Best Practices: Pull the plug on high energy costs


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Storage systems account for a big chunk of the data center electric bill. Here are some ways to reduce your costs.

There's been a flurry of activity among IT vendors to develop energy-efficient storage products and with good reason--the cost of electricity continues to rise in every part of the country. Energy experts' opinions differ on the size of the rate hikes, but one thing remains clear: None of the experts expects the rates to remain the same or decrease. Some even foresee a dire future in which the total cost of powering and cooling a server for four years exceeds what it cost to acquire the server.

For some data centers located in metropolitan areas, it's not just the spiraling cost of electrical power that's a concern; availability may be an even greater problem. They simply can't pull any more power off the existing electrical grid. To bring in new hardware, they have to unplug older hardware first, making the migration effort to updated hardware difficult and risky.

Cutting the cost of energy
Companies concerned about high energy costs are evaluating many options to reduce their monthly bill. Some have taken drastic measures by relocating their large data centers near hydroelectric facilities or other regions of the country where electricity is (relatively) inexpensive. But for many other companies, the relocation option is too expensive or impractical to consider.

But there are other ways to reduce electrical

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costs. For example, semiconductor chip manufacturers continue to develop cooler and more powerful chips while server manufacturers design more energy-efficient servers. There's been a great deal of attention focused on energy-efficient servers; several large data centers report their server farms are responsible for approximately 60% of their electricity consumption. But as these data centers consolidate apps onto larger and cooler servers, the emphasis on saving energy in the data center must soon shift to disk storage systems. The same companies that have plans underway to consolidate servers will soon face the next energy challenge, which is linked inextricably with the data growth rates of 70% or more per year they report. This high data growth, coupled with the need to keep data for longer periods of time to comply with regulations, means that more and more storage devices must be added. The unrelenting demand for more storage means that the cost to power and cool storage devices will soon exceed the energy requirements of servers in the data center.

This was first published in September 2007

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