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Hidden energy cost of on-premise data stores

Data is said to be the new oil, but organisations may be storing far more than they need – and now there is an energy crisis

New research from analyst firm Atlantic Ventures for Nutanix has reported that in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, more than half of datacentre energy consumption is from traditional on-premise datacentres.

Although cloud usage is expected to grow over the next three years, this is unlikely to reduce on-premise datacentre usage significantly. Figures from the analyst firm show that while total energy consumption by datacentres is set to grow from 95.3tWh (trillion watts per hour) of power in 2022 to 104.3tWh by 2025, power usage in traditional three-tier datacentres will only decline by a small amount, from 53.8tWh in 2022 to 52.2tWh by 2025.

Significantly, while 40% of datacentre energy globally is on the server side, Atlantic Ventures reported that storage accounts for 19% of datacentre energy consumption.

Based on a data model of a company using a three-tier on-premise datacentre architecture, Atlantic Ventures reported that while servers would use 1,875 million kWh annually, annual energy consumption of storage would be in the order of 631 million kWh. This directly relates to how much uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) are needed. Without storage, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) potentially reduces the amount of UPSs and the extra networking needed to connect storage pools to server infrastructure.

The figures from Atlantic Ventures show energy usage from networking equipment reducing from 158 million kWh to 99 million kWh, while the energy usage from UPSs falls from 1.56 million kWh to 1.54 million kWh.

Discussing the energy-efficiency gains that are possible using HCI, Carlo Velten, principal analyst at Atlantic Ventures, said: “In these calculations, you can see that we can reduce nearly all of the energy consumption that is being delivered from the storage equipment.” This has a material impact on the energy cost of the datacentre, given the extremely high cost per kilowatt hour of electricity that businesses are now experiencing.

“We can save roughly 1.1 million kilowatts of energy on an annual basis,” said Velten. “If you think of energy prices in the upcoming years of €0.30 per kWh, we are talking about roughly €330,000 of annual energy savings for a mid-sized business.”

Jon Cosson, head of IT and CISO at wealth manager JM Finn, believes organisations are storing too much data. “We are storing data far longer than we need to for regulatory compliance,” he said. “How inefficient is that?” 

Cosson said organisations can easily fall into the trap of storing processing data that they do not really need. “What needs to be taken into account is our regulatory requirements and whether we are running processes and storing data that we really shouldn’t need to do,” he said.

At JM Finn, Cosson’s ambition is to reduce the company’s storage footprint further. “Everything is up for review, not one single entity,” he said. “We look at everything as a collective.”

He said the fuel crisis has helped his company to focus more on energy consumption, adding: “I think this will, hopefully, move us all forward into being more efficient in the future.”

Read more about energy-efficient storage

  • EU startup Cubbitt aims to offer alternative to major cloud storage with a distributed model, offering increased security and potentially less environmental waste for a lower cost.
  • Data storage technology can harm the environment. Choose efficient storage strategies and green-friendly cloud providers to help reduce the environmental impact of data storage.

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