Improve your storage energy efficiency

Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are encountering or will be facing energy challenges in the not so distant future. With IT budgets being stretched thin, implementing energy efficient solutions and best practices can maximize budgets, help the environment and qualify for energy incentive rebates.

When comparing storage systems, look at multiple metrics and measurements including IOPS or bandwidth per watt of energy, along with how much capacity in a given footprint and total power consumption. Some benchmark comparisons with full disclosures include SPC, TPC, SPEC and Microsoft ESRP for Exchange; but keep in mind that these are just relative comparisons, the best benchmark is your own applications.

Consider consolidating underutilized IT resources (servers, storage and networks) using

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virtualization. Also, use different RAID levels based on quality of service requirements balancing performance, availability, capacity and energy along with thin provisioning and space efficient snapshots. For maximum impact, combine virtualization with other techniques and approaches including more energy efficient technologies such as tiered storage and data management.

Effective data management requires a combination of archiving, real-time compression for online active data, offline compression and deduplication for backup data. This will boost the amount of data under management while saving time, reducing complexity and lowering cost. Develop a holistic data footprint strategy and actively archive, compress and deduplicate data.

Avoiding energy usage is a fairly obvious option and for some technologies relatively easy to implement. For example, power down monitors and workstations and turn off the lights when not in use. While powering down disk drives on a laptop or workstation computer is easy, powering down online storage is a bit trickier.

Two new emerging storage energy saving trends are intelligent power management (IPM) and adaptive power management (APM). MAID 2.0 solutions vary power levels with respect to speed and performance of storage based on service needs. Another approach to avoiding power usage, particularly for inactive and idle data, is to move data to offline and removable media, such as removable hard disk drives, magnetic tape and optical disks.

Finally, have an energy assessment of your data center performed. Given that cooling accounts for, on average, 50% of all power consumed in an IT data center, making sure that cooling is being performed optimally can yield quick benefits.

Greg Schulz is founder and senior analyst with the IT infrastructure analyst and consulting firm StorageIO.

This was first published in May 2008

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