Power & Cooling Costs Top $1B Mark

Disk drive explosion is pushing energy costs through the roof, but help is at hand

June 18, 2008

3 Min Read
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The costs to businesses of powering and cooling their external storage reached a staggering $1 billion last year, according to research released today by analyst firm IDC.

Here’s the crux of the matter -- data center storage requirements are growing at about 55 percent a year, while hard disk drive capacities are growing at 30 to 35 percent a year,” explains IDC analyst David Reinsel, who wrote the research report. “This means that we’re putting an abundance of drives into the data center; we’re having to do a lot more work to cool them down.”

IDC estimates that with the average worldwide electricity cost of 7 cents per kilowatt-hour last year, the cost of powering and cooling these drives topped the $1 billion mark, a figure which could go though roof in the next few years.

Between 2008 and 2012, the storage industry will ship nearly eight times the amount of external storage that is currently sold, according to IDC.

“Kudos to the disk drive industry for making storage so cheap, but there’s a hidden cost behind the acquisition of these drives, and that’s the cost to power and cool them,” says Reinsel.The analyst warns that the biggest culprits are the largest 15,000 RPM drives. “A 3.5-inch 15,000 RPM drive consumes more power than a 2.5-inch 15,000 RPM drive because you have more spindles and bigger components,” he explains, adding that there are ways for users to contain these spiraling costs.

One method is to deploy what Reinsel describes as “more eco-friendly drives”, typically those found within systems which either power down such as MAID or use ‘spin-down’ disks such as Xyratex.

Users can also make their lives much easier by deploying 2.5-inch drives, according to the analyst.

“Your small form factor drives tend to consume about half as much power as your traditional enterprise disk drives,” says Reinsel, touching on a theme which has already been identified by the Wikibon user group.

“Storage managers should project their storage requirements over the next five years [and] assume a rapid transition to 2.5-inch drives,” warned Nicholas Allen, a Wikibon member and storage consultant, in a recent research note.In addition to deploying smaller drives, the user group also urged CIOs and IT managers to consider rear door heat exchangers with chilled water cooling, thin provisioning, and virtualization.

IDC’s Reinsel echoed these sentiments during an interview with Byte and Switch earlier today.

“One strategy is to keep from purchasing more drives,” he says. “This could be by consolidation, de-duplication, compression, and virtualization.”

Another option could be Solid State Disk (SSD) technology, which is now been championed by the likes of Sun and EMC.

Sun, for example, claims that SSDs consume just 20 percent of the energy of a typical hard disk drive by virtue of fewer moving parts, something IDC’s Reinsel feels could be crucial to users.“One of the reasons why there is so much interest in SSDs is because they consume even less power,” he says.

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  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IDC

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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