Creating Energy Efficiencies In IT

Data centres continue to require additional hardware to meet business needs which, in turn, increases power consumption and cooling requirements.

Anand Naik April 27, 2009 12:31:33 IST
Creating Energy Efficiencies In IT

Think of a data-intensive sector like IT-ITeS, now think of the burgeoning customer information that these players deal with, on a regular basis. With fierce competition and compliance issues, IT companies are investing heavily in IT infrastructure. IT companies have in fact been one of the highest spenders on technology and consequently, are one of the biggest markets for storage, where the maximum potential exists and maximum capital is being invested on a large scale for storage consolidation.

With data explosion and increasing storage requirements, data centres are the worst hit as they are most affected in terms of greater loads. Data centres continue to require additional hardware to meet business needs which, in turn, increases power consumption and cooling requirements.

At the same time, however, data centres are running out of power even as governmental, environmental regulations are increasing alongside an increasing cost-per-watt, which is making power even more expensive. This is a cause for concern for IT companies, who are looking at reducing their energy use and carbon footprints and position themselves as a 'green' company. Consequently, a growing number of these companies are finding that by using software to manage data storage and growth, they can reduce their hardware power consumption and cooling needs.

Some of the areas where IT players can reduce their energy consumption and bring in greening include:

Electricity Requirements

The power and cooling challenges data centres face are very real. Worse yet, power is not cheap—nor is it getting any cheaper. Large organisations spend between four and eight percent, and sometimes as much as 10 percent, of their IT budgets on energy. Gartner predicted that this will rise by up to four times within the next five years.

To address these issues, companies are utilising low power servers and standby power management software and are improving power supply efficiency. Many are also leveraging virtualisation to address a small portion of the problem. Indeed, using more energy-efficient servers is an effective approach to energy conservation. Yet, as enterprises buy these servers, they are faced with another challenge: migrating enterprise data agilely to newer devices and subsystems while maintaining service level agreements (SLAs).

And that’s where the good news begins. By using software that enables organisations to improve storage utilisation, deploy storage tiering, and use hardware more efficiently, telecom companies can create energy efficiencies in the data centre and meet established response time levels.

Provisioning Storage

IT companies operate according to pre-determined Service Level Agreements (SLAs). These SLAs may specify how accessible specific data must be, how long it must be retained, and how quickly it must be made available during peak periods. Data that experiences high read, write, and update activity—sometimes referred to as transaction data—often requires high performance storage. Data that does not experience high activity—sometimes referred to as non-transaction data—typically can reside on lower performance and more power-efficient storage.

Yet, in practice, the majority of data is non-transaction data stored on expensive, high-performance, power-consuming disks that have relatively modest capacities. By identifying and then migrating non-transaction data to appropriate lower performance disks, organisations can save power and energy. The lower consumed watts per gigabyte ratio of these high-capacity, lower-performance disks and disk systems can save a substantial amount of energy.

Today’s dynamic storage tiering solutions provide continuous migration support for file system data using automated methods that respond to changing conditions. Using such a solution in combination with a scheduled data migration service for both file system data and data contained within database structures gives organisations effective enterprise data migration capabilities between tiers. Better yet, analysis tools can monitor file system activity and determine which files are active and inactive and, therefore, are eligible for archiving or migration to more energy efficient storage devices.

IT players can also reduce power consumption by identifying duplicate data, these companies often retain too many data copies. In fact, a typical organisation may have between 10 and 30 copies of each production data byte. Needless to say, many of these copies are no longer needed, are misplaced, or even worse, the enterprise doesn’t even know they still exist. Clearly, reducing the number of data copies reduces storage capacity requirements and storage power consumption. Once reduced, snapshots and other copies from high-performance disks can be moved to lower-performance disks.

Admittedly, because of continuing data growth, any existing data storage subsystem will eventually exceed available capacity unless more capacity becomes available, and the data centre may not have enough space or electric power to support expanded storage capacity. At this point, many enterprises begin to consider building a new data centre that can easily cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over time.

A more economical solution may be to leverage MAID (massive array of inactive disks) technology, which consumes a small fraction of the electric power used by lower-performance storage systems that house non-transactional data. MAID storage subsystems power-off idle disks and power them back on when an application needs access to dormant data. This gives enterprises a third energy-efficient data storage tier for migrating data.

While hardware power and cooling requirements are the source of many data centre energy problems, software can help remediate them. In fact, some vendors contend that their software can help customers reduce data storage energy consumption by as much as 50 percent and total data centre energy consumption by as much as 25 percent.

Reducing electrical power consumption will likely remain an enterprise imperative. By improving storage utilisation, deploying storage tiering, and using hardware more efficiently, organisations can significantly reduce their data centre power consumption and cooling requirements.

Naik is director, Systems Engineering-India & SAARC, Symantec Corporation.

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