Green Storage

It’s not just about energy-sipping systems—it’s also about your storage footprint

Most of us are familiar with the concept of green IT: increasing energy efficiency across the enterprise to trim costs and optimize resources. While you hear a lot about servers helping to reduce energy usage, not as much is said about storage. Intel and the storage industry are working together to provide green storage solutions, too.

For the storage community, every system has to be cost-effective as well as performance-driven, which means energy efficiency is a key consideration. It starts at the processor level, where the Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series is extending the boundaries of energy efficient performance.

Many storage system providers have picked up on the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series since it was introduced last March. For example, the HP StorageWorks XP10000* Disk Array and 3000 Enterprise* Virtual Array are based on the new processors. Schooner Information Technology appliances leverage quad-core Intel Xeon 5500 processors and half a terabyte of Intel® X25-E flash memory. The bottom line for the Schooner appliances is an 80 percent decrease in power and cooling requirements versus ordinary servers.

But green storage isn’t just about power consumption at the processor or system level. An equally important green strategy is to reduce the overall storage footprint, and a number of technologies are available to help IT organizations implement this strategy.

Virtualization is driving huge data center energy savings by greatly reducing the number of physical machines in the data center. As Bob Fine, director of product marketing at Compellent, pointed out at the 2009 Storage Networking World conference last spring, many large enterprises realize that they’re approaching a cap. “They can only get a certain amount of power in their data centers and see virtualization as a way to reduce their power requirements,” says Fine. “Instead of building new data centers, they can stay in the ones they have, saving millions of dollars in the process.”

Many IT managers tell Intel that storage can be a big gating factor when it comes to scaling virtual environments. The Intel Xeon processor 5500 series uses Intel® HT Technology within each processor core, doubling the number of threads that can be processed at the same time. This option permits more efficient workloads and enables storage servers to virtualize more applica­tions. Intel HT Technology is also more energy efficient than traditional threaded processing.

Compellent and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), both users of the Intel Xeon processors, recommend reducing the storage footprint in other ways as well. “Limit the amount of content you need to store by using technologies like data deduplication,” advises Asim Zaheer, vice president of product and competitive marketing at HDS. “Also, don’t have wasted capacity or wasted systems—that’s where tiered storage and virtualization come into play.” 

Compellent’s Fine sees tiered storage as especially important when using expensive disk resources like solid-state drives (SSD). By limiting SSD to the top tier, a company could save on drive costs and increase storage efficiency. “Only the active data would sit on SSD, and all the inactive data would go onto a tier-three SATA drive,” says Fine. “Since SSD drives are about 10 times the cost of Fibre Channel, it’s very important to gain those kinds of efficiencies.”

Isilon Systems, another user of Intel processors, has a pay-as-you-grow model for its clustered storage products that makes it easier to avoid over-provisioning and wasting power. If a customer needs to add more performance, Isilon can provide nodes with Intel processors and memory, but no storage. If the customer requires capacity only, Isilon sells nodes with just disks. In addition, Isilon uses ColdWatt power supplies, which it says are about 30 percent more efficient than traditional power supplies.

As Intel works with the storage industry to deliver more energy-efficient and high-performance storage solutions, we’d like to know what IT organizations are doing to implement green storage technologies in the data center. If you work in IT and have fresh perspectives to make your organization more efficient, you’re invited to share your ideas here.