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Saving the Planet, One Storage System at a Time

Thanks to rising energy prices, 'green' data centers are no longer just an environmentally-friendly choice; they're an economic imperative.

As a result, storage vendors are diversifying their product offerings to create solutions that provide a blend of technology that will meet SLAs while lowering energy consumption.

In the new eco-friendly world, storage infrastructures consist of disk solutions that provide quick access to frequently accessed data, as well as tape and MAID components to store lesser-used information, either as semi-archived or archived information.

"Unless your data center is located next to Hoover Dam, this balanced approach of tape and disk allows for maximized overall TCO with low energy consumption," said Bruce Master, IBM's (NYSE: IBM) senior program manager for worldwide tape storage systems marketing for the LTO program.

Making Storage Green

It is estimated that storage accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the power used in data centers, so with energy costs on the rise, the benefits of green storage on corporate bottom lines is potentially significant.

David Scott, president and CEO of 3PAR (NYSE: PAR), says storage vendors can take a number of steps to benefit both customers and the environment.

"The storage industry has a responsibility to reduce the environmental impact of data centers by adopting and promoting green storage practices that boost efficiency by eliminating waste," said Scott.

"This demands a comprehensive approach that includes driving hardware and software innovation, green manufacturing practices, and programs that encourage materials recycling and offset carbon emissions," he said.

Scott said storage companies can be more eco-friendly in a number of ways. One is to develop compliant internal initiatives and manufacturing practices. A second is efficient and environmentally-conscious product design and packaging. And a third way is through supplemental green programs such as 3PAR's Carbon Neutral Storage Program, which provides customers with effectively carbon neutral storage through the purchase of carbon offsets (see Storage Vendors Tout Green Credentials).

Not surprisingly, with their heavy energy use, disk drives are a significant focus of green storage efforts.

Geoff Noer, senior director product marketing and management at Rackable Systems (NASDAQ: RACK), said his company focuses on making the best possible use of energy-efficient components, including low-wattage hard drives (about 7-8W instead of 12-14W), power supplies with up to 96.5 percent power efficiency, and low-voltage processors and memory.

"Our storage systems include power control capabilities that allow systems to be remotely powered down when not actively needed," explains Noer. "While not all customers can take advantage of this, doing so can save a substantial amount of power for archival storage situations."

David James, vice president of advanced engineering at Fujitsu Computer Products of America, said Fujitsu is one of the leaders in the industry in moving to smaller HDD products that give better performance while requiring less power.

"This equates to less required floor space, less required cooling, and less required shipping," said James. "For every watt of energy required to power a product, two watts are needed to cool it. At Fujitsu, we have been able to significantly lower the power requirements for our HDDs with our SFF SAS products, and this has helped our customers to completely redesign their enterprise level systems to take up less floor space and use less energy for cooling."

Storwize, meanwhile, touts data compression technology to more effectively utilize storage infrastructures. Storwize CEO Gal Naor said the company's approach is making it possible for organizations to manage a larger data foot print without adding to power and cooling expenses.

Data de-duplication and thin provisioning are other technologies touted for their storage savings.

Practicing What They Preach

Storage vendors are quick to tout their own green credentials as a way of letting customers know they practice what they preach.

Dick Sullivan, director of enterprise solutions marketing for EMC (NYSE: EMC), noted that his company joined the Climate Leaders program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2004 and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from U.S. facilities to eight percent below 2005 levels by 2012. And its facility in Cork, Ireland participates in the Ireland Environmental Protection Agency licensed program to monitor and reduce GHG emissions. According to Sullivan, since 1988, the company's energy efficiency measures have cut GHG emissions by more than 50,000 metric tons.

"Eco-friendly storage infrastructure is not just about technology; it's about adopting new views of efficiency," said Kris Domich, principal consultant for data center and storage solutions for Dimension Data Americas. "Companies must embrace processes across their entire organizations that are designed to drive efficiency and reduce waste.

"Manufacturers need to reexamine the energy consumption of their equipment and take steps to be more efficient," said Domich. "For example, reevaluating the criteria used to select switched power supply vendors and adjusting them in favor of products that demonstrate high efficiency, not just low cost, would be a good place to start for many data center managers."

Storage vendors are waking up to the environmental challenges that both they and their customers face, and are making their own organizations more eco-friendly as they develop a new generation of products that not only help customers meet their storage requirements, but also help them reduce power, cooling and facilities costs and comply with environmental directives.

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