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Storage departments are trying energy-saving technologies, but measuring ROI is still a challenge.

BEFORE THE GREEN movement--before the IT industry was consumed with data center footprint designs, creative cooling techniques and granular metrics like the number of watts per enclosure per I/O--Nick Daffan had a storage problem.

Daffan, principal at Argus Information & Advisory Services LLC in White Plains, NY, watched his firm's storage needs skyrocket a few years ago. More customers, more reports and more precise computations were all fueling storage growth at Argus, which provides quantitative data to financial institutions for risk assessment and marketing purposes.

Daffan would love to say that energy conservation topped his list of concerns when shopping for a new storage system. However, he admits, his primary motivation was less noble: His hardware lease was due to expire and his No. 1 priority when evaluating vendors was performance and how much the system cost, not power use.

"It was before the energy crisis had spiked. We needed scalability and the ability to add capacity," explains Daffan. But he's certainly cognizant that "there's a cost associated with the space and power to run those technologies."

In what industry analysts and IT users agree is a common scenario, Argus' Daffan wound up getting a "green"

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investment as a bonus to a storage purchase he made primarily for performance reasons when he bought 16 Xiotech Corp. Emprise 5000 storage systems (each starting at $20,000)--systems Daffan says will continue to cut his power bills for years to come.


The green gap
To many storage pros, the idea of going green is still seen as a luxury. "It's called the green gap," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group, Stillwater, MN. "It's a real disconnect between vendor messaging and where the IT users are. You ask users 'Are you going green?' and very few of them say yes. You ask them about green issues--floor space, cooling, power and heating--and they say those are their top priorities."

Larry Freeman, NetApp's senior marketing manager for storage efficiency, agrees. "Most people haven't connected the dots yet. When people start moving toward storage efficiency, it's not because they want to save energy, it's because they're tired of buying so much disk."

But state and federal legislation will likely change that, he adds. "Anyone who has a data center consuming over a megawatt per year, for example, would have to a pay a penalty," says Freeman. "That will drive awareness more than anything I'm doing."

An even larger "green gap" lies within IT organizations, says Wayne Adams, chair emeritus of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), as well as senior technologist and director of standards, office of the CTO at EMC. One of the biggest "green" challenges for the storage industry is the divide between the CIO and the facilities manager, he notes. "It comes down to the organizational gap," he says.


This was first published in October 2008

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