August 2007

Wherefore Art Thou, 2.5” Enterprise Drives?

by Dave Graham on August 30, 2007


Continuing with the somewhat “green” theme of the last several blog entries here, I wanted to loft the next softball into play: 2.5″ Enterprise drives. Seagate makes them, Hitachi makes them,and Fujitsu makes them. They’re available in SAS, Fibre, and SATA and feature 7.2K, 10K, and 15K spindle speeds. They consume less than half the power of conventional 3.5″ drives and they run cooler. Access times are cut down based on the platter sizes and density, and, best of all, you can rack far more spindles in an array than 3.5″ drives. The obvious limiting factor on these drives currently is platter density and currently shipping drives have, at last count, only hit 250GB with 320GB coming shortly. Additionally, most of these drives are forsaking the older SCSI and Fibre SCA connectors for SATA/SAS unified power/data connectors. Obviously, this version of SCA, while a little more fragile than the old, does make hot-swapping, etc. easier.

Anyhow, if I can manage to find funding for a small little project, I’d love to prove what these drives promise, namely:

a.) Decreased power usage

b.) Greater I/O per Unit of rackspace

c.) Reduced access time

d.) Comparable I/O to 3.5” form factor drives

e.) Reliability on par with 3.5” form factor drives

Anyone want to fund me? I’ll document the entire process and provide benchmarks, etc. for the taking.

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It Ain’t Easy Being Green…

by Dave Graham on August 22, 2007


Reading through my feeds today, Clark over at StorageSwitched! published this entry back on August 3rd.  In it, he discusses various methodologies being used by vendors to “market” (my words, not his) or pander to the “green consciousness” of IT departments worldwide. In his thinking, adding an additional tier of storage might assuage some of the guilt administrators feel pressured into by various marketing wonks from F500.

I, for one, happen to agree with this methodology.  Just as we have the “Energy Star” label for devices that are energy efficient (albeit along an predetermined continuum), it might be worthwhile to have these storage devices tagged by overall power consumption per I/O, etc. However, there are things that might skew the results.

Exhibit A would be the virtualized server appliance.  So, we’re running virtualization software (a la VMWare) on a server and have two quad core Xeon or Barcelona processors running approximately 8 virtual apps.  Already, you’ve managed to utilize 1/8th (running average) of the original power foot print of 8 separate single processor servers.  However, this new virtual box would obviously consume a prodigious amount of power that might not fit within the footprint of an energy efficient device.  Conversely, there are various system level components that can make use of power saving features (AMD’s PowerNow! or Intel’s SpeedStep, for example) but if you’re pulling down 500w on a single server at idle (and 750w under load) compared to more efficient dual core or single core designs, then what advantage, outside of data center consolidation, are you gaining?

Exhibit B would be the consolidated data center.  As I mentioned yesterday, Sun created a very interesting proof-of-concept “Data center in a Box” that makes use of water and high-efficiency cooling mechanisms to lower the power threshold environmental impact of a given data center.  Also, through the use of highly parallel, multi-core/multi-threaded processors within the server (and the OS/software to match), you gain more efficiency per processing cycle which can (and routinely does) translate into more performance per watt. This has been one of AMD’s historic arguments that, in recent months, has fallen slightly on its face as it has been eclipsed by Intel in IPC and nominal power draws.    I find it fascinating to start entering data against AMD’s Platform Power Estimator and seeing the monetary returns, etc. (yes, it’s AMD biased).  Back to the data center, though.  On a larger scale, it does make sense to collapse 10 servers into one to increase operational efficiency but if the surrounding architecture isn’t managed along with it, what difference have you really made?  This article at SearchStorage points to data center that changing infrastructure to promote green computing.

My two skew points enumerated above (the virtualized server appliance and the data center) are simple points of comparison and honestly, I’ve probably made a muddle of things in my explanation.  What I’m curious about is how YOU would go about changing YOUR data centers and/or products to encourage environmental responsibility.  For an EMC example, we recently introduced our Centera 750GB LV product.  Using Intel Sossaman processors, the power footprint of the device is significantly lowered compared to previous generations of product.  That’s green storage in action.  Also, you can see The Storage Anarchist’s take on the DMX4 and it’s power footprint.

The gauntlet has been gently tossed; any takers?

Cheers,

Dave

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Power Efficient Computing for the masses…

by Dave Graham on August 21, 2007


Two days ago, Robin Harris had a very good article posted on his blog regarding “Benchmarking Energy Efficiency.”  In the course of that article (which I don’t have the time or desire to rehash) only Intel systems were featured.  While this points to the stranglehold that Intel holds on the commodity processor market at large (varying between 75-80% of the generalized CPU market), it completely ignored some of the competitive technology out there (AMD and VIA being two).  This paragraph really has nothing to do with Robin’s observations on the viability of such efficiency, but rather, giving credit where credit is due.

To that end, I’d like to point out that VIA introduced a feature-packed micro-ATX mainboard today called the pc3500.  Coupled with their already-impressive pico-ITX and mini-ITX formats, VIA’s power efficient line continues to grow and grow.  In addition, they’ve taking to “walking the talk” about power efficiency by introducing “Carbon Free Computing.”  They may not control a vast portion of the market like Intel, but they’re definitely committed to the idea of being green.  Kudos to VIA for continuing to promote more environmentally responsible manufacturing technology and integration. Also on the horizon from AMD are a few absolutely fantastic power optimizations (continuing their leadership in dynamic clocking of processor cores) like split power planes for the onboard memory controllers and computation cores, optimized Hypertransport power requirements, and dynamic ganging/unganging link size, width, and speeds to further reduce power draw.  Putting that together with commodity DDR2 and DDR3 memories (versus the power-hogging AMBs on FB-DIMMs) and you’ve got a very compelling argument against Intel’s current lineup.

Even further, in reviewing Sun’s “Project Blackbox” pages (and their current Eco push), I see that a leading systems manufacturer is taking the concept of efficient computing to the core of where we focus our energies: the datacenter.  Scoff if you will, but, who else is doing this?  It’s one thing to talk green, quite another to BE green.

Now, if the other big guys would get more involved in this, maybe, just maybe, we’ll see some changes in our lifetimes.

Anyhow, glad to be your environmental conscious for today.

Cheers,

Dave

EDIT:  As of today (August 23, 2007) VIA has announced the 500mhz Eden ULV processor. It idles at .1 watts and consumes only 1 watt at load. NICE!

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More on Corporate Blogging…

August 20, 2007

Sorry for another post so quickly in the day, but I just happened to stumble upon Jeremiah Owyang’s excellent blog entry entitled “How Blogs can help a Corporation.”  While he makes some very valid points about some of the more tenacious exchanges out there (StorageZilla and Robin Harris), I think he missed something along the [...]

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Corporate Culture

August 20, 2007

Welcome to Monday! (I think).  I was lying wide awake in bed last night and thinking about my last blog entry in response to Robin Harris.  While certain things irritate me to no end, bad assumptions about a company’s culture are a verifiable maelstrom of discord in my psyche. (Whew! that was a mouthful).  So, [...]

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