Use MAID, intelligent power management as green storage options to control energy consumption

What you'll learn: MAID and intelligent power management (IPM) are green storage options that align enterprise data storage performance and energy consumption levels. Find out what you should look for in a product with MAID or IPM-enabled capabilities.

There's a myth in the enterprise data storage industry that massive array of idle disks is a dead technology, but

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MAID is still an effective green storage option. Many data storage vendors offer MAID 2.0 technologies through a variety of names or aliases, such as drive spin down or intelligent power management (IPM).

Vendors that currently provide some type of MAID 2.0 or IPM-enabled product include Adaptec Inc., DataDirect Networks Inc., EMC Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Data Systems, NEC Corp., Nexsan Technologies Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. (now owned by Oracle Corp.), Xiotech Corp. and Xyratex International Inc.

More on MAID:
Explore the state of MAID in data centers 

Find out why  
MAID technology remains underutilized

Read our MAID product roundup

Like other storage technologies, some MAID vendors like to have their own naming conventions to differentiate their products from those of their competitors. For example, IPM essentially aligns enterprise data storage performance and energy consumption to match applicable service levels. Regardless of the naming convention, IPM is still an approach to saving on energy consumption by powering down hard disk drives (HDDs) when not in use.

Boost performance when needed, conserve energy during slower periods

The most common issues I regularly encounter with MAID are concerns around performance and a lack of configuration flexibility. Some first-generation MAID products saved power at the expense of performance, were expensive to deploy and lacked scalability. But there's an expanding awareness that energy efficiency not only includes avoidance, but also means boosting performance when needed and conserving energy at other times.

What this means is that a shift from first-generation energy avoidance at the expense of performance or productivity is now occurring for both servers and storage. For example, servers and their processor chips with IPM-enabled technologies, such as the Intel Nehalem, can boost performance when needed, then turn cores off or run them at lower clock speeds during slower periods to conserve energy.

What to look for in MAID and IPM-enabled products

When and where to use MAID technology and IPM-enabled products will depend in part on what a specific product supports in terms of feature functionality. There are extensive deployment options for products that support high-performance disk drives with the flexibility and software support to manage logical unit numbers (LUNs), volumes or file systems appearing/disappearing during power down periods.

Other good candidates include near line, bulk reference, online archive and other data on applications that can tolerate a response time or latency pause when a disk needs to be spun up.

Here's what you should look for in a product that has MAID 2.0 or IPM-enabled capabilities:

  • Can different power or energy-usage-to-performance settings be enabled?
  • What's the granularity of the power savings? Is it on a LUN, volume, volume group, virtual array or physical array basis?
  • Can power management be enabled for different types of disk drives, such as Fibre Channel (FC), high-capacity serial ATA (SATA) or solid-state drives (SSDs)?
  • What's the transparency to path managers, file systems, volume managers or databases when a disk, LUN or volume is spun down?

It's also important to find out if additional fees for capabilities like RAID are part of the standard price of the product, if there are performance impacts when accessing data, and if there are data integrity safeguards and checks to ensure that the system is functioning properly.

Finally, look for next-generation MAID-enabled capabilities to appear in many more storage products, including NFS and CIFS appliances, iSCSI, SAS, FC and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) offerings.

BIO: Greg Schulz is founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group in Stillwater, Minn.

This was first published in February 2010

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