How Green Is Your Storage?

Frank Ohlhorst

Many believe that waste in the data center is a sin -- well, at least a financial sin. CTOs are often taking a close look at their data centers to prevent waste and to maximize utilization, while reducing energy costs. Nevertheless, there seems to be one area that no one really wants to tackle, and that is disk storage. Most data center architects treat disk storage like closet space. In other words, you can never have enough.

Further exacerbating the problem is that application administrators wind up carving storage pools into silos for their respective applications. The same can be said about network administrators and other IT managers in the data center. It is that carving up of disk storage that leads to waste-waste of space, waste of time, waste of energy, and waste of budget. And that is the real problem here, a problem that most CTOs don't want uncovered, especially since CFOs would throw a fit if they only knew!

However,as any IT expert knows, storage efficiency comes at a price, and CTOs need to think of different ways of treating storage (and the associated budgets) -- not like bags of candy to be handed out to administrators who knock on the door hard enough. It is time to switch to a large bowl of candy that everyone can share. That shift in ideology leads to a familiar path-virtualization. Virtualization is a proven concept and has been used to maximize CPU use in the data center, reducing waste, saving power and maximizing ROI.

Of course, storage virtualization has been around for some time, but the primary focus was to ease management, enable disaster recovery solutions and improve performance. However, storage virtualization can be used to increase utilization rates, which is where CTOs can maximize value. Maximizing utilization without employing virtualization usually entails working harder and micro-managing allocations, which could lead to more costs and less business agility. That is why implementing storage virtualization and incorporating dynamic provisioning is a better way to increase utilization.

Dynamic provisioning eliminates the waste of allocated unused storage and allows application users to reserve as much storage as they think they need. When used properly, that eliminates the problem of running out of capacity. What's more, storage virtualization enables existing storage and lower-level storage to contribute to dynamic provisioning pools. Storage virtualization eliminates vendor lock-in, allowing you to choose multi-vendor, multi-technology storage equipment. Also, storage virtualization enables the dynamic movement or reallocation of storage capacity at any time, preventing the need for off-hours re-engineering and downtime associated with upgrades. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that the combo of storage virtualization and dynamic provisioning eliminates the need for three- to five-year lead-time planning for storage purchases, allowing you to add storage as needed and taking advantage of the 30 percent to 35 percent yearly price erosion in storage capacity costs..

Given those kinds of savings, it's enough to turn even the most cynical of storage managers into fans of green IT on this, the 40th celebration of Earth Day, although probably more because of the amount of money that can be saved rather than the overall impact on the environment.

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