In earlier articles, I’ve touched upon the environmental implications of the “tape versus disk versus cloud” debate and commented that unless there are compelling commercial requirements, keeping all your infrequently accessed archive data on disk-based storage could be regarded as an inefficient use of resources. So how does this relate to overall environmental considerations of your storage choices?
First of all, let’s be clear about one thing. I’m not saying that tape has zero energy cost. A tape library, like any other IT equipment, consumes energy and needs to operate within certain regulated environment ranges of temperature and humidity. To find out how much energy is required by various HPE StoreEver tape libraries, you can review the Power and Energy Consumption Calculators on www.tapetember.com/environmental.
Offline by Design
But what makes tape quite different from other secondary storage systems - for example, disk arrays or object storage servers - is that it is offline by design. That means you can remove tapes from the host tape library and store them in a secure and remote location like a vault or warehouse. At this point, disconnected and essentially inert, a large collection of tapes exerts only modest environmental demands. For LTO-9 cartridges, for example, the recommended archival temperature range is 59°F to 77°F (15°C to 25°C) and 20% to 80% RH (Relative Humidity). Broadly speaking, an environment that is agreeable for people will be agreeable for tape media as well! There is no need for the round-the-clock, industrial-class temperature and humidity controls that data centres deploy to prevent their intensive thermal workloads from overheating.
As major consumers of energy, data centres are a focal point for conversations around efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions. Many companies realise that the effectiveness of their sustainability strategy can be a source of competitive advantage in terms of business outcomes and brand reputation.
One way to address this in terms of IT operations is to use cleaner, more renewable, electricity sources. But sustainable energy isn’t free! As discussed in earlier articles, if constrained hard disk areal density will oblige organisations to install more powered storage devices, then inevitably the energy costs and environmental impact will rise.
Therefore, it becomes important to address the other path towards making your storage greener: that’s to utilise resources more efficiently and reduce unnecessary waste.
It’s here that the storage density advantage of tape really begins to shine through.
Analyst Perspectives on the Sustainability of LTO technology
In a recent study, ‘Accelerating Green Datacenter Progress with Sustainable Storage Strategies’, IDC assessed the environmental impact of moving more enterprise disk storage capacity to tape libraries to calculate the savings both in terms of reducing electricity demands and lowering carbon dioxide emissions.
IDC found that in a scenario in which 80% of archive data and 57% of replicated data destined for enterprise disk storage systems is migrated to tape, the annual carbon emissions reduction between 2019 and 2030 is 43.7%.
To quantify this percentage, IDC summarised that by moving long term archive data to tape, society could avoid a cumulative 664 million metric tons of carbon emissions between 2019 and 2030. That amount is equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from 144 million passenger cars driven in one year or the amount of energy used by 80 million homes in one year.
Now, like many people, I sometimes find it difficult to wrap my head around such high level analysis so I’d like to try and show this trend from the perspective of an individual company.
The ‘Tape Landscape Study 2020’ by Enterprise Strategy Group revealed that a typical organisation now hosts around 3 PB of archive data, with a mean CAGR of 41%.
To put this in context, that means that a 3 PB archive today will be 87 PB in just ten years time. This is data growth on an unprecedented scale and it is going to put enormous pressure on IT budgets and data centre resources. As discussed in an earlier blog, because of the challenges of increasing areal densities, hard disk capacities are only expected to reach 100 TB by the end of the decade. An 87 PB archive would require 870 x 100 TB hard disks to preserve that amount of data; disks that would need to be powered and maintained at an optimum temperature throughout their lifecycle.
In comparison, tape areal densities are projected by INSIC to deliver cartridges with capacities of 730 TB by the early part of the next decade. Last year, Fujifilm and IBM demonstrated a working prototype of a 550 TB cartridge based on Strontim Ferrite technology so the tape industry is well on the way to making these hyperscale cartridges a reality. An 87 PB archive would require just 120 cartridges with a native capacity of 730 GB, which is a much lower footprint both in terms of the space occupied and the amount of energy needed to run and maintain the equipment.
In a late 2020 study, the analyst, Brad Johns, looked at a “typical customer” scenario from the point of view of carbon emissions. His conclusion was that an organisation with 10 PB of archive data, growing at 35% per annum, would produce 87% less carbon dioxide (related to storing that content) if it kept the inactive data on tape storage instead of using disk storage.
“The disk storage systems require over 6.5 million kWh of energy over ten years. The tape storage system supporting the same capacity requires just .83 million kWh. If a natural gas plant generates the power, the disk system will have produced 3,013 tons of carbon dioxide versus 383 tons for the tape system.”
In conclusion, therefore, as businesses of all sizes look to reduce energy consumption and the associated carbon emissions, moving inactive data or archive data to LTO tape is a clear opportunity. Besides lowering data centre energy usage and costs, HPE StoreEver LTO provides other substantial benefits for inactive data, including highly dense storage, a thirty year media life and the advantage of extremely high reliability for long term retention and access (a topic covered earlier in this series).
In the next article, I’ll wrapping up this series of articles on the lasting innovation of HPE StoreEver tape! Feel free to give me feedback in the comments here in LinkedIn or by following me on Twitter @tapevine. Until then, thank you once again for reading.