Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Cardiff University models tiered storage for wider green benefits

The ever-growing demand for storage is a significant factor in the emissions from ICT. It’s an area that a team at the UK’s Cardiff University’s Information Services Directorate have been studying.

The government grand-funded JISC project, part of the Greening ICT Programme, is called Planet Filestore and entails storing data on disks with different energy consumptions depending on the frequency with which the data is accessed. For example, data which is not used very often is moved to a disk which uses less power. It saves electricity, money and emissions while still allowing users near instant access.

Hierarchical storage management technology, or tiered storage, is not new, but has mainly been used as a means to save the capital cost of storage, making it only really attractive in large commercial environments.




The idea of the Filestore project was to build a demonstrator system and develop models for implementing tiered storage in other organisations so they could achieve the green benefits. The project used techniques and technologies that will easily transfer to corporate systems, including education, research, public bodies and commercial companies.

The project looked at what was required in terms of managing the migration of data and monitoring storage capacity to reduce energy costs. It also aimed to produce a set of measurements that show the energy savings against migration policies and to undertake an economic assessment of the system.

What the project team found is that by moving 80% of files from RAID10 tier 1 storage to non-mirrored RAID5 tier 2 storage results in a 72% energy saving. When implemented at the university it is anticipated that the approach will save the 87,600 KWh of electricity (approximately 51 tonnes of CO2) per year, worth around £10,000. Savings will increase as storage requirements and energy costs inevitably rise, and there will also be savings in space occupied, procurement, shipping, disposal and hazardous waste reduction.

Rob Bristow, JISC Programme Manager, said: “The approach piloted by Cardiff Information Services has the potential to make a real difference to the carbon footprint of universities if it is adopted across the sector. The more than £100m that electricity for ICT costs the sector every year is likely to rise in the future and initiatives like this can make a real difference”.

The report and recommendations are here. In line with JISC project requirements, the project has been widely promoted through events, a website and project blog. And to help make the approach more widely available, JISC is funding the development of a web-based tool that universities and colleges can use to model the benefits of different scenarios of file storage in terms of environmental and economic savings.


An interesting project with the potential to help a lot of organisations save energy cost and emissions related to storage. The report goes into the various aspects and approaches of tired storage, what can be achieved and how. It’s a useful analysis for anyone considering the approach as part of a green IT strategy.

It’s a shame that the forthcoming web-based tool only seems to be for the use of universities and colleges. Why? It would be a useful contribution to have a wider tool for general use, after all, it is funded from public money.

© The Green IT Review

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