Overcome obstacles to storage sustainability

Green IT initiatives should include data storage, but there are various sustainability challenges related to both on-premises and cloud-based storage systems.

Businesses increasingly talk about sustainability, but data storage isn't always part of the conversation. Edge computing and massive IoT fleets contribute to the increase in data stores, which leads to higher financial and environmental costs.

However, the process to make data storage more sustainable is not always evident. Is it something the IT team should look into and enable? Or do ideas need to come from business leaders? And how do IT manufacturers and vendors fit in?

Even the most aware companies face obstacles to storage sustainability.

Sustainability initiatives needed

According to a 2022 International Energy Agency report, data centers accounted for between 0.9% and 1.3% of global electricity demand in 2021. A 2022 environmental sustainability report by Capgemini found that IT generates nearly 3% of all global carbon dioxide emissions, more than Spain, Italy, France and Portugal combined.

These stats help explain why technology companies, like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, have become some of the largest investors in renewable energy projects. It's also why many companies have moved workloads and data storage to the cloud. Cloud providers offer more efficient hardware and optimization at a fraction of the cost.

Chart of factors for buying green data storage

Companies that run their own on-premises infrastructure could adopt higher-performance hardware to consolidate space and reduce cooling requirements. Optimization software can also shift workloads between devices and transmission services to achieve the same benefits.

Organizations may reuse hardware that's no longer performant for its main function. For example, network switches that can no longer maintain high bandwidth rates due to age can still manage lower-priority bandwidth tasks.

Obstacles to storage sustainability

IT leaders and executives sometimes choose to overlook storage sustainability because of its challenges. There are many elements to consider, both on premises and in the cloud.

Here are a few obstacles companies face with their storage sustainability initiatives.

No visibility into cloud storage sustainability practices

Cloud storage can be a critical part of an organization's overall IT infrastructure. Data centers might be fully optimized and sustainable, but they still consume a lot of energy. Companies should review environmental studies of cloud providers and ask prospective providers how they reduce environmental impact.

IT leaders and executives sometimes choose to overlook storage sustainability because of its challenges.

Too much unnecessary and unused data

Companies suffer from data overload. Their systems and applications store data from many sources, and often, that data is rarely, if ever, used. Organizations also store duplicate data in cloud applications and local servers without realizing it. Have a plan for data retention that includes deletion, where possible.

Legacy or underpowered technology

Legacy storage equipment may not be as energy-efficient as newer models. In addition, older technology may not be capable of monitoring power usage. Explore disk optimization techniques.

Unoptimized data storage

Companies using the wrong type of storage devices for their needs should seek out more sustainable options. For example, traditional HDDs require more energy to function and generate more heat than SSDs or virtual servers. Shift workloads to consolidate storage device usage.

Thinking sustainable storage is expensive

There are ways to repurpose storage hardware without breaking the bank. For example, convert older primary storage arrays into secondary ones, and use them for lower-priority tasks, such as backup storage. Reusing them is a sustainable way to extend the life of the device, reduce running costs and save e-waste from the garbage.

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