ translates to between 24-36 petabytes actual use, i.e. what would have been bought otherwise. (Figures are available from the company if anyone wants to check the maths.)
Obviously the company is promoting its own technology here – but there may be more to this idea long term.
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