How to cool the data center with efficient storage, Part 1

* Tips from Chris Bennett of Network Appliance on how storage can help with energy consumption

I had a chance to catch up with Chris Bennett, vice president of core systems for Network Appliance about saving on heating and cooling in the data center and how storage can contribute to it. Bennett provided tips on where in the data center to reduce energy consumption and how the use of Serial ATA drives could add to energy savings. Here is my Q&A with him.

I had a chance to catch up with Chris Bennett, vice president of core systems for Network Appliance about saving on heating and cooling in the data center and how storage can contribute to it. Bennett provided tips on where in the data center to reduce energy consumption and how the use of Serial ATA drives could add to energy savings. Here is my Q&A with him. There are basically two things we think are very important when you think about storage. Storage by the way depends on how you run the numbers and the facility involved but if you look at the energy used in a typical data center, about half of it is for air conditioning. This makes sense because for every watt you generate you evacuate a watt. Based on the law of thermodynamics, that's not a very efficient process. I've talked to clients in northern climates – it’s more sophisticated than this - but essentially opening the windows and pumping the cold air through. About 40% of that energy consumption is in servers and storage. If you look at the 40% total, about two-thirds of that is servers, the remainder is storage. So that's why all the focus has been on server consolidation - this is one of the reasons the whole virtualization space is white hot because customers are able to get rid of large numbers of discrete servers and consolidate them down onto fewer devices. How can customers reduce their energy consumption in the data center?  

Servers I understand consume the most power in the data center after the cost of air conditioning.

When you are confronting the issue of power and cooling in the data center, quite naturally the right place to start with are servers. However, the thing that is going on is that storage has gone from being a non-entity to becoming a significant fraction of the overall power budget in the data center as well. According to an IDC Workload Study, in 2006, power and cooling costs were approximately half of the cost of buying the equipment itself. That's projected to be very close to equivalency by 2010. Customers are spending almost as much to run the equipment per year as they spent to buy it.

How with storage specifically can you get energy savings?

If you look at storage there are a handful of things you want to be doing. The first thing is you want to consolidate your storage. Fundamentally, you want to use as few disks as possible - that's where all the power goes. The No. 2 thing is you want to use the lowest power disks you can - what that means is you want to drive adoption of low power, Serial ATA drives as deep into your enterprise as you possibly can. The reason for that is the power consumption of a Serial ATA drive or a 7,200 RPM drive draws half the power of a 15,000 RPM drive and it currently has three times the capacity per spindle, so you get a factor of six efficiency if you use ATA drives instead of 15,000 RPM drives.

That requires work to re-tool your data center but it is the biggest lever people have to be able to attack the power problem from a storage perspective.

* Watch out for Network World’s New Data Center supplement published Feb. 18 on power and cooling in the data center.

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