Advice for CIOs: Green Data Storage Is A Must for Net-Zero Data Centers
Organizations everywhere are looking to meet carbon peak and neutrality goals, and this starts with data centers. To build sustainable data centers, new innovative ways much be adopted to reduce the energy consumption of IT equipment, particularly, storage devices, as well as lowering power usage effectiveness (PUE).
- Energy-efficient data centers: The key to going carbon neutral
To date, 136 countries, which are responsible for 88% of global emissions, have pledged to reach carbon neutrality. Large economies such as China, the US, the EU, and Japan have developed clear plans and enacted legislation to facilitate this goal.
One crucial aspect is the energy efficiency of data centers. By 2025, it is expected that the total energy consumption of data centers will account for 4.5% of the world’s total energy consumption, up from less than 1% in 2010.
To build low-carbon data centers, countries around the world have released programs to guide the development and optimize data center operations. Such programs include China’s Three-year Action Plan for the Development of New Data Centers (2021-2023), the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) in the US, and Japan’s Green Growth Strategy. The green data center market share is expected to increase by US$76.59 billion from 2020 to 2025, with a CAGR of 19.48%.
To further achieve this goal, large IT organizations such as Microsoft, Google, and China Mobile have already invested in building green data centers.
- Sustainable data centers: Lower PUE + green data storage
Policies related to green data centers have specific requirements on PUE. For example, the China’s Action Plan requires that new large data centers produce a PUE of 1.3 or under, while the DCOI requires a PUE of 1.5 for existing data centers and 1.4 or lower for new data centers.
However, reduced PUE is just one step on the road to the low-carbon future. More importantly is the issue of lowering energy consumption of IT facilities. According to a report from the State Information Center of China, ICT equipment consumes 67% of total power supply in a data center, at an average PUE of 1.5.
Figure 1: Proportion of power consumed by each component in a data center with a PUE of 1.5
Storage devices are expected to be the main electricity-drawing IT components. If we consider that the total amount of data created globally is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025 (three times the amount in 2020), the storage of never-before-seen data volumes will cause power consumption levels to skyrocket. For example, the annual power consumption of data storage for 1 terabyte in a data center is 300 kWh. However, this surges to 300,000 kWh for 1 petabyte, the equivalent to 235.5 tons of carbon emitted. Without an effective green strategy, 2030 levels of carbon emissions caused by storage will easily exceed the total global carbon emissions recorded in 2019.
Fortunately, this issue is now no longer being ignored. Shanghai Pudong Development Bank and Industrial Bank have placed energy efficiency at the center of their storage deployment, while China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) has set up a zero-carbon computing power co-construction plan to evaluate low-carbon data center products and solutions, and certify green storage and other sustainable IT facilities.
- Technological innovation in storage energy saving: catalyst for low-carbon development of data centers
Under increasing pressure from storage energy consumption, storage vendors are making efforts to turn data centers green via technological innovation.
- Develop storage products with high-density designs, system convergence, and data reduction.
High-density designs: A storage product equipped with large-capacity SSDs and high-density disk enclosures can store the same amount of data with less energy, meaning lower power consumption per unit capacity.
Figure 2: High-density storage designs
System convergence: Multi-protocol convergence and silo convergence enable one-for-all storage and improve resource utilization. Here, one storage system supports multiple protocols, like file, object, and HDFS, to meet diversified requirements and integrate multiple types of storage. Converged resource pools implement resource pooling to improve resource utilization.
Data reduction: Deduplication and compression algorithms greatly reduce the amount of stored data without information distortion, helping data centers use less power.
- Develop new-generation storage products that are powered by large-capacity persistent memory.
Research shows that moving data along a lengthy path between processor and memory contributes to more than 63% of a device’s power consumption. Currently, storage vendors are developing storage products equipped with large-capacity persistent memory to shorten the data transfer distance and reduce transfer times. This helps slash power consumption.
- Promote energy saving through storage lifecycle management.
In the storage manufacturing phase, manufacturing plants widely use photovoltaic power generation, zero wave soldering, paperless labeling, and renewable materials such as aluminum and tin. In the storage use phase, intelligent O&M based on AIOps enables on-demand use of storage resources. A proper recycling system can be established to ensure that at the end of the storage product lifecycle, e-waste is handled in an environmentally friendly way for optimal recycling and minimal environmental impact.
What we suggest
- Strike a balance between storage performance and energy saving
According to McKinsey & Company, although up to 61% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for low-carbon products, more are concerned about products’ direct benefits. We can conclude that customer experience is still the top consideration in storage construction. Enterprises should strike a balance between storage performance and energy saving to form a positive cycle of business and environmental protection, thus building the foundation for green storage.
- Actively encourage storage vendors to innovate for lower power consumption
Enterprises are encouraged to proactively deploy storage products powered by energy-saving technologies and push storage vendors to innovate, for example, in hardware density at component and device levels for higher density and better heat dissipation. New-generation storage products can be equipped with large-capacity persistent memory to reduce energy consumption caused by data transfers.
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