Electricity Savings from Data Center SSDs Could Power an Entire Country, Researcher Says

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-05-06
 
 
 

Electricity Savings from Data Center SSDs Could Power an Entire Country, Researcher Says


Most people are already aware that solid-state server and storage disks only use a portion-as little as one-half or less-of the electrical power that a spinning hard disk requires, simply because there are no moving parts that need energy to activate them.

As SSDs move slowly but surely into the data center, noticeable dribs and drabs of bottom-line power savings are starting to become reality.

However, when the full extent of the potential power savings of SSDs is projected a few years out, it's a much different story. Those motionless NAND flash disks promise to provide staggering power savings.

In a report issued May 6, "Leveraging HDD Strength With SSD Potential: Can Collaboration Generate Synergistic Benefits?" SSD market researcher iSuppli said the increased deployment of SSDs could enable the world's data centers to reduce their cumulative electricity consumption by a whopping 166,643 megawatt hours from 2008 to 2013.

This amounts to slightly more than the total electricity generation of the African nation of Gambia for the entire year of 2006, according to power usage statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The energy savings from using SSDs in data centers is expected to rise to about 58,000 Mwh by 2013, up from 7,000 Mwh in 2008-a total of 167,000 Mwh for the entire six-year period.

Conservative estimate: 10 percent switchover to SSDs by 2013

"SSDs potentially could replace 10 percent of the high-end and high-RPM hard disk drives used in data centers that are 'short stroked' [used for rapid reads and writes of transactional data coming into these drives at fast speeds],"  said Krishna Chander, iSuppli senior analyst for storage systems.

"Each of these 15,000 RPM serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives draws about 14 watts during [a normal] day. SSDs, on the other hand, draw about half the power of these HDDs, at an estimated 7 watts. A 50 percent savings in power consumption is a noticeable improvement, so even a small penetration of SSDs in enterprise data centers could result in massive power savings," Chandler said.

Currently, SSDs in data centers are used almost exclusively to power high-speed transactional applications, such as financial services, Web 2.0 services and the like. NAND flash read/write speeds are commonly 100 times faster than those of spinning hard disks.

According to most SSD industry analysts, a 10 percent changeover from HDDs to SSDs over the next four years in high-end, high-transactional data centers is a conservative estimate. Some believe that due to current economic conditions and pressure from the public to "get greener," companies are looking to save money on power consumption in any way they can, as quickly as they can.

SSD Migration Could Be Higher by 2013


Thus, a 20 to 40 percent changeover might be more likely by 2013, some analysts say.

"If the storage market completely eschews rotating mechanical media like HDDs in favor of SSDs, the projected energy savings could jump to 20 times the level described in iSuppli's forecast during the period from 2008 to 2013," Chander said. "SSDs' entry into the enterprise data centers is a boon for energy consumption and savings when these SSDs replace select short-stroked hard drives in the not-too-distant future."

The Environmental Protection Agency's EnergyStar program, which is scheduled to issue a set of power-saving specifications for servers on May 15, has determined that data centers in the United States account for about 2 percent of all the power used in the nation.

That outstrips the power consumption for all U.S. television sets (there are an estimated 200 million plugged into the power grid), which account for about 1.5 percent of the power-usage total.

With servers, network switches and storage arrays becoming ever more powerful as the demand for control, processing and storage of data workloads continues to rise almost exponentially, the demand for more and more power "from the wall" is putting heavy pressure on local utilities.

According to a report from NERC (North American Electric Reliability)-an industry group that oversees electrical grid operators-the United States is just barely generating enough electricity to meet current needs.

NERC projects that electrical demand will grow by 26 percent during the next 20 years. The group also has predicted that power shortages will become more frequent across the Northeast and western regions of the country, in addition to most of the state of Texas, within two years after the economy rebounds to health.

To read an overview and obtain more detail on the iSuppli report, go here.

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