Storage power costs to approach $2B this year, says IDC

Suggests that solid-state storage, smaller hard drives could help cut cost to power, cool drives

Businesses last year spent approximately US$1.3 billion to make sure that spinning hard disk drives did not overheat and kept running despite being squeezed to near-capacity limits, according to IDC.

In a report released last week, IDC forecast that IT spending required to cool and power spinning disk drives will reach US$1.8 billion by the end of this year and over US$2 billion in 2009, increasing pressure on executives to create more energy efficient data centers.

IDC estimated more than 49 million hard disk drives in external storage arrays were in use by businesses around the world last year to keep up with exploding enterprise data storage demands. Since corporate customers are boosting storage capacity by an aggregate rate of 50% a year, the impact of making sure enough power is available to run and cool disk drives is forcing a dramatic increases in energy costs for IT managers, said Dave Reinsel, group vice-president for Storage and Semiconductors at IDC.

Although technologies like solid-state storage devices can help IT managers cut back on the use of power-hungry spinning disk drives, Reinsel cautioned that any benefits could be offset by product immaturity or unreliability.

Reinsel said IT managers in 2007 dedicated an average of nearly 13 watts of energy to every disk drive in their data centers. He estimated the cost of powering the systems at 7 cents per kilowatt per hour, he added.

Variables used by IDC to calculate its external findings on storage power and cooling include: hard disk drive spin speeds, device form-factor, interface, capacity and workloads of the drives. The firm also made "allowances" for power inefficiencies, fans, power supplies, and controllers for its research.

"Data center storage requirements are growing 50-55 per cent per year, but hard drive capacities are only growing 30-35 per cent per year. In order to keep up with this growth, you either have to put in more and more drives or you look for alternatives to stave off buying new drives," remarked Reinsel.

Containing no moving parts, NAND flash-based solid-state storage has perhaps the best opportunity to provide corporate customers with a superior power-saving substitute over physical spinning drives. Vendors are already at work re-configuring their server systems for that outcome. Last week, Hewlett-Packard outlined plans to add solid-state across its server portfolio. Sun Microsystems announced similar plans earlier this month, while EMC said in January that it plans to add a solid-state option on its high-end Symmetrix storage arrays.

Reinsel also recommended that IT managers look to other technologies, such as de-duplication, thin provisioning and compression, to cut costs. He also suggested that IT managers turn to smaller disk drives, and adopt a tiered storage architecture.

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Brian Fonseca

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