Guest report from my colleague Michael Callow from the recent Storage Expo in London:
Not content to be left behind the environmentally-conscious Zeitgeist, the big message of this year’s Storage Expo was Go Green. Hardly a speaker could get through his script without talking about Green issues. Popular talks had titles like:
- The Green Data Centre: BT's Learning in Reducing Carbon Footprint (Craig Parker, Head of Global IT Services, BT)
- Thin Provisioning: Sparking a Green Storage Revolution (David Scott, President & CEO, 3PAR)
- Green up your Storage (Thomas Langjkaer, Manager Enterprise StorageWorks EMEA, HP)
- A Greener Archival Storage Strategy (Steve Tongish, Marketing Director EMEA, Plasmon)
Reducing your carbon footprint makes for good corporate PR, but to date it has been difficult to quantify the benefits of 'green' in ROI terms.
But when it comes to data storage, there seems to be a sudden convergence between doing the right thing for climate change and improving the bottom line. This may herald a longer-term shift in the way companies approach data storage.
Data storage requirements are expanding rapidly -– IDC estimates that about 255 million terabytes of corporate data will be generated worldwide in 2007, and that by 2010 this could increase nearly four-fold to one billion terabytes. Although storage equipment is becoming cheaper and capacity continues to increase, all that gear needs a lot of power for operations and -- increasinly -- cooling. Gartner suggests that energy costs as a percentage of overall IT budget could rise from about 10% today to as much as 50% in the next few years [that’s not a typo].
Furthermore, there is an expectation that highly localised power shortages will become more frequent, giving data-centre managers significant headaches. This leads IT managers to seek out efficiency gains wherever possible. And that is what Storage Expo this year was all about.
Technology companies were touting many solutions, but the common theme was that data-centre managers ought to be looking at multi-pronged approaches, including:
- effective use of tiered storage (a renaissance for tape archival?)
- data de-duplication and compression, eg better data management
- rooting out obsolete data (according to BridgeHead Software, 60% of typical corporate data is never accessed again)
- optimising airflows around the data-centre or investing in water cooling systems
- purchasing new, more efficient servers which use multi-core CPUs and DC power supplies (according to Information Age, Dell’s new PowerEdge 2950 server can handle eight times the workload of an old PowerEdge 2650 whilst using only a sixth of the power)
Of course, no discussion of reducing power usage (or, for that matter, minimising future hardware expenditure) would be complete without considering virtualisation, especially in light of the recent high-profile VMWare floatation.
Server virtualisation is now well accepted in the enterprise, and an analogous approach at the storage layer is gaining traction. Consolidating storage resources across the enterprise using a Storage Area Network (SAN) and virtualising them can cut total capacity requirements by over half according to numerous vendors. Technologies such as thin-replication reduce the bandwidth needed for data protection and disaster recovery purposes.
A new twist on this is that SMEs are no longer excluded from the benefits of storage consolidation and virtualisation. iSCSI technology is maturing and offers a lower price point than ‘traditional’ Fibre Channel by allowing a SAN to be implemented over an existing TCP/IP network. iSCSI is now the fastest growing connectivity solution in the market, and companies such as Bristol-based Stormagic are making it accessible to SMEs with simple tools to implement and manage virtualised storage environments.
Storage efficiency seems to be one of those few areas where the profit motive and the green agenda are aligned already today.