The Network Observer
Optical Storage Saves California!
The State of California suffers from
a chronic lack of electrical power. Recently, they've resorted
to rolling blackouts-sending sections of the state into darkness
for an hour or two to conserve power. Hopefully, by the time
you read this, suppliers will have a rational solution to this,
but I doubt it. Come summer, the sheer volume of air conditioning
in the Sunshine State will put significantly greater demands
on the already-overstrained power grid, which will likely lead
to more blackouts.
The State of Tennessee is capitalizing
on California's problems in its new marketing campaign to attract
new businesses to the state. They ship brightly colored boxes
to potential "clients" proudly proclaiming, "The
lights are still on in Tennessee!" and enclose a flashlight.
I admire someone who has the creativity to exploit the Sunshine
State's sad state of affairs. And perhaps somewhat less self-servingly,
I'd also like to propose a solution of my own: optical storage.
Before you dismiss this as idle talk,
have you ever considered how much energy the IT industry demands?
Did you know that some analysts suggest that the growth in the
Internet accounts for 50% of the increase in the demand for
electricity in the U.S. in the last year alone? Needless to
say, the electrical industry didn't (and probably couldn't have)
predicted the impact the Internet might have on consumption,
particularly in California, the home of Silicon Valley.
It seems that California enters its
most dire energy crisis (called a Stage 3 Alert) when its power
reserves fall below 1.5%. It is during a Stage 3 alert that
rolling blackouts will occur. Given that the state uses about
20,000-25,000 megawatts per hour on average, then 1.5% is 300
megawatts. (Check out California's eye-popping power consumption
at www.caiso.com.) We need to find a way then to save California
at least that amount to eliminate the need for rolling blackouts.
Consider this: it takes one kilowatt
to store two megabytes of data per hour. That doesn't seem like
much until you consider how much storage we are talking about
today. EMC, one of the major players in enterprise storage,
says that in 1993 mainframes worldwide only required 75TB. Today,
it installs single data centers each with over 100TB.
The PC side has grown enormous as well.
Microsoft claims that its NT servers hosted just 11 petabytes
worldwide in 1996, but this had ballooned to 39PB by the end
of 1998. Even given some corporate puffery, a doubling of NT
storage to 20PB (that's 20,000TB) has a major impact on power
In January 1996, Computerworld magazine
predicted that worldwide storage requirements would grow from
11,096TB in 1996 to 59,661TB in 1999, an annual growth rate
of 146%! And these numbers turned out to be much lower than
the actual figures.
IDC, in its latest report, "2000
Disk Storage Systems Forecast and Analysis" (available
at www.idc.com), says that units shipped in 2000 actually amounted
to 302,550TB for disk storage subsystems. Even given that the
IDC report is for the year 2000, the change was at least four
to five times greater than Computerworld predicted. Is it any
wonder that electric companies failed to anticipate demand accurately
IDC has even more bad news for the future.
It says that in 2004, data centers and users worldwide will
absorb 2,934,000TB of disc storage! (Propeller-heads, take note:
we're not talking mere petabytes now, folks; we've climbed to
almost 3 exabytes...)
OK, you say, California isn't the world.
But California is the sixth largest economy on the planet. So
we should be able to assume that the state absorbs at least
some significant portion of that storage growth-at least 1/6th
and probably more, since California is the home to so much software
and hardware development, production, and use.
So, let's assume that in 2000 the state
added 1/6th of the worldwide total or 50,425TB of data storage
to some existing sum-perhaps doubling the total to 100,000TB.
If we go back to our 1KwH per 2MB of data stored, we should
note that this doesn't cover RAID configurations, which at least
double the total power consumption due to the multiple spindle
hardware. It also doesn't cover redundant power supplies or
UPSs capable of keeping those RAID subsystems going. Nor does
it cover the air conditioning requirement to cool those data
centers with all those drives in them. So given these additional
components, then, it is reasonable to assume that the total
power consumption for California's data centers approaches 250-300
megawatts during any given hour.
If, on the other hand, that data were
stored on optical jukeboxes, that data would not be revolving
constantly and drawing power hour after hour waiting for requests.
Instead, the data only needs to spin up after periodic requests.
A jukebox-based data center might easily use 1/10th or 1/20th
of the power of a RAID system. Since we could reduce power consumption
due to reduced tape backup issues (optical being a more permanent
media than tape), we could account for the continued 25 megawatts
in that way.
Voilà! Californians now have 250 megawatts
back, no blackouts, and the Sunshine State shines again. All
thanks to optical storage systems. So take heart, jukebox vendors,
and pray for a very hot summer in California.