There's good sense in green storage despite the hype

Constraints on power, cooling and physical space mean green storage makes sense for every user

'Green' is possibly the most overused word of the past few years in all areas of the media – and the IT sector has not been immune to this, with nearly every vendor trying to shoehorn an eco-friendly angle into their marketing pitch.

Storage vendors in particular have been keen to push the green message, but is it simply hype or is there some good sense lurking behind the spin?

The facts suggest greater energy efficiency would be a good thing. Analyst group Gartner predicts that by the end of this year nearly half of datacentres worldwide will struggle to get sufficient power and cooling. Gartner also estimates that large corporations spend 4% to 8% of their IT budget on energy, and that this will increase by up to four times during the next five years – meaning 32% of IT budgets could be spent on energy by 2011.

So storage and datacentre power usage is a major cost for business and this is why the green message has gained traction in IT. In the light of such predictions – and in some case the reality of a squeeze on power and space – green policies begin to make sense, says Juergen Arnold, chairman with SNIA Europe. "There are real power and cooling issues and often people would like to add more servers or storage but they just can't," says Arnold. "It is often a case with hardware that you can only bring one device in the door when another goes out."

In fact, storage is an area ripe for savings of energy and space. Racks full of spinning disks are a power black hole and much of the storage installed in datacentres is wasted. It either lies under-utilised or contains duplicate data – and the operational price of this is significant. . .and unnecessary. Green storage should be a key driver for IT departments says Robin Burke, research vice president with analyst group Gartner.

"Cutting down on power and cooling usage as well as floorspace is beneficial to the environment and the user," says Burke. "The risk is that in large datacentres the cost of power and of premises will increase over time. Not only will that adversely affect the bottom line but is also negative from the perspective of corporate social responsibility."

Put simply, the benefits of a green approach are efficiency and cost savings. So how do we achieve this? According to Burke, there are three core issues to be tackled – power consumption, cooling and floorspace and from those flow the practicalities of configuring hardware, software and its architecture.

Businesses have articulated these in a number of ways and here we give some examples which illustrate different angles of attack. They are by no means the only ways to achieve green storage and to save on energy consumption and use of space, but they do give some idea of the practices and technologies that are available. For a fuller discussion see the 'green storage explained' article in this special report.

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