Cheap Storage Can Still Add Up

Worldwide enterprise storage costs are predicted to spike from this year’s $1.3 billion to over $2 billion by 2009, according to IDC research. Part of the reason for the hike in costs: storage infrastructure is growing at a annual rate of 50 percent.

Add to that an annual average increase of 19 percent in power and cooling costs and you’ve got some compelling reasons for enterprises to look for “greener” technologies that provide capacity and performance at lower cost, IDC said.

“The report validates the dynamics that have already emerged in the industry,” Dave Reinsel, IDC’s group vice president for storage and semiconductors, told This isn’t exactly news. Vendors have been touting “green” solutions in the market for several years.

But the research does help quantify why enterprises are moving into more efficient storage approaches. The research could also spur the establishment of energy star rating program for storage devices, similar to what’s in place for consumer electrical appliances, noted Reinsel.

The research firm based its figures on an aggregate worldwide electricity cost of $0.07 per kilowatt-hour in 2007, taking into account a wide range of variables including hard disk spin speed, fans, power supplies as well as storage interface technologies such as Fibre Channel.

For enterprises that haven’t jumped on the “green” bandwagon, the figures will likely serve as a wake-up call to move toward leaner and more cost-effective management strategies given tightening IT budgets.

IDC projects that in the next five years the storage industry will ship nearly eight times what it has shipped in the past 11 years.

Yet organizations can’t be expected to develop and build “green” strategies without vendor help and guidance, said Reinsel, as no single technology alone will bring full efficiency.

“There is a real cost to storing data and the strategy has to be about extracting the value of that data in leveraging technologies,” said the analyst. “Companies have to get smart about what they’re storing and how they’re storing it,” he added.

The good news is that more than a few proven “green” technologies are in play within the market. Virtualization, thin provisioning, data deduplication, spin-down disk technologies and smaller form factor disk drives are available and can all help drive efficiency.

One of the most recent is a new NAS product line from Dell that promises more capacity at a cheaper cost and requiring less power.

The PowerVault MD1120 houses 2.5-inch drives which Dell said requires 70 percent less space and up to 50 percent less power than models featuring 3.5-inch drives.

Balancing storage requirements and reasonable operations costs involves enterprises having to make tradeoffs, Reinsel noted. Those tradeoffs may come in the form of reduced performance in data access capability, and using more technology products within a tiered storage approach that will increase management complexity.

“Right now, because storage is so easily affordable, companies are storing more and more data because they can,” said Reinsel. “But with power and cooling bring such budget increases companies have to get smarter about what they’re storing and how they’re storing by using a mixed bag of tools.”

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