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Green storage gains ground

HP is the latest vendor to throw its hat into the green storage ring following Pillar Data, HDS and EqualLogic.

Like it or loathe it: The march toward green storage is moving forward. Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., Pillar Data Systems Inc. and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) all announced "green" storage products in recent weeks.

The green twist comes from the addition of thin provisioning, which lets administrators earmark more capacity than has been physically reserved on an array to delay storage purchases until absolutely necessary. Physical capacity is only dedicated when the application writes data, rather than when the storage volume is initially allocated. This means you don't have to keep a lot of spinning disks around sucking up power and not actually being used.

HP announced its version of thin provisioning, dubbed Dynamic Capacity Management (DCM), at its StorageWorks show in Las Vegas this week. It also claimed its new LTO-4 Ultrium 1840 tape drive consumes 50% fewer watts per gigabyte than previous versions.

Earlier in the week, Pillar Data, the storage startup founded by Oracle chief Larry Ellison, unveiled its green storage initiative. This includes the addition of 750 GB SATA drives to its Axiom array, increasing capacity within a single system. Presumably, the greenness comes from fewer systems and less power. Pillar said it will introduce support for thin provisioning in the fall.

Pillar Data also come up with a green storage equation designed to measure the efficiency of storage systems. It goes like this: capacity (in gigabytes) multiplied by performance (in input/output operations per second), divided by power consumption (in watts), multiplied by space (in square meters). However, no one buying storage has actually used the equation yet, so it's hard to know if it's useful or not. Right now, it makes for great marketing fodder, and that's about it.

Meanwhile, HDS and EqualLogic took the wraps off thin-provisioning capabilities earlier this month, following Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), 3PARdata Inc. and Compellent. 3PAR CEO David Scott was quick to blast his competitors' efforts, calling them "chubby provisioning," meaning that they don't save as much capacity as 3PAR. Watch out for more mudslinging as thin provisioning takes off.

EMC has yet to throw its hat into the energy efficiency ring in any meaningful way, but the company does have a "green committee" dedicated to "solving this problem," according to a company spokesperson. Hopefully, they won't spend too much time talking about it instead of actually doing something. I heard a funny comment at EMC World in Orlando last month. During the expo, the lights dimmed at one point -- a tactic the organizers were using to signal the end of the event. As the lights went down, someone shouted out: "Did somebody just plug in a Symm!?" and the whole place erupted in laughter. Not a good sign.

So far, all the green talk among storage vendors has done nothing to address the needless voltage conversions and other architectural flaws inside storage systems today that waste energy, as explained in this story on power efficiency. It'll be interesting to see if anyone builds a storage array from scratch that's truly designed for energy efficiency.


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