Tape Media’s Role in the Green Data Center
Long-standing technology is surprisingly efficient when it comes to “going green” with storage.
by Mark Ferelli
As data protection becomes a growing part of the IT budget, it seems like every technology that records data wants to claim primacy and indispensability. Too frequently in the frantic dash for market share, technology that has stood the test of time is falsely accused of being hopelessly out of date. So it is with magnetic tape in the data center. The veteran technology is inaccurately identified as “yesterday’s technology,” but tape technology is experiencing a Renaissance; a rebirth based on the growing recognition that tape technology is responding regularly and reliably to today’s vital business requirements.
Much as I hate to contradict the homey wisdom of Kermit the Frog, being green is easier than you think. Tape technology is already helping to keep the data center green as utility bills rise. There is a temptation in the marketplace to label tape as “yesterday’s technology,” but it is hard to make a compelling case to that effect when tape continues to solve today’s problems.
The growing awareness of the environmental impact of power consumption in the data center has led enterprises to address rising power and HVAC costs.
Greg Schultz, founder and analyst at StorageIO, reports that in the August 2007 EPA report to Congress on energy usage in U.S. data centers. During 2006, IT data centers consumed about 61 billion kilowatt hours of electricity at an approximate cost of $4.5 billion. Also reported: on average, IT data centers consume 15-20 times the energy per square foot than does a comparable office building.
Server consolidation and intelligent server virtualization have helped keep the data center green, even in intense 24/7 operation, but energy efficiency at the server level is not a complete solution. The storage infrastructure must follow suit.
While there is no single “silver bullet” to make green the storage infrastructure, using the right technology can make an immediate impact. Deployment decisions are as important as the green labels on new product acquisitions.
Active advocacy abroad suggests that hard disk technology has a manifest destiny to store data throughout the data lifecycle, from primary storage through archival storage. Advocates point to disk’s capacities and the high I/O rates that are a part of spin physics.
However, hard disk drives are intricate electromechanical products. They incorporate diverse technologies, including precision motors, spinning platters on spindles, head-positioning electronics, advanced read/write heads, slider assemblies, and more. With so many building blocks, there are many ways a hard disk drive can fail. There are also the non-component threats of thermal buildup and rotational vibration.