Greening Your Storage Is a Cool Move

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If 2006 was the year of the energy-efficient server movement, 2007 has been the same to storage platforms.

A couple of weeks ago, HP announced new storage array technology designed to cut data center power and cooling costs by 50 percent, and IBM’s Project Green is putting a billion dollars toward increasing energy efficiency across the data center.

Meanwhile, Hitachi Data Systems is touting efforts such as its intelligent virtual storage controllers and Dynamic Provisioning software for improving utilization and saving power.

Pillar Data Systems, the storage vendor funded by Larry Ellison’s venture capital fund, has its own take on what’s wrong with today’s storage environment in terms of efficiency — and how to fix it. With the explosion in data only increasing, fixing it is going to become a priority for companies that want to lower costs, reduce complexity, improve utilization, and ensure performance doesn’t suffer.

Pillar’s argument is that power and cooling make up only half of the green story. Physical space consumption is equally critical to storage efficiency, given the cost and expansion issues around data center space.

With the acceleration of the information lifecycle management (ILM) trend — in which companies design a storage architecture and infrastructure to handle different type of information, and to manage that information with respect to its importance and value to the organization, appropriately migrating data from one platform to another as it ages or becomes less critical to present business requirements — individual storage devices have proliferated to meet the needs of each lifecycle stage. And these all consume space, power, and generate heat, and have to be cooled to let the equipment work efficiently.

A modular storage platform
“ILM is a good notion in terms of reducing the cost of managing information and delivering the right level of performance and application of data, but it has also caused companies to buy special-purpose equipment to meet these requirements, and those consume space and power,” said Russ Kennedy, senior director of marketing and strategy at Pillar.

Pillar’s answer is to give organizations a modular storage platform that could handle all the different protocols to support their ILM needs. With unified storage (NAS and SAN), and multiple technologies (FC, SATA, fixed content) on one platform, companies could have a single system to consolidate different applications and needs across varying tiers of storage, establishing different performance levels for the different applications and data, it argues.

“So you could serve up and manage tier-one applications like mission-critical database applications on the same platform as is used for data protection, archive, backup, and different secondary storage requirements, without suffering performance penalties,” Kennedy said. “People have to understand how to reduce the cost of managing information in an environment that’s going to continue to grow. But you have to still deliver on your service level requirements, on application availability.”

Pillar said IT pros really are starting to care about the efficient use of space, cooling and power, with nearly 50% of respondents they recently surveyed saying these all matter a great deal in their storage purchases.

In fact, he said, the market is driving more innovation among vendors, including Pillar’s own sleepy drive technology, due in 2008, that spins or slows down drives to consume less power during times of inactivity.

It’s basically the same technology individuals have access to on their own desktops or laptops, but until now, “no one has let you power down pieces of a storage array and do so via policies, via active management of information,” Kennedy said. “The technology is there because the individual drives have that capability. It just has not been applied yet.”

The Green Grid
Pillar also is working on its own implementation of the thin provisioning concept, due before the end of the year in Version 3 of its platform, as well as higher capacity drives in the same-size enclosures, and new motherboards and server boards within its arrays that have almost double the performance and half the power consumption of today’s server components, it said.

At the same time, Pillar is a participant in The Green Grid, a nonprofit consortium dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems, as well as in the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). Along with other industry players, it’s trying to drive some consistent and industry-wide measurements for measuring storage platforms’ efficiency.

Its own take on that is found in its EQ (Efficiency Quotient), which basically is the result of taking the utilized capacity of data used on a storage platform, times the performance of that platform, divided by the power and space consumption of that particular platform, and which Pillar said can be applied to any type of storage.

“Associations are a bit of challenge in getting consistency and consensus in moving forward,” says Kennedy, but he’s confident progress will be made. “The consumer and IT market will drive it.”

Article appeared originally on bITa

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