Is it Green, or Just Hype?

Arthur Cole

Green storage is emerging as the next big target for energy-conscious enterprises now that the effectiveness of consolidation and virtualization has been demonstrated on the server side.


One of the newest converts is Britain's Virgin Games, the branded gaming unit of the Virgin Group. The company recently underwent a storage overhaul aimed at consolidating the multiple tiers, applications and IT environments that had emerged over the past decade. Along with new HP Blades and VMware virtualization, the company deployed the Axiom storage system with an eye toward improving disk utilization three-fold. The company also says the system offers nearly the same throughput as direct-attached Fibre Channel systems and can be scaled to enhance disaster recovery and replication when needed.


The Storage Performance Council has already set its sights on a green storage index designed to compare systems in terms of power consumption and efficiency, and is currently working out the formulas needed for a dollars-to-kilowatts matrix. Current industry measurements include Sun's SWaP system, which measures performance divided by size and power, and a storage efficiency quotient by disk array firm Pillar Data Systems, which, coincidentally, oversaw the Virgin Games revamp.


For some, though, the question isn't whether new systems are being engineered to draw less power, but whether the green label is simply being applied to technologies that were already in the works. Leading storage firms like HP, IBM and NetApp are touting everything from improved disk utilization, thin provisioning, data deduplication and even tape-based backup as green technologies now that the issue is front and center.


Smaller vendors are getting in the act as well. Rackable Systems bills its RapidScale cluster appliances and OmniStor SE3016 systems as the company's "Eco-Logical" product line. DataCore has begun pitching its SANmelody and SANsymphony virtualization platform as a green solution because it cuts down on empty disk space.


So is this real, or simply a cynical attempt to capitalize on a current trend? In the end, who cares? It's the numbers that count. And if a technology investment cuts costs, increases efficiency and helps out the planet in the bargain, what's not to love?

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 1, 2007 12:11 PM Gere Boyle Gere Boyle  says:
How can you not mention Copan's MAID technology in this article. They are by far the greenest storage on the market. Reply
Sep 5, 2007 12:14 PM JK JK  says:
Gere,I totally disagree about Copan. They are niche to say the least and cannot be considered as the answer to "Green" storage. If you want to store your backups or archive on disk, then yes, look at Copan, but for Tiers 1-3, alternatives for reliability and performance must be reviewed. So for the "Green" question, Thin Provisioning is a real solution on these tiers, and there is only one vendor who can perform this at the enterprise level - Hitachi. Reply
Sep 18, 2007 11:44 AM Jesse Langham Jesse Langham  says:
If you want to count your system as "Green" it has to be the most efficient on space, heat production and energy consumption. "Thin Provisioning" is hardly what I would call a green technology. It's certainly useful if your an IT manager who can't predict future storage needs for your LUNs, but it doesn't lend it self to being the answer for those concerned about the environment. Unused allocated space does not directly translate into wasted energy. It really depends on the architecture of the storage system, not how much free space LUNs have. Reply
Sep 20, 2007 4:23 AM JK JK  says:
Hi Jesse,Tin Provisioning is "Green" because without it, your provisioning requirements could be 60-70% greater. More on the floor, more power and cooling required. Think of an existing data centre that is achieving the industry standard of 30-40% utilisation. Now migrate that data onto thin provisioned LUNS. Not Green? Now think of the data centre supporting fast moving product development and release; can they always predict how successful that product will be? Thin provision it and your initial finger in the air estimates for capacity no longer has the same long term impact as before. Not Green? Of course allocated unused capacity translates into wasted energy - how else is it translated? Reply
Feb 9, 2008 7:43 AM Jesse Langham Jesse Langham  says:
Let's assume that most of the power use of a storage system that can vary over time is drives themselves. How one could save energy depends on the archetecture. If your unused drives can be spun down when not in use, then think provisioning would be very energy efficient. If, however, your drives are aggregated into a single storage pool and then divided into LUNs/File Systems, then thin provisioning does nothing to save your energy costs because all drives would need to be spinning at all times. If that's the case, best energy efficient would have to be attained by efficent use of the available drive pool. Reply

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