A Key to Greener Data Centers: Smarter Storage

datacentergeneric1Data storage can account for up to 40 percent of the energy consumed by a data center. Yikes — but at the same time, it’s not hard to see why storage vendors are busy building technologies that can help data center operators trim energy costs and reduce carbon emissions.

In his latest research report, “The Future of Data Center Storage” at GigaOM Pro (subscription required), Analytico’s Tom Trainer explores the technology and business trends behind a storage market that’s booming thanks, in part, to the gravity-defying rise of cloud computing. (Cloud computing depends on storing large amounts of data in “the cloud.”) To sustain that growth, organizations are going to need solutions that use storage capacity in smarter, more energy-efficient ways, and fortunately, storage providers are paying attention. “Reduction in energy consumption is a global concern and has taken root in the storage industry,” he writes.

In a recent chat with Tom, he singled out EMC (s EMC) and IBM (s IBM) as companies that have “implemented green processes within their manufacturing organizations to be more eco-friendly.” For customers, these internal efforts are translating into storage systems that draw less power and use infrastructure to its full capacity, delaying or outright sparing IT departments the need to deploy additional gear.

When asked about the types of technology that complement data center greening efforts, Tom offered two concepts: data de-duplication, which reduces redundant data, and thin provisioning, which divvies up shared storage to servers on an as-needed basis.

Reducing unnecessary data, using software and appliances, reclaims precious capacity, and applications and workflows don’t usually suffer because they’re pointed to the location of the now-unique data. Sounds simple, but scaling the technology for enterprise environments with petabytes of data hanging in the balance is a challenge.

Indeed, companies today are missing out on the technology’s full potential because vendors don’t implement de-duplication technology across all of their storage resources. However, EMC’s recent acquisition of Data Domain will help proliferate deduplication tech because their combined technologies will cover more parts of the storage value chain, according to Trainer.

Thin provisioning, on the other hand, parcels out on-demand shared storage to servers instead of allocating tens or hundreds of gigabytes in advance (the traditional method), much of which may go unused and consumes a lot of energy. Provisioning helps tackle the problem of under-utilizing storage and can lower the cost, too, because it’s cheaper to power one drive that’s loaded with data than a handful of drives each storing a fraction of their capacity. “The leader in that technology,” says Trainer, is 3Par, which “has been a pioneer in thin provisioning for the last 10 years.”

Those are just a couple of examples. Read Tom Trainer’s report, which dives into the storage companies and technologies that are helping data centers chart a greener course.

Tom Trainer is the president of Analytico and a member of the GigaOM analyst network. His complete discussion of this topic is available in the latest GigaOM Pro report, “The Future of Data Center Storage” (subscription required).

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons.