Storage trade group gets green makeover

New techniques can save disk space and speed backups.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has suddenly sprouted green leaves with a task force, working party, and tutorial all directed to making storage more environmentally friendly. It recommends storing less data on fewer disks and archiving to tape.

Juergen Arnold, chairman of SNIA Europe, has released a short article outlining SNIA's response to green data center issues. In it he mentions hazardous substances RoHS and recycling waste but concentrates on storage power, cooling and space needs as these are still unresolved issues.

After mentioning the need for data center power use metrics and the potential of the Green Grid, which includes most SNIA supplier members in its membership list, he discusses two new SNIA (not SNIA Europe) groups and a tutorial.

The membership and remit of SNIA's Green Storage Task Force is unknown and the SNIA was unable to comment on this.

Regarding the SNIA's Green Storage Technical Working Group, Tom Clark, an SNIA board member, stated: "Although The Green Grid's charter includes all IT data center assets, a specific focus on green initiatives for storage and storage networking is being developed by the SNIA. The SNIA Green Storage working group is concentrating on the carbon impact of the complex of servers, switches, directors, storage arrays and tape subsystems that compose data center storage networks." He said that SNIA aims to:"identify means to resolve the contradiction between data growth and growing power scarcity."

Arnold said: "The Green Task force has been working for a few weeks to define SNIA's role in the green IT discussion. Board members and key individuals from the industry are working on defining the next steps. This initiative has not been officially announced, but it will be later this year. As a first result, a Task Working Group (TWG) has been recommended to work on technologies in the storage arena. These are worldwide activities and SNIA is working closely with the "green grid" to avoid overlap."

The SNIA green tutorial is a 50-slide PowerPoint-based PDF file, produced by a Microsoft staffer and SNIA vice-chairman, SW Worth, discussing green data center issues. It is wide-ranging, mentioning thermo-dynamics, a power supply primer, environmental chemistry and heat transfer.

The power supply discussion is heavily U.S.-centric and it's suggested more than once that data centers are moved to the U.S. Columbia river basin, where power is cheap, which is unrealistic to say the least. (Microsoft is building a data center in that area.)

The tutorial mentions file-level single-instancing, which Microsoft has, but not sub-file de-duplication, which it does not have. As a series of bullet points with no explanatory notes it is hard to understand.

Arnold said: "The tutorial, as of today, was the first try to educate storage customers on the topic and was first presented at SNW in San Diego this year. We are just working on the 2nd version; I am part of the review board and I will present it with a European flavor at SNW Europe in Frankfurt. The green discussion as of today is manly on servers and data centers in general. SNIA will work to complement this view within our main focus, which is storage."

Arnold recommends three particular green storage technologies: "the deployment of technologies such as data de-duplication, thin provisioning, and tape-based archiving will already allow data centers to become more environmentally friendly."

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