Green IT Begins with Green Data

New site and new resources offer corporate planners a strategic approach to greening their IT operations.

The greening of the data center starts with green data. So say the Data Management Institute and Archive Management.org (AMO). Together they'll develop a strategic approach for Data Center greening. Their new Green Data Project is an international online community, resource site, and Web publication focused on managing electronic data to reduce electrical power demands on corporate IT.

"There are many Green initiatives within the industry today," says Jon William Toigo, founder of both Data Management Institute and AMO and Enterprise Strategies' storage columnist. "Almost all of these initiatives are advancing tactical measures involving hardware technologies rather than strategic approaches focused on archive and data management. Green IT must begin with green data. Otherwise a company's data center greening initiative amounts to little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."

Toigo notes that servers will shortly cede their title as the largest power hogs to storage arrays in the data center. The drive to acquire additional storage capacity illustrates the failure of enterprises to properly and pro-actively manage their data.

Toigo, citing statistics from storage assessments performed by Sun Microsystems, says that only about 30 percent of hard drive space is filled with business-relevant and frequently accessed information. Some 40 percent of data may be important to retain for regulatory or historical reasons, but Toigo says this data is so rarely accessed that "it could be readily migrated into an archival repository, preferably one constructed using near- or off-line media, such as tape or optical, that consume little or no electricity." The rest of a hard drive's typical contents is filled with contraband or orphaned data, space that could be better managed so additional, power-hungry storage isn't needed so soon.

The Green Data Project believes that adding disk arrays to be more power efficient, complex, thin-provisioning software, de-duplication software, or compression software are not strategic or permanent solutions to controlling storage growth and power consumption.

Toigo notes that hardware vendors are trying to capitalize on the popular "Green IT" trend by leveraging concerns about power availability and cost and the growing eco-consciousness of many enterprises. "They are joined by many software providers who want to wrap their wares in the green flag when, in fact, they contribute little more than a tactical and short-lived delay in the 300 percent growth in disk storage analysts are expecting over the next three years."

Data compression and de-duplication help, Toigo says, but "the value of these technologies is limited and tactical. They can buy time that companies can put to good use sorting out their storage 'junk drawers' and putting archiving programs in place." Furthermore, he claims, "Data management and archiving programs are business-savvy strategies that companies should be pursuing today" for compliance, for data protection, and for data center greening.

Toigo explained, “What we definitely don’t need right now is FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) marketing added on to the existing arguments that hardware vendors are making about the green-ness of their technology. The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) announced a week or so ago that they were seeing an Archive Crisis shaping up—that consumers lack the software required to green their data. This will likely become a theme at the Storage Networking World conference in Dallas in October.

"From where we are sitting, there is no Archive Crisis. Tools are available from companies such as QStar, KOM Networks, FileTek, and CA, just to name a few, that can do the job just fine. Greening your data through management and archiving doesn’t sell more disk storage, so it comes as little surprise that SNIA—which represents the disk array industry—would ladle on the FUD.”

The Green Data Project will offer a free Web community, providing information about archiving best practices and products. Visitors who register can comment on articles, ask questions, and explain their own strategies for data management and archiving.

“Since launching the GDP a few days ago," Toigo noted, "we have had a phenomenal amount of registrations on the site by both vendors and consumers. Companies that are registering range from Fortune 500 to Inc 500. Apparently, concerns about energy, and perhaps about climate change, are driving a lot of attention to this topic. Now, folks realize that greening IT doesn’t have to mean ripping and replacing infrastructure or building new data centers. It’s all about managing data.”

You can reach the Green Data Project at http://www.greendataproject.org.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (esj.com).