DoE Issues Green Storage Warning

Top US government official warns vendors to get their green act together

November 28, 2007

3 Min Read
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NEW YORK CITY -- The United Nations -- Storage and server vendors must start delivering on their promises of "green" technology, according to Alexander Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE).

Delivering the keynote at the IT Infrastructure Conference on Climate Change Tuesday, the official warned that efforts to develop green technology have been more talk than substance. "We have dwelt on the area of problem identification for a very long time," he said. "The time for action is upon us."

Recent months have seen several announcements from vendors including HDS, IBM, EMC, and Copan in areas such as power and cooling, but Karsner feels that much more work needs to be done.

In particular, the official highlighted the vast amounts of energy wasted through expensive cooling systems, with users pumping air inefficiently around their server and storage racks.

"What would happen if you did something simple like have the air outlets in one direction?" he asked. "What would happen if we had more standardization?"Last week a study by Symantec revealed that most Global 2000 companies are struggling to build green data centers. The report said energy-efficient technologies typically mean an additional layer of management complexity.

Users have already voiced their concern about shortcomings in storage vendors' energy-saving offerings, emphasizing that IT managers are forced to juggle a number of different technologies.

Despite the work of industry bodies such as the Green Grid, Karsner urged vendors to speed up their roadmaps for developing green technology. "It's not like cars, which take five years [to develop]," he told Byte and Switch, contending that IT vendors can quickly enhance existing products with energy-efficient features.

One vendor that has made a song and dance about green technology is IBM, which recently allocated $1 billion to its environmental efforts. Big Blue outlined a number of new green products here yesterday.

"There's innovation at the atomic level," said Rich Lechner, IBM's vice president of IT optimization, during a panel discussion, explaining that the vendor is currently developing a cooling technology called Airgap, which tackles heat generation at the processor level."We're injecting atomic layers of air between the processors -- that will increase dissipation of heat by 40 percent," Lechner claims. This will be available on IBM's cell processors sometime in the next 12 to 24 months, and it eventually will be extended to the vendor's other chip technologies.

IBM is also enhancing its "variable fan" technology, which uses heat monitors to control the speed of the fans within its servers. "If you can get them to spin at a variable rate based on monitoring, you can cut energy [demands] by half," said Lechner. "That's in place on our System P servers right now. You will find that on our storage arrays next year."

Another vendor looking to control the speed of its hardware components is EMC, which recently announced plans to "spin down" the disks on its storage arrays in an attempt to harness energy costs.

A number of vendors, including Copan and Nexsan, already tout disk-based power-saving technology, and IBM now looks set to follow.

"What EMC is looking at in terms of innovating at the disk level, we are as well," said Lechner, although he did not reveal any additional product details.The exec was more forthcoming on IBM's attempts to make its own data centers more efficient. The vendor, which has more than 10,000 servers, is currently looking to double its compute power without increasing its 8 million square-foot data center footprint.

"We identified 3,900 of these 10,000 servers that were right for consolidation, and we're consolidating them onto 30 mainframes," said Lechner, adding that the project is expected to shave $415 million off IBM's energy costs over the next five years.

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  • Copan Systems Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Nexsan Technologies Inc.

  • Symantec Corp.

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