EMC's Power Play

New services and software attempt to tackle users' electrical power concerns

December 7, 2006

4 Min Read
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EMC made its first move to tackle electrical power challenges today, although the vendor may encounter resistance from users looking for technologies that can address both their server and storage energy concerns. (See EMC Intros Tools.)

Users are certainly feeling the power pressure at the moment. Storage managers at the recent SNW show in Orlando, for example, voiced their concerns about the power demands of their growing storage infrastructures. (See Power Problems Plague Users and Summer Storage Survival.)

EMC's offerings include Energy Efficiency Services, a set of assessment and planning services designed to boost energy efficiency in their data centers, and PowerCalculator, a software tool for modeling the power impact of future storage deployments.

One defense contractor has already identified $4.5 million in power and cooling savings by using Energy Efficiency Services, according to Barbara Robidoux, EMC's vice president of storage platforms product marketing, although she would not say who the customer is.

The savings, according to the exec, came largely from server and storage consolidation and a reduction in the contractor's floorspace. "That's enough savings to power up a string of lights from New York to Pittsburgh," she tells Byte and Switch.Pricing, though, remains something of a mystery. EMC was unable to give even a ballpark figure for the cost of the consulting service, which is available today, saying that it varies from project to project. The service, of course, could also provide a foot in the door for EMC to sell other products. "Recommendations may include consolidating your Intel server base via VMware," admits Robidoux.

Other suggestions could include swapping low-density and high-density drives. "Let's say that you could put all your tier 2 data onto higher-density drives," says the exec, adding that a 500-Gbyte Symmetrix Fibre Channel drive uses the same power as a 146-Gbyte drive.

The vendor's other energy offering is PowerCalculator, a software tool for checking the power demands of storage deployments. "It [examines] all the compute elements put together," explains Robidoux. "It's the number and type of disk drives, the computing elements, the controllers, and the number of processors in there."

Although available free of charge, the tool is deployed by EMC's professional services division or one of the vendor's partners. Currently, users cannot run PowerCalculator themselves, although EMC is planning to make the tool available via the Internet sometime next year.

This is nonetheless the first time that a vendor has tackled storage-specific power issues, according to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Research. "There has been a lot of talk about power efficiency in the data center, but most of the conversation has been from the server vendors," he says. "This is the first major effort by a storage vendor to come to terms with this."Users, explains the analyst, are coming up against power challenges as they shuffle their storage to support Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). "I believe there's a case to be made for the relationship between power consumption and tiered storage. The faster the drive, the more power they consume."

At this stage, though, PowerCalculator can only work with EMC's Symmetrix DMX-3, CLARiiON CX3 UltraScale, and Celerra devices, although the vendor is planning to extend this to storage devices from other vendors at some point in the future.

At least one IT manager tells Byte and Switch that he is not sold on the storage-specific nature of EMC's PowerCalculator. "Anybody who just focuses on a single aspect is missing the point for larger data center installations," says Rick Siner, director of technical services at Michigan-based healthcare firm Priority Health. "The successful vendors in this space have to look at everything, they have to be vendor and equipment agnostic."

He tells Byte and Switch that servers still represent by far the largest power and cooling challenge within his infrastructure, with storage lagging some way behind. "In one of our data centers, storage typically accounts for between 20 and 25 percent of the power."

Certainly, servers, and particularly blade servers, have been grabbing most of the power and cooling headlines over recent months. (See Blades Still Too Hot, HP Bridges Power & Cooling Gap, and Data Center Heat Wave.) Earlier this year, for example, IBM introduced "cool Blue" cooling technology for servers. (See IBM Unveils Cool Blue and IBM Chills Out.) More recently, the vendor took the wraps off its own power and cooling assessment services for data centers. (See IBM Tackles Power & Cooling.)Other vendors are also looking to get in on this act, albeit, like IBM, focusing largely on servers. Earlier this week Dell also announced plans to extend its Energy Smart technology from its desktops to some of its servers in an attempt to tap into users' power fears. (See Dell Tackles Energy Efficiency.)

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD)

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Pund-IT Inc.

  • VMware Inc.

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