Earth Day: Three Green Reasons for Cold Data Storage & Archiving

This Earth Week, I thought would take a second to share my thoughts on the sustainability of our data center storage choices and how efficient use of secondary storage not only makes good business sense but also helps save our planet.

Data Storage Power Consumption at Untenable Levels

As we all know, data growth is exploding and predicted to reach 44 Zettabytes by 2020 (according to IDC) and continue to accelerate from there. Over 80% of this data is unstructured, and most of our storage systems were not designed for this diversity of data, of varying quality and value. As a result, most businesses end up storing, replicating and protecting all their data on expensive primary storage. Not only is this unsustainable from a cost perspective, but it is also unsustainable from an environmental perspective.

Since the majority of the data we store is rarely accessed or cold within weeks of creation, by separating out hot data and cold data during the data lifecycle and managing them differently, we can not only increase our cost efficiency but also our environmental efficiency. Transparently identifying and archiving cold data to highly efficient secondary cold data storage solutions such as object storage, tape and cloud can have a significant improvement in our energy usage.

Having just celebrated another World Earth Day, it is a good time for us to think of three good reasons why the better use of transparent data archiving, cold data storage and the burgeoning variety of secondary storage choices helps both our bottom line and our environment.

Reason 1: More choices to progressively tier cold data

We are seeing tremendous innovation in the options for cold data storage, both on-prem and cloud, from Object storage solutions such as IBM Cloud Object Storage and Cloudian, to cloud storage solutions such as Google Nearline and Coldline, AWS and Glacier, and Microsoft Azure, to long-term tape options such as Spectra Logic. These secondary storage solutions are not only more efficient in storing data, but they also offer varying degrees of energy efficiency, as they are designed for cold data that does not need fast retrieval times, and hence they can be powered off or offline as needed to conserve power usage. Tape, for instance, is 20 times more efficient in terms of power usage than disk but has longer retrieval times. Object storage is typically slightly slower than primary storage, but not as energy efficient as tape. By using data management solutions that transparently tier colder data down secondary storage tiers (e.g. put data not used in over 6 months to AWS S3 and if it has not been used in another year, move it to Glacier), you can obtain the required SLA on data at the right price and energy consumption.

Reason 2: Intelligent Data Management Solutions to Identify and Transparently Archive Cold Data

A key reason why businesses end up keeping all data on the primary storage is that it has historically been really hard to identify cold data across a customer’s NAS environment and move it to secondary storage such as cloud or object or tape, without a lot of tedious manual effort by IT and without user disruption.

This is no longer the case – you can now get analytics on all your NAS data, set policies for when you want data tiered to lower cost cold data storage, and archive it progressively to colder storage options, all without users having to look elsewhere for data or change paradigms between file and object.

Reason 3: Cut Power Consumption Growth by over 50%

A recent study found that taking this “business as usual” approach would lead to a 79% growth in energy use for data storage to handle tenfold data growth, even assuming the most optimistic use of efficient storage and cloud storage. Given that we are already on an unsustainable path of power consumption, this near doubling of power usage is clearly undesirable. This same study found that by adopting intelligent data management policies to aggressively identify and archive cold data to offline cold storage, data center energy for data storage would only grow by 24%.

So, having just celebrated another Earth Day, let us take a moment to see how we can help extend the life of our beautiful planet by managing our cold data more efficiently.

Bonus Reason: Save money while saving the planet

Transparently moving data the secondary storage targets like those identified above is not only environmentally friendly, it is also budget friendly.

Read our Quantifying the Value of Intelligent Data Management report to learn how organizations like yours are cutting their NAS costs by leveraging these more green storage solutions.

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