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

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  1. Establish power usage metrics.
    Historically, power specifications entered into a storage infrastructure discussion only during installation planning. Even within organizations with relatively sophisticated cost modeling and chargeback systems, specific metrics relating to power were nowhere to be found. However, to truly align data center and IT infrastructure objectives, this will need to occur. Data center managers focus on kilowatts and BTUs, with consideration given for related factors such as peak load times. Organizations like The Green Grid promote standardized data center efficiency metrics. It will also become necessary to establish metrics such as GB/kW or IOPS/kW, and to then determine these rates for each tier of storage as well as usage for the storage infrastructure in total.

  2. Consider solid-state drives (SSDs).
    While SSDs are still a new phenomenon for many, they can play a role in replacing power-hungry, high-speed, low-capacity disks. In addition to offering higher performance, EMC reports that on a per IOPS basis,

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  1. flash disks require 98% less energy. It's therefore imperative that organizations do their homework and understand actual performance requirements before making any substantial investment in this technology.

  2. Consider massive array of idle disks (MAID).
    At the other end of the performance spectrum is MAID technology. We know a significant amount of data currently stored on spinning disk is accessed infrequently. From an energy-consumption standpoint, the most efficient disks are the ones that aren't spinning at all, and that's the rationale behind MAID. For archival data that still requires accessibility, this technology represents an attractive alternative to conventional, continuously spinning, nearline storage.

  3. Make energy usage a buying consideration.
    As the "green" demand grows, vendors have realized that energy efficiency can be a competitive differentiator. It makes sense to factor this into equipment purchasing criteria, and to consider energy impact when architecting new storage infrastructures. Often times, the focus is on capital expenditures (CAPEX) and insufficient attention is paid to operation expenditures (OPEX). However, evidence is mounting in the server world that these lifecycle costs, including power and cooling, can actually overshadow CAPEX. This isn't yet the case with storage, but OPEX, including power, is certainly a significant component of total cost of ownership. Effectively managing the power and cooling demands in the data center is a sum of many parts. Within each part, a series of improvements will combine to provide important dividends. For many, there may not yet be a sense of urgency surrounding power and cooling, particularly with regard to storage. But data centers around the country are beginning to feel the pinch. It's not simply an issue of rising costs. It's a matter of data centers and utility providers reaching production limits. When planning for future storage environments, it's an issue that will no longer be ignored.

This was first published in November 2008

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