Power Struggles Take Center Stage at SNW

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DALLAS — Green storage and data centers have been a big issue at this week’s Storage Networking World conference, with sessions and exhibits focused on power and cooling issues and opportunities for next-generation data centers.

The continued growth of and reliance on IT services, a demand for denser data centers, and the limits on available power are all driving the need to “go green.” A number of sessions gave advice on how to improve power and cooling in existing data centers, and case studies focused on the realities of measuring efficiencies, redesigning if necessary, and selecting new server, networking and storage products for optimum energy efficiency.

Tom Clark of the Storage Networking Industry Association and Brocade said data centers will increasingly become lean and green, but he tempered his prediction by acknowledging the challenges of powering 21st century technology with iron-age resources. Innovations that can contribute to a new data center, according to Clark, include higher port density data center directors, more efficient AC-DC conversion and power utilization, and integration of multiple protocols and functions in a single chassis to yield reduced energy consumption and higher efficiencies with less space.

Building in Green

Building in green from the ground up was Fannie Mae’s strategy for designing and constructing a new data center — conserving water, using natural light and recycling ingredients. A number of audience members in the midst of designing or reconfiguring their data centers were most interested in how Fannie Mae selected systems for the data center by evaluating their energy efficiency.

Security brokerage Morgan Keegan evaluated modular arrays and monolithic storage before selecting a highly virtualized clustered system to reduce environmental loads. Their implementation of dual active data centers as a new virtualized IT platform cut purchased raw capacity by 16TB, provided an 85 percent reduction in storage administration, and reduced to seconds the time needed to provision storage.

DreamWorks focused on TCO in implementing a reference library for its animated production process and data product. It takes a lot of technology and resources to make an animated film, so the goal was to maximize use of data center floor space, be a good global citizen, and renew, reuse and recycle with previously owned disks. DreamWorks’ strategy incorporated high-density spindles and enclosures and increasing density with compression and de-duplication; single transparent namespaces and NAS arrays for low labor costs. Next up is a power managed file service, the ability to do deep dive indexing and searching, and workflow-specific metadata.

Measuring Efficiency

Storage professionals asked for specifics to help them evaluate products, such as defined and common metrics across products and platforms, including server energy cost and performance per watt, infrastructure energy costs per gigabyte of useful bandwidth and port density, and cost per gigabyte of storage, cost per disk and cost per class of storage.

StorageIO founder and senior analyst Greg Schulz outlined best green practices in various storage disciplines. Incorporating archiving and pruning with data classification, utilizing compaction and compression, and implementing de-duplication can help reduce the data footprint. Shultz recommended that storage managers shift their focus from dollar per GB to effectiveness of the solution, and implement metrics and measurement to gauge the effectiveness of resources per delivered service.

A tutorial from SW Worth, senior standards program manager at Microsoft, cautioned attendees to consider external factors such as the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances (RoHS) and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in defining total cost of ownership for storage. Worth encouraged attendees to expand the scope of their decision making to include the entire data center — servers, networking, storage, people and facilities.

Also at SNW, SNIA announced a Green Storage Networking Initiative focused on power efficiency for network infrastructure, storage, data lifecycle and data management. The first steps, according to Clark, are to establish technical working groups to define metrics for storage network efficiency and IT professionals. The initiative will also be aligned with the Green Grid, whose charter includes defining metrics for data center efficiencies, including buildings, power sourcing, cooling, equipment density and equipment efficiency.

Worth also recommended keeping an eye on the Green Grid as a resource for power and cooling issues, as well as keeping abreast of changing government regulations that will affect storage manager data center decisions.

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