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It's time to pay attention to storage power use: Best Practices

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Power and cooling isn't just a data center problem. Try these eight tips for reducing consumption.

as IT organizations continue to grow in size and complexity, an inevitable challenge is keeping various parts of the company from working at cross purposes. Keeping groups in synch and aligned means having common goals and metrics. This becomes an even bigger challenge when reaching beyond IT.

Such is the case with issues relating to the data center. Much has been made of data center power and cooling consumption and limitations that have only been exacerbated with the rise in energy prices. Organizations such as the Uptime Institute talk about a crisis in the data center, while research firm Gartner Inc. reports that data center managers rank power and cooling as their top priorities. However, for many organizations there's a wide gap between the chief concerns of data center managers and those most important to IT directors. Each one is guided by different metrics and, for the most part, tends to march to a different drummer.

Therefore, it's not surprising to find that while data center managers see power and cooling as a major concern, IT infrastructure managers tend to rank it low in importance. Again, according to Gartner, storage managers place power consumption in a three-way

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tie for last place in terms of their concerns, a clear example of organizational misalignment. This contradiction is understandable, since for years the metric by which IT has been "taxed" for data center usage is floor space, not power consumption. As a result, vendors have met their customers' demands by providing more densely packaged servers and storage that occupies less floor space. However, these products also had the unintended consequence of increased power and cooling requirements.

Organizations are becoming aware of the data center crisis and are taking steps to bring IT shops and facility infrastructures into synch. Some organizations, perhaps most notably Microsoft Corp., have undertaken initiatives to make data center cost allocation a function of power. The primary targets in these initiatives--what we call the low-hanging fruit--have been servers. However, with the increased adoption of virtualization and more efficient physical server designs, the focus will inevitably shift to other areas of the data center, including storage.

This isn't as ominous as it may sound. Projects that many shops have started or completed to better manage data on storage devices can help reduce power and cooling costs. Here's a starter list of things that can be done to help get storage energy usage under control.

This was first published in November 2008

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