Five ways to greener storage

Companies can make their data centers more energy-efficient or lower power consumption, and it doesn't have to cost an arm or leg, say industry watchers in Asia.

Only a small number of businesses in Asia have defined green storage strategies, but there is impetus for more to follow suit, say industry observers.

Just about 10 percent of companies in the region have a green storage strategy, IDC's program director for Asia-Pacific storage research Simon Piff, noted last November at an event in Singapore.

But, said Jim Wagstaff, vice president and general manager of StorageWorks division at Hewlett-Packard Asia-Pacific and Japan, there is "real economic value" to greening data centers. "In addition to cost savings, implementing green storage solutions will also enable companies to be in line with green IT regulations."

Par Botes, chief technology officer of EMC Asia-Pacific and Japan, said business adoption of green, is still "much lower than the hype surrounding it" as companies perceive green as expensive. "However…companies can embark on a green strategy without necessarily exploding existing budgets," he pointed out.

According to Botes, some organizations are already reaping the rewards of green IT--not by purchasing new or energy-efficient technologies, but by implementing cost-cutting measures.

Storage vendors that have a footprint in the region, offer ZDNet Asia five tips for businesses to consider in developing green storage plans.

1. Make green a part of business strategy
In the current cost-conscious environment, every investment made in technology "needs to be a business investment", Wagstaff said in an e-mail.

"Moving to energy-efficient storage isn’t just a nice, green idea but an essential part of using less power to reduce energy bills [at the] bottom line," he pointed out. "Building a solid business case for environmentally responsible computing will increasingly become more important for IT and senior management alike."

Ravi Rajendran, vice president and Asean general manager at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), noted in an e-mail interview that greening of data centers need to involve more than just the techies. The IT organization and facilities planning department need to be more closely aligned, he added.

The IT manager has traditionally been focused on scalability and performance when making his purchasing decision, leaving the facilities manager to worry about space and energy requirements," he noted. "Greater symbiosis between the two parties will see data centers that are more efficiently laid out, with higher utilization rates and lower consumption."

2. Measure, project and prioritize
According to EMC's Botes, companies need to determine the current and projected energy consumption and costs in their data centers. In addition, organizations also need to know their power and cooling capacities. This is to enable them to focus "initial efforts on the areas that are now, or will be, the most acute", he said in an e-mail.

HDS' Rajendran added that with an up-to-date and accurate picture of IT assets and dependencies, companies would be able to "clean up" their data centers. Cleaning up could involve decommissioning of legacy equipment, consolidation through virtualization, or physical redistribution of systems.

3. Tap on relevant and new technologies
Green storage, HP's Wagstaff pointed out, is really about data reduction and capacity optimization, and better storage utilization can help companies reduce costs. Solutions that help companies reduce their data are deduplication, thin provisioning, virtualization and management, he added.

Citing Gartner, HDS' Rajendran noted that data centers will be forced to adopt new technologies, such as virtualization and facilities management tools, to cope with rising costs.

"Many data center floors and storage implementations have been configured without adequate consideration to heat distribution," he said, noting that once equipment has been put in place, it was difficult to alleviate data center hot spots without disrupting applications. "Technologies like virtualization can help to reposition hot spots without disrupting the applications. Cost-effective virtualization strategies need to embrace as much storage as possible so that utilization is optimized, saving power and cooling."

Coupled with thin provisioning, storage utilization at the control unit can achieve benefits such as reducing redundant copies and providing non-disrupted data flow for migration or replication, added Rajendran.

Harmeet Malhotra, Dell's storage manager for Asia-Pacific and Japan, added that auto load-balancing should be introduced in storage systems to ensure they are able to take on future capacity and IO (input/output) loads. Businesses, he noted, can also explore storage systems that incorporate high-efficiency power supplies, which reduce power wastage and lower power consumption.

4. Take a multi-faceted approach
HP's Wagstaff noted that the company has a "chip to chiller" approach, where it investigates all energy-saving options, from the smallest processor chips to servers and even the services that run in the data center.

When it comes to data centers, HP not only looks at finding ways to more effectively cool facilities, but also designing energy-efficient sites to generate less heat, he explained.

5. Find a credible IT partner
Organizations need IT players that can help assess and understand the vulnerabilities and opportunities within the business, Wagstaff added. This helps to formulate a clear strategy and incorporate relevant technology to address needs.

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