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Are 'Green' Drives Really Green?

The storage industry is often guilty of jumping on the bandwagon without giving the architecture much thought. We see this in solid state disk, data deduplication, and green drives. Are users really going to see decreased power consumption by deploying green drives? If so, is it going to be worth the effort of replacing your current systems?
The storage industry is often guilty of jumping on the bandwagon without giving the architecture much thought. We see this in solid state disk, data deduplication, and green drives. Are users really going to see decreased power consumption by deploying green drives? If so, is it going to be worth the effort of replacing your current systems?What is a green drive? Basically, it's a drive that can slow down its RPM's to be able to conserve power. There also are green archive systems, which can power-manage drives and turn them off. In either case, the power consumption part kicks in after a certain period of idle time or when the system has the intelligence to decide that it is unlikely to need access to those drives again and it is OK to either spin them down or power them off.

Another Shade Of Green
This isn't to be confused with green primary storage systems that really don't provide power management; they allow you to use techniques such as thin provisioning, data deduplication, or intelligent data movement to reduce the amount of physical storage that needs to be purchased. Frankly, given the realities of active storage, it is frequently accessing the drives; it is likely that being able to significantly reduce your storage footprint may be more effective than counting on power-managed drives.

This is another shade of green. While not the classic of drives that are powered down after a period of inactivity, it's rather drives that are never powered because they are never purchased.

Archive And Green
When it comes to secondary storage, if you have chosen to use disk archiving, power-managed drives in a power-managed system begin to make sense. They give you the ability to very densely pack your storage, only power a portion of it, and then have some intelligence to make sure data is placed in such a way that drives are powered on only when they need to be.

Many of the storage manufacturers are beginning to offer green drives as an add-on to their existing storage systems, and then some manufacturers such as Copan Systems and NexSan have specific systems that target the space. In our next entry, we'll look at some of the architectural differences between these systems.

Then we will pull this all together in our upcoming Webcast, Demystifying Primary Storage Data Reduction.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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