Best Practices: Planting seeds of green


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When it comes to green storage, it's all about the basics. Review your current setup and start with the obvious.

Green storage sounds good, but for most of us it's a goal we'll keep reaching--and trying to reach--again and again.

If you aren't to the point where Energy Star stickers are plastered across your entire infrastructure, you aren't alone. But that doesn't mean you can't do something to get in line with the green movement. Little things matter. You can start by managing storage more economically, saving money and in turn doing a good deed when it comes to energy consumption.

Let me offer an analogy. When you fly over a city at night, you see a glittering matrix of lights. The bigger the city, the more things glitter. Imagine those glittering lights are your data center and that the most brightly lit area is your storage infrastructure. Your goal is to look at the glitter and manage it. Is all the glitter justified? Could you replace it with something not as bright? How about shutting off a section or powering it up only when necessary? What you want to do is "right size" your infrastructure, a phrase you're bound to hear a lot.

Right sizing your infrastructure starts with your purchases. If you tend to buy excess capacity as a reserve for the future, you should know it's more than just a one-time purchase and will lead to higher ongoing

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costs. Vendors will gladly sell you capacity. A lot of them offer "just-in-time" or "capacity-on-demand" solutions that allow you to quickly increase your free storage pool during times of crisis. But whatever you're not paying for initially may be bleeding your energy costs, as this last-minute storage purchase is basically hidden online storage. The disks keep spinning as long as they're present in the array.

Instead of falling into traps like that, strive to be more predictable. Perform a trend analysis and get some solid predictions as to when you'll need more capacity. Remember: Buying at the last minute will ultimately cost you.

Tiering for the long run
Spinning disks consume energy both directly and indirectly. They require energy to spin and generate energy in the form of heat, which then requires cooling systems that consume more energy. So the more spinning disks you have, the more energy you consume. But not all disks consume the same amount of energy. Fast, high-performance disks consume a lot more energy than their slower counterparts.

You can't expect the demand for more storage to vanish or lessen, and you can't expect storage vendors to come up with power-friendly devices overnight. I'm sure every disk or array vendor out there is looking for innovative ways to reduce the power-consumption footprint of their products. Some, like EMC Corp., have taken steps in the right direction by announcing flash or solid-state drives for their arrays. In addition, these drives are fast. When the dust settles (and the price comes down), these drives consume a lot less energy than their spinning counterparts.

In the meantime, one way to intelligently manage storage costs is to tier your data as much as possible. This isn't a magic solution; at the very least, it requires a lot of hard work. However, the use of lower performance disks (and the arrays that house them) can dramatically reduce the overall energy consumption of your storage infrastructure. Speaking of infrastructure, now is a good time to look at your storage islands. How much does it cost you to maintain old arrays? How does that compare to the cost of purchasing and managing new ones? Ridding your shop of old equipment and consolidating for the purposes of energy efficiency should be at the top of every storage manager's to-do list.

This was first published in June 2008

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