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Green storage debate dominates U.K. show

IT managers in the U.K. are faced with reducing IT energy consumption in light of exploding data storage growth.

LONDON -- Virtualization, consolidation and green IT were major focuses of Storage Expo 2007 this week, as many...

of the 4,000 attendees searched for ways to reduce energy consumption.

Richard Perry, executive technical support officer for data management and security for the London borough of Barking and Dagenham, said that as a local council, his group is tasked with being greener. That means going further than having nice green council trucks collecting the rubbish, which is where they are today. One of the challenges is measuring what the exact power consumption is across the different data centers before they can reduce it. Perry takes measurements every 12 weeks and is starting to monitor consumption levels. Storage is unfortunately increasing its share of the pie.

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Hot storage -- Power and cooling concerns
"If we go from 240 volts to 230 volts, the utility company will give us a big discount, but this raises problems on the equipment side," he added. The biggest challenge, Perry said, is lowering power consumption, while also dealing with data storage growth. The council is in the process of digitizing thousands of documents and periodicals in its library, creating the need for more storage and driving up power utilization. It has 30 terabytes (TB) on IBM DS6000 storage, as well islands of stranded direct attached storage (DAS). Perry's plan is to consolidate as much as possible and reduce the council's reliance on point products. "If we centralize and standardize, we can reduce costs, and our electricity bill should go down," he said.

Power often leads the conversation in green IT circles, but many companies in the U.K. say cooling is also a major problem. Insurance firm Friends Provident plc. is beginning to see cooling issues in its disaster recovery facility. The data center manager suggested the storage team turn around its storage area network (SAN) in order to create a hot aisle. The hot aisle/cold aisle layout enables cold air to be segregated in front of equipment cabinets and hot exhaust air to be expelled behind equipment. This layout is meant to relieve the direct transfer of hot exhaust air from one system into the intake air of another system, keeping the overall system cooler.

"The problem is disks don't do too well if you start moving them around; there's no way we can do that," said Martin Bruce, lead SAN consultant at Friends Provident.

Meanwhile, resellers in the U.K. see plenty of business to be had in the shift to more energy-efficient IT. "Green is a big issue, people don't really care about it in the tree-hugger sense, but they've got to be seen to care," according to Alex Brown, senior account manager at storage reseller Strawberry Global Technology Ltd. He says public companies in the U.K. are using the issue to improve their image.

Brown expects big business out of the collection of old computer equipment for PC companies. The recently introduced European Uunion Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) forces suppliers of all electronic equipment to be responsible for financing its collection and disposal treatment, free of charge to the consumer.

"We'll be a bit like glorified rag and bone men,"Brown said.

Stateside, things are a little different, according to Bob Maness, vice president of worldwide marketing at Pillar Data Systems Inc. Maness said the green IT debate ultimately comes down to a supply and demand issue. He said the U.S., unlike the U.K.and Europe, has not hit an energy crunch yet, and until it does, energy consumption issues will not be a priority. "America is used to being resource rich with unlimited supply … It's in the culture to keep going until somebody says you can't do something anymore, and it's not at that point yet," he said. He noted that California, a place known for its environmentally friendly attitude, has more cars on the road than any other state in the country.

Kishor Varsani, a project manager at BT Group plc, looked around the show floor with disappointment. "I see all these point solutions," he said, "I can't implement any of them." To say that he is fed up with the lack of standards in the storage market would be an understatement. "I want one snapshot technology to work across all my SANs," he began. "I want one tape media, not three different ones; I want one provisioning tool, not five; I want one management dashboard, not 20 of them." His list went on.

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