It is probably safe to say that most data center managers are dealing with the challenge of increasing data growth and limited IT resources and budgets. With “save everything forever” strategies becoming more prevalent for many organizations, the strain on IT resources will only get worse over time.

Data center managers are faced with planning for the future and the mandate to change their current rate of spending on equipment and operations. One area of focus has been the massive energy consumption of data centers and the impact of storage.

Energy Consumption in the Data Center

Although the dire predictions of the 2007 EPA report on data center energy consumption have not panned out, there are still ongoing energy consumption concerns and data centers are not off the hook.

Earlier this year, a report by Greenpeace criticized big data centers for using dirty energy (coal, gas, nuclear) as opposed to clean energy (wind, solar). A more recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claims waste and inefficiency in U.S. data centers – that consumed a massive 91 bn kWh of electricity in 2013 – will increase to 140 bn kWh by 2020, the equivalent of 50 large (500 megawatt) power plants. However, the 2014 Uptime Institute annual data center survey reveals that data center power usage efficiency (PUE) metrics have plateaued at around 1.7 after several years of steady improvement.

One reason for the heavy energy consumption by data centers is that they rely heavily on spinning hard disk drive technology to store their data. Often the response to increasing data growth has been to add more disk arrays to solve the problem. A hard disk drive platter spinning 24/7/365 at 7,000 or 10,000 RPMs requires power to not only spin it, but to cool it as well. Otherwise the heat generated by the constant spinning would corrupt and eventually destroy the data.