It Ain’t Easy Being Green…

Reading through my feeds today, Clark over at StorageSwitched! published this entry back on August 3rd.  In it, he discusses various methodologies being used by vendors to “market” (my words, not his) or pander to the “green consciousness” of IT departments worldwide. In his thinking, adding an additional tier of storage might assuage some of the guilt administrators feel pressured into by various marketing wonks from F500.

I, for one, happen to agree with this methodology.  Just as we have the “Energy Star” label for devices that are energy efficient (albeit along an predetermined continuum), it might be worthwhile to have these storage devices tagged by overall power consumption per I/O, etc. However, there are things that might skew the results.

Exhibit A would be the virtualized server appliance.  So, we’re running virtualization software (a la VMWare) on a server and have two quad core Xeon or Barcelona processors running approximately 8 virtual apps.  Already, you’ve managed to utilize 1/8th (running average) of the original power foot print of 8 separate single processor servers.  However, this new virtual box would obviously consume a prodigious amount of power that might not fit within the footprint of an energy efficient device.  Conversely, there are various system level components that can make use of power saving features (AMD’s PowerNow! or Intel’s SpeedStep, for example) but if you’re pulling down 500w on a single server at idle (and 750w under load) compared to more efficient dual core or single core designs, then what advantage, outside of data center consolidation, are you gaining?

Exhibit B would be the consolidated data center.  As I mentioned yesterday, Sun created a very interesting proof-of-concept “Data center in a Box” that makes use of water and high-efficiency cooling mechanisms to lower the power threshold environmental impact of a given data center.  Also, through the use of highly parallel, multi-core/multi-threaded processors within the server (and the OS/software to match), you gain more efficiency per processing cycle which can (and routinely does) translate into more performance per watt. This has been one of AMD’s historic arguments that, in recent months, has fallen slightly on its face as it has been eclipsed by Intel in IPC and nominal power draws.    I find it fascinating to start entering data against AMD’s Platform Power Estimator and seeing the monetary returns, etc. (yes, it’s AMD biased).  Back to the data center, though.  On a larger scale, it does make sense to collapse 10 servers into one to increase operational efficiency but if the surrounding architecture isn’t managed along with it, what difference have you really made?  This article at SearchStorage points to data center that changing infrastructure to promote green computing.

My two skew points enumerated above (the virtualized server appliance and the data center) are simple points of comparison and honestly, I’ve probably made a muddle of things in my explanation.  What I’m curious about is how YOU would go about changing YOUR data centers and/or products to encourage environmental responsibility.  For an EMC example, we recently introduced our Centera 750GB LV product.  Using Intel Sossaman processors, the power footprint of the device is significantly lowered compared to previous generations of product.  That’s green storage in action.  Also, you can see The Storage Anarchist’s take on the DMX4 and it’s power footprint.

The gauntlet has been gently tossed; any takers?



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