All-Flash Data Centers: A Win for Green Transition & Bottom Lines

ByLauren Jane Petit

July 30, 2021

Lauren Jane Petit

Data centers are the physical foundation of our virtual world. They store, process, and distribute the data that powers just about any digital service you can imagine — from online banking to instant messaging. This has made them one of the most valuable parts of modern business infrastructure.

But it’s also turned them into one of the world’s biggest consumers of electricity. Today, data centers account for between 2-3% of the global annual energy consumption and have a carbon footprint equal to that of the aviation industry.

As new technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) accelerate data growth, this proportion is only set to increase. This gives rise to an urgent challenge: How can we maximize the value of our data, while minimizing its environmental cost?

Could the answer lie with the all-flash data center?

More data, More Damage

The global increase in data has sent demand for data centers soaring. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the number of data centers worldwide has increased from 500,000 in 2012 to over 8 million today. Each of these houses thousands – if not tens of thousands – of devices that must be continuously powered and cooled, adding up to an average electricity consumption of 200 terawatt hours per year. That’s more than the annual energy use of some countries.

If left to continue like this, experts predict that data centers could account for 10% of the global electricity consumption by 2030. And greenhouse gas emissions, which currently stand at 2% of the world’s total, could double every 4 years. Needless to say, this presents a huge challenge to the industry.  

Experts predict that data centers could account for 10% of the global electricity consumption by 2030.

Fortunately, efforts are being made to counter this. The European Union, for example, has pledged to make the region’s data centers carbon neutral by 2030. Meanwhile, China has implemented strict Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) regulations in some of its largest cities, allowing only for the construction of data centers with a PUE of 1.3 or below in Shanghai.

Organizations are also taking action to reduce their footprint. Many are investing in more sustainable renewable energies, newer equipment, and more efficient cooling techniques. But there’s still a long way to go. High energy consumption remains an obstacle to sustainable digital development, making it important we find more effective ways to address this.

That’s where the all-flash data center comes in.

Bringing Energy efficiency to the Data Center

Recognized as a faster, safer, and greener alternative to data management, the all-flash data center has the potential play a pivotal role in our journey to digital sustainability.

Unlike traditional data center design, an all-flash data center is based on all-flash arrays that contain solid state drives (SSD) instead of hard disk drives (HDD). With fewer moving parts, they need far less – approximately 70% less – power to run and generate much less heat, resulting in lower cooling requirements and energy consumption.

With fewer moving parts, they need far less – approximately 70% less – power to run.

Flash storage also uses compression and deduplication technologies to achieve much higher levels of data reduction. For example, a chassis can contain up to 36 NVMe SSDs, increasing disk density by more than 40%. This allows organizations to maximize available storage space while using less hardware. Not only does this reduce complexity, it also cuts power consumption and slashes operating costs.

Many forward-thinking businesses are already enjoying the benefits of all-flash. One example is a leading Chinese car manufacturer whose mission centers on sustainability. In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of its ever-increasing data, the company invested in Huawei OceanStor Dorado. Owing to the efficiency of all-flash, it saw a 64.2% decrease in energy consumption and expects to enjoy a further 47.2% cut in electricity and cooling costs over the first 5 years of use.

Read more: OceanStor Dorado Awarded Recommended Rankings in DCIG Buyer’s Guide

Considering that electricity fees account for over half of OPEX of most data centers across a 10-year cycle, such savings serve as a compelling argument for switching to an all-flash data center.

Balancing Sustainability and Success

While committing to greener practices is easy, the challenge lies in balancing them with growth. An effective data center solution shouldn’t only offer environmental benefits – it also needs to be fast, reliable, secure, and profitable. 

Built to handle the demands of today’s data-driven world, the all-flash data center ticks all the boxes. Besides making data centers more energy efficient, all-flash infrastructure also significantly reduces processing times. In fact, high input/output operations per second (IOPS) and low latency combine to deliver 40 times higher system performance than HDDs. This results in faster loading times, better system responsiveness, and unbeatable user experience.

Organizations across all sectors understand the importance of this. Nowadays, how effectively a business handles traffic surges can be the difference between retaining a customer and losing one. In this sense, choosing the right data center infrastructure is crucial.

All-Flash in Action

Kenya

One of Kenya’s largest banks discovered this late last year when expanding its online services. As traffic volumes increased to a level its legacy infrastructure couldn’t sustain, its systems slowed and began affecting user experience. To maintain its competitive edge, the bank decided to upgrade to OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage.

Since deploying the solution, system performance has increased from 60 to 420 transactions per second (TPS), helping the bank deliver consistently good user experience during both regular and peak service times.

One of the biggest threats to any organization is data center downtime. Outages of even a few minutes can cause irreparable financial and reputational damage. So, data centers must also provide reliable round-the-clock performance and ultimate data protection. Here too, all-flash has the advantage; thanks to the lack of mechanical components, SSDs aren’t vulnerable to collision, shock, or vibration and cannot encounter mechanical faults. This means organizations can rely on an all-flash data center to deliver stable, fault-free services, no matter what.

Achieving Green Data Growth

The emergence of new technologies will only make data centers more important. As this happens, it’s essential we find ways to reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainable data growth. At the same time, we must also strive to balance this with the need for business growth, innovation, and success.

Combining energy-efficiency with reliability and speed, the all-flash data center is an example of how, with the right technologies, we can achieve two quite contrasting goals. It not only presents a promising alternative to traditional infrastructure, but a significant step toward data center sustainability.

To support the transition to a faster, more reliable, and sustainable data center, Huawei offers a range of products and solutions to suit various industries, workloads, and application scenarios.

Learn more about our award-winning all-flash data center solutions and how they can help stimulate sustainable growth for your business.


Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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Lauren Jane Petit

Senior Technology Writer

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