Five ways to improve storage power efficiency

What can you do to improve data center power consumption?

Anyone responsible for managing a data center understands the increasing importance of power efficiency. This is especially the case in data centers where consolidation and higher-density equipment have packed more and more devices into less floor space.

Although many companies have already consolidated their storage and server environments, they could benefit further by consolidating their storage-area network (SAN) environments. In fact, some data centers have reached or are nearing the maximum power allotment for their facilities, meaning there is simply no choice but to consolidate and deploy more power-efficient devices.

IT managers already know that servers are putting a strain on the world's power grids, but what is often overlooked is the energy consumption of storage environments, which are expanding rapidly to accommodate the explosive growth of digital data. IDC calculates that 161 billion gigabytes of digital data was generated in 2006 alone.

According to Gartner, servers account for 40% of the data center's power consumption, but storage comes in a close second, with 37%. What's more, storage-related devices -- including SAN devices -- can consume 1,000 watts or more. The lesson? When attempting to contain your data center power usage (and costs), you can't afford to neglect your storage or SAN environments.

What can you do to improve data center power consumption? To better understand some of the issues, it helps to consider the analogy of transportation and fuel efficiency. Vehicles such as electric, hybrid or compact cars are obviously more fuel-efficient than larger, petroleum-fueled vehicles.

However, a larger vehicle such as a bus can provide a highly efficient mode of transportation since it can accommodate many passengers at a low fuel-per-passenger ratio. This concept reflects what is occurring in today's data centers: consolidation of multiple devices into a larger shared resource. And if the shared resource happens to be a newer energy-efficient model, the benefits are magnified.

Continuing this analogy, here are five practical steps you can take to improve storage power efficiency in your data center:

1. Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. A bus uses more fuel than a car, but its per-passenger consumption is lower compared to individual cars. If you haven't yet consolidated your SAN infrastructure, you might want to consider implementing a cost-effective yet scalable SAN director rather than continuing to add individual switches, which can consume more power in certain configurations.

2. Use the most efficient building blocks possible. Hybrid vehicles are more efficient than older gas or diesel-only models. Likewise, you can deploy the most modern, energy-efficient server, storage, and switch models to save power and money.

3. Power on devices only when you need them. Unplug any unused devices, which in the SAN include Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) devices. In the bus analogy, these devices would take up a passenger seat even if no one is sitting there, an inefficient approach to energy usage. Fortunately, many newer storage arrays will spin down their drives when they are not used (not yet provisioned) to save power.

4. Don't neglect cooling efficiency. Equipment that runs hot or requires additional cooling considerations can significantly impact power consumption, and your budget. The more efficient your infrastructure, the less you spend operating your HVAC systems. Anytime your HVAC system has to work harder (think of a bus always driving uphill), your energy consumption and costs will be higher. Devices in the data center that enable you to implement hot-aisle/cool-aisle designs tend to be more efficient, whereas devices that don't conform to a standard approach make the HVAC system work that much harder.

5. Work with vendors that participate in "The Green Grid." The first industry initiative dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems, the Green Grid includes vendors who focus on solving the real-world data center issues you face on a daily basis. The organization is chartered to develop platform-neutral standards, measurement methods, processes, and technologies to reduce overall power consumption in data centers around the globe.

By following these steps, you can implement an energy-efficient data center that meets your particular business requirements. However, going green is more than just a way to reduce power usage or comply with a corporate mandate, it can be a smart financial move and strategic competitive advantage.

Crain is CTO of Brocade. Reach him at

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Crain

Network World
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >




Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?