Is All-Flash the Answer to Green Data Storage?

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Sustainability is now an important factor when building a data center. How can an all-flash approach to storage help achieve this?

Article 4 Minutes
Is All-Flash the Answer to Green Data Storage?

Data storage is a vital part of your IT network, yet it's one that may often be overlooked. There are a wide range of factors that need to be considered when planning your storage solution, including the balance between cost and performance, security and access control issues and practical questions such as where to physically locate your data.

However, one additional issue that's proving increasingly important is the environmental impact of your storage needs. As data volumes grow, demand for capacity and speed will increase, and this will naturally mean greater energy usage for your data center - not only in terms of keeping the storage itself running, but the power and cooling required for the servers that will process it.

Why you need to factor sustainability into your data center

All enterprises now need to factor environmental issues into their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies. Customers today are highly aware of businesses' efforts in this area, and efforts to reduce energy usage and cut carbon footprint can make a difference to your revenue as well as your expenditure.

Indeed, according to Deloitte, more than a third of consumers (34%) say they have increasingly opted for brands that have environmentally sustainable practices or values in the last 12 months. As such, every part of your operation needs to be doing its bit to contribute to your overall performance in this area.

Your IT infrastructure - and in particular your data center - is no different. In fact, this should be a top priority for improving your overall environmental performance, as this is a major drain on energy.

According to the International Data Corporation, the number of data centers in operation around the world increased from 500,000 in 2012 to over eight million in 2021, consuming an average of 200 terawatt hours of electricity per year.

If these trends continue, data centers could account for as much as 10% of the world's total energy consumption by 2030, and make it much harder to achieve carbon-neutral goals. And at a time when energy costs are only set to increase, it will also be vital to keep electricity usage as low as possible.

Why all-flash storage could be the future

One way to achieve this within your data center may well be to consider all-flash storage. These solutions have been growing in popularity for some time now. As the technology advances and becomes more affordable, it now represents a realistic option for many enterprises, and offers a number of advantages over more traditional forms of data storage such as hard disk drives (HDDs).

Firstly, there’s the performance advantage they can offer. Flash storage is a type of solid state drive (SSD), which means it has no moving parts and offers much faster input/output operations. Flash drives use NVMe (non-volatile memory express) technology, which bypasses the controllers used in traditional SATA or SAS. As well as increased responsiveness, this can allow for lower power use.

While the high performance of NVMe does draw more power when in use than an equivalent SATA drive, it offers significantly reduced consumption when in standby mode. What's more, a single SSD may replace multiple HDDs, which means that overall, you're likely to see a significant boost to your efficiency across a data center.

Previously, the biggest arguments against all-flash storage were the cost of the hardware and the lower capacity compared with HDDs or tape drives. But these issues are rapidly being overcome as the technology advances and, in the coming years, it's to be expected that flash technology will be much more competitive with traditional alternatives for these considerations.

This means their use will no longer be limited to specialized, high-performance requirements, and they will be a more viable option for equipping entire storage solutions.

The benefits of all-flash for meeting green requirements

Replacing all your existing HDDs with an all-flash approach may represent a significant upfront investment, but the long-term benefits in terms of cost and sustainability are high.

For instance, the fact that SSDs have no moving parts means they are a much greener option than HDDs, where a significant amount of energy must be expended to keep disks spinning.

However, the energy saving doesn't stop there. The spinning disks of HDDs also generate large amounts of heat, which in turn means you need to invest in cooling solutions. Again, this issue is greatly reduced with all-flash storage options. This means that simply by switching to flash storage throughout your data center, you could immediately save up to 70% on power costs.

On top of this, flash storage technologies can also reduce the physical infrastructure needed. Because these tools utilize compression and deduplication technologies, they can provide much higher levels of data reduction than HDDs, allowing companies to store the same amount of data in a smaller physical space. For instance, a chassis can contain up to 36 NVMe SSDs, increasing disk density by more than 40% compared with legacy storage alternatives.

This allows organizations to maximize available storage space, leading to reduced complexity and operating costs, as well as helping cut power consumption - all of which will go a long way to reducing your overall carbon footprint and securing a green data storage solution.

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