Green is the New Black

new blackGoing “green” isn’t a new concept. For IT execs and CFOs, it is becoming a top priority to help save the planet and most assuredly to save money. According to a report by IDC, the digital universe is doubling in size every two years and by 2020 the data we create and copy will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes, annually. Energy costs to store this data are getting more and more expensive and energy itself is scarce; therefore, we must manage the use of energy more proficiently. “Green” storage is a multi-pronged stratagem of using technologies and practices to achieve data storage energy conservation.

In this BlogBytes post we will examine several storage technologies and key cost considerations. We will discover that going “green” with tape is a vital element in achieving storage energy bliss, because green is the new black.

Storage Technologies – Are They “Green”?

microHard disk drives now have higher capacities, which can allow more data to be stored in the same footprint, potentially slowing the increase in energy consumption. For example, investing in a 500GB drive to replace a 250GB drive may slow consumption. Some drives can support variable speeds and newer controllers can consume less electricity; however, there are still constantly moving parts and heat generation that consume power and require cooling energy. See TCO studies below.

Solid State-Drive (SSD) has no moving parts; the information is stored in microchips. Since there are no moving parts, the amount of energy consumed can be reduced.  The downside? This can be an expensive investment compared to other forms of storage.

MAID (massive array of idle disks) is a technology intended to reduce power consumption by having only disk drives in active use spinning at any given time. The disks not in use spin down. Some have questioned the impact of this concept on the longevity of the drives and the cost vs. savings risk prospective.

Data Reduction implementations can help reduce the amount of data stored, which can then reduce the amount of power consuming technology needed. For example, data deduplication can reduce the amount of disk storage needed for certain data sets, thereby reducing power consumption.


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One of the over-riding considerations to examine in going “green” is how data is used. Studies have shown that once data is stored, it is rarely accessed again. About 80% or more of data stored goes un-accessed; therefore, keeping data on technologies that consume high amounts of power and require energy hungry cooling does not make sense. Move that data to low energy consuming technology. Color it “green” with tape!

Tape Technology is increasingly becoming the go to platform for long term storage because it costs far less to acquire, maintain, power and cool than other data storage technologies, which helps save your organization tons of money.  In addition, tape supports off-line storage helping to secure the data from access and corruption.

TCO Studies – Huge Energy Savings with Tape

low energyA Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) study by the Brad Johns Consulting Group “Lower Costs with Tape NAS” compared a small LTO tape library system with a small disk NAS system over a 10 year period and found the LTO system consumed 10 times less energy than the disk system over the ten year period, saving over $90,000.

Similar results were found in a large scale TCO study detailed by ESG in the white paper “Analyzing the Economic Value of LTO Tape for Long-term Data Retention over a 10-year period.”  This economic analysis of a large scale data retention environment compared an LTO tape based system with a primary mode of operation disk system and included all essential cost categories: hardware, software, media, infrastructure (i.e., power costs and rack space opportunity costs), maintenance charges, staff costs, data migration costs, and data access costs.  The analysis yielded nearly $13.5M in estimated total cost savings with the LTO system over a ten-year time horizon with an additional $400K in incremental user benefit delivered over and above what is expected with the disk-based alternative. Regarding energy, the LTO solution was 10 times less costly. See a summary of the ESG paper here. An LTO tape drive when idle can consume as little power as a light bulb and an LTO-7 cartridge (holding up to 15 terabytes of compressed data) residing on a shelf or in a tape library slot consumes no power allowing for a small carbon footprint!

What can you do? Go “Green” with Storage…It’s the New Black!

  • Trash data you don’t need before storing it
  • Put high access data on SSD flash drives
  • Put interim data on high capacity hard disk drives
  • Move data for safe keeping and low energy consumption to LTO tape technology, especially low access long term data