Green, greener and greenest

Green, greener and greenest

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Green, greener and greenest


I'll try to maintain some dignity here by not quoting Kermit the Frog on the subject of green, but it's not beneath me to paraphrase him: It's not easy being a storage manager. Not too long ago, the only green storage vendors seemed interested in was the kind with pictures of Benjamin Franklin on it that they carried around in their wallets. But now even casual observers of the storage industry know that power consumption and air conditioning are cool issues, and green is definitely the "in" color.

So what should you do when everyone agrees that a problem exists but few, if any, good solutions have been offered? Form a committee, of course. And that's exactly how the storage industry has responded. What better way to come up with valid, practical solutions than to get a bunch of rowdies together in a room (real or virtual), choose a catchy dot-org name and maybe have a secret handshake? It doesn't even matter that every group member not-so-secretly hopes that others will fail miserably at this green thing so as to stand out as the most eco-friendly in the crowd.

Green groups are sprouting like weeds. There's the SNIA Green Storage Initiative, The Green Grid, Power.org and the latest, The Green Data Project. This power thing is, as marketers like to say, a green field.

The latest nouveau green group, The Green Data Project, is the brainchild of Jon William Toigo, and it isn't quite like the others. Toigo, CEO and managing principal of Toigo Partners International and chairman of the Data Management Institute, is promoting practical approaches, like dumping useless data that requires power to maintain, before turning to vendors for power-stingy systems. Toigo is brash, outspoken and doesn't seem to be swayed by what's generally considered common wisdom, so maybe his group can shake things up a bit.

The other "industry organizations" elude me. I'm not against vendors sitting on the same side of the table to hammer out things like standards that could turn the dream of interoperability into a reality. I've gone on at length right here about how important I think standards are to storage users. But saving power and making cooler running gear are things that do not need to be standardized. Building equipment that uses less electricity and produces less heat isn't a group activity.

What we need to see is some rugged individualism among storage vendors, some good ol' competition where vendors tinker in their labs to find new and better ways to save energy. But I'm afraid the opposite might be happening with these green gangs. I can't help but think that these groups were formed so vendors can keep an eye on each other. Sure, it's a plus for their images to unite under the banner of energy conservation. Who'd dispute those good intentions as our collective consciousness turns to concerns about global warming and dwindling energy sources?

But if a rogue vendor went off on its own and built a storage array that had competitive performance and capacity specs, and cut power and cooling requirements in half, then what would happen? Storage pros like you would take notice and maybe you'd start asking your vendors why they can't do that, too. And that would mean vendors would have to start answering to you and not to committees, which are probably best suited to maintaining the status quo. And the status quo won't do anything about your electric bills.

This was first published in December 2007

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