Adding a Shade of Green to your Backups: The Real Cost

Data is being generated at an exponential rate and technology is becoming ever faster. The demand for seamless and efficient access to historical information is also increasing as regulatory bodies continue to drive compliance legislation. The boom in data growth is unavoidable and is placing ever-greater demands on data storage.

Many data managers are saying ‘it’s an easy fix—just add more disk!’ The price per terabyte (TB = 1,000 gigabytes) to store information is decreasing, so this seems the obvious option. But what is the real cost of adding more storage?

Have you ever stopped to think of the intangible costs and reactions associated with simply extending your current storage infrastructure? Rack space, increased cooling requirements, power consumption and the impact this has on the environment?

With the heightened focus on greenhouse emissions, the societal mindset is changing and companies are increasingly focusing on becoming environmentally aware in all aspects of what they do, especially with regard to technology.

So how do we solve the information storage puzzle while being environmentally savvy? Tape is a technology that initially springs to mind. With the emergence of DLT-S4 (digital linear tape) and LTO-4 (linear tape open) compressed technology, the footprint required and operational time for mass information storage is certainly decreasing. Tape is possibly the ‘greenest’ storage medium available; it doesn’t have the huge power consumption tag associated with masses of constantly whining spindles and platters as seen in disk storage, nor does it produce anywhere near the same heat dissipation, while being a technology that provides a reasonable cost per TB. Albeit green, tape has a traditionally slow access time and hence does not meet the demand for increased accessibility to information.

Disk is fast, efficient and extremely cost effective, particularly second tier disk such as SATA (serial advanced technology attachment) and the newest player emerging in the market, SAS (serial attached SCSI—small computer system interface). Leveraging this fact, virtual tape libraries (VTLs) have been globally accepted as a must-have in a balanced backup solution. But as mentioned earlier, the intangibilities associated with disk need to be addressed.

Less Storage, More Data                 

The ability to store more data on less physical spindles not only decreases the physical footprint of the storage infrastructure required, but also directly affects the amount of power and cooling infrastructure necessary to support it.

Data de-duplication is now a real and rapidly maturing technology, which is revealing itself as the pre-eminent method for aligning storage technology and the environment.

Quantum, a pioneer in both backup/recovery technology and data de-duplication, has combined its patented de-duplication algorithm with its industry leading VTL appliance range to provide a ‘best of breed’ green backup and recovery solution. Represented as the DXi range, the de-duplication appliances can deliver in excess of 50:1* data reduction capabilities while providing SAN (storage area network) speed backup and recovery throughput.

In real terms this equates to storage of 200TB of data using the same footprint required to store 4TB of data, with the same power and cooling requirements of a 4TB storage device. Reducing power and cooling requirements by 50:1 means a real monetary reduction as well as a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 50:1.

By introducing a de-duplication appliance as a primary backup storage device, seamless access to an increased number of recovery points within a realistic and acceptable time frame can be achieved. The frequency for writing to tape is now reduced, and hence the requirement for a large density, large footprint tape library is reduced, so although tape is green, it can now be ‘greener’.

* The level of data reduction for de-duplication technology is represented as a ratio. This ratio is dependent on the type and quantity of data being stored combined with the frequency of when the data is committed for writing. Results will vary within different environments.

 Bruce Coulthard is the Quantum systems engineer for the Southern Region. Quantum is an official member of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)  ‘Green Storage Initiative’

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of or the publishers.

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