The Green Monster

Environmental issues could squeeze data center managers even more in coming months

January 17, 2007

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Managing and protecting stored data demands expertise in security, compliance, and storage technology. Now the job is demanding that managers meet yet another multilayered challenge the environment.

This topic encompasses a range of issues, from the electrical power required to run today's data centers, to the physical composition of machinery and the best way to dispose of it.

The environment could become as big an issue as compliance for many ITers — in effect, a green monster.

In Europe, for instance, the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) directive, instituted last year, includes penalties like fines and jail time for companies that fail to manufacture or use hardware that is free of toxic substances, such as lead and mercury. (See The Green Machine Challenge.)

Experts say it's just a matter of time before the U.S. launches similar mandates. Most big storage suppliers are already on board, forced to get with the ROHS program or lose sales in Europe.All this leads into another issue: proper disposal. This doesn't just mean ensuring your NAS, tape drives, and disks are enviro-friendly enough to be trashed after upgrades without threatening public health. Most storage equipment contains data that mustn't fall into the wrong hands. Disposing of it means applying sophisticated encryption, stripping the disks, shredding the tape drives, or mangling the gear beyond repair.

(Incidentally, check out our latest poll to let us know how your organization views the disposal issue.)

The paranoia surrounding data disposal can't be underestimated. "[W]ho guarantees all those disk drives getting replaced every 36 months are truly cleaned?" asks Jonathan W. Buckley, VP of marketing at optical archiving vendor PowerFile Inc.

Who indeed? The need to be sure data's really gone has generated an industry segment of its own — as well as more vendor claims. (See Data Demolition.)

Meanwhile, power consumption continues to be an environmental concern. It's become a rallying cry for sellers of data center space, who claim most companies will soon outgrow their own facilities and be forced to look to independent co-location providers for help. (See 365 Main.)Power consumption is also a theme for suppliers selling virtualization, thin provisioning, and other kinds of technologies aimed at reducing requirements for storage and server hardware. (See Power Problems Plague Users and Archiving Gets a Refresh.)

Some evidence of the "power use" campaign that's quite compelling can be seen in reflections by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) CTO Hu Yoshida in his recent blog on the topic.

"If you can’t get any more power into your building, virtualization can ... help you to migrate your applications data to another data center, to another power grid, or even another geography where the energy source may be more reliable or lower cost," Yoshida writes. "If you are concerned about power and cooling, consider using storage virtualization to help address it."

Ironically, the same issue that's helping to sell virtualization has proven to be the soft underbelly for blade system technology, which needs extra cooling and attendant power consumption. (See Blades Still Too Hot.) Nevertheless, vendors such as IBM point to simplified cabling, bigger bandwidth, and virtualized applications as balancing factors. (See Will Blades Cut Path for 10-Gig?.)

The cluster of green topics hasn't been fully harvested. We expect to see and hear a lot more about it in coming months. We also expect to hear from you about it. Write, call, or hit those message boards.— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights