Storage vendors clash in green debate

At Storage Expo 2007, Pillar Data Systems and HDS clashed during a debate on the best ways to make storage tech more energy efficient

Storage vendors are split over whether the main technologies used to cut down on waste in data centres are a real long-term solution to the problem or simply a short-term fix.

Speaking at the Green IT Debate at Storage Expo 2007 on Thursday, Bob Maness, vice president of worldwide marketing at Pillar Data Systems, said that one of the main technologies in question — thin provisioning — "offered no solution" to the problem of too much data building up.

According to Maness, thin provisioning just repeats bad practices. Instead, he argued that the solution is for companies to think about processes rather than simply a technology fix and to "develop the right practice within their organisation".

The problem that thin provisioning tries to solve is that of too much storage being purchased and left empty, which is very inefficient. Analysts estimate that as much as 50 percent of allocated space is lying empty and unused while taking up energy resources as it spins on the disk.

Software, most notably from Microsoft, when loaded onto a new disk, will immediately take large amounts of storage space and allocate it for its own use, even when the software may not use it for some days, weeks or even months.

Thin provisioning attempts to solve the problem by only allowing the system to allocate the space required for storage for a few hours or a day, and no more.

Alec Bruce, eco-systems director of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), which developed the thin-provisioning concept, disagreed with Maness's comments that the technology was only a short-term fix, but said that it was "one of a number of ways in which companies were using storage more efficiently".

Maness also argued that another technology, known as "de-duplication", which removes duplicated files from a system to free up more space, was similarly short-term in its approach to the wider problem of inefficient storage.

Despite the disagreement over how best to solve the problem, the vendors taking part in the Green IT Debate were in agreement that storage is a major user of energy — with millions of disk drives around the world spinning and burning electricity — and all claimed to be engaged in active strategies to make their technology more efficient.