Time to bury big-drive "diskosaurs"

Miniature storage solution not only cuts down shipping costs, but it also reduces the impact that shipping the unit has on the environment

The EonStor B12 from Infortrend represents an intriguing proposition: an enterprise-class storage solution in miniature, built on 2.5-inch SAS drives. One look at this small-form-factor vision of the future, and you'll be reconsidering the long-term viability of behemoth arrays.

When I first heard about the B12, I was drawn to its potential to reduce power consumption, as well as its small footprint. I have since had the opportunity to begin putting the EonStor B12S through its paces. I will publish the results of my testing in a future review. Here, however, are some initial impressions.

First, the array and the drives arrived at my test lab in one box -- something that is not possible with traditional arrays, which must be shipped with disks stored in separate packaging to keep down the total weight of each box. Moreover, the box, which contained one B12 enclosure with two SAS controllers, two power supply systems, two backup batteries, and 12 drives, as well as cables and rack-mounting rails, weighed less than 20 kilograms. Miniature, indeed.

Not only does this compactness cut down shipping costs, but it also reduces the impact that shipping the unit has on the environment, when compared with traditional 12-bay systems with large drives.

Of course, most storage arrays move only once or twice in their lifetime. Yet, multiply that one trip by the number of storage devices shipped worldwide every year, and the difference becomes significant.

How significant? Assume an average 3.5-inch drive (with sleigh) weighs 32 ounces and a 2.5-inch drive weighs 10 ounces. Everything else the same, replacing large drives with smaller units reduces the weight of a single enclosure by more than 16 pounds.

Of course, as you can see from this picture of the EonStor B12, not everything stays the same. The B12 takes advantage of the reduced drive size to shrink every other component to scale, including the enclosure (1U tall), power-supply modules, batteries, and fans.

More important is the shrinking effect the EonStor B12 will have on your datacenter energy bills. When idle, the Seagate Savvio 15K, which the B12 mounts, uses 2.6 watts less than a Seagate Cheetah 15K drive with the same capacity, which translates to a total savings of more than 30 watts for a 12-drive array. Over the life span of the array, this relatively small trickle will transform into serious savings. Couple this with more efficient power supply systems, lower overall heat produced, and a denser layout, and you begin to see the overall impact smaller drives can have on your bottom line.

Often I hear the importance of re-engineering power supplies to achieve greater energy efficiency. But unless we replace larger drives with smaller units, tricks such as these will get us only so far. As I see it, re-engineering current systems for smaller-format drives is the easiest, most effective way to make storage more energy friendly.

Of course, my suggestion requires throwing away the old for the new, but that is a path that we are already walking anyway. Whatever is spinning the bits in your datacenter will be ready for the recycling heap sooner than you think. When that day comes, would you rather replace the old system with a similar backbreaking power hog or a lightweight, pro-environment solution based on 2.5-inch drives?

If you have any hesitation answering that question, take a look at this picture of the 520MB Fujitsu M2624FA that is still in my lab -- I am a pack rat, I know.

Would you want this diskosaur in your system? Obviously not, but don't get confused: The 3.5-inch drives that vendors are shoving down your throat are equally obsolete. The only thing that keeps them alive is their seemingly endless ability to devour ever more data with every new model. I say it's time to look at storage from a different perspective and stop the capacity race -- or at least not make it the driving factor in dictating the design of storage arrays.

Think I am way off? Well, I am bound to secrecy for now, but expect to see another major vendor soon join Infortrend in leading the small-form-factor revolution in storage.

In the meantime, consider this: The B12 is happily idling in my lab at 238 watts. Care to measure how much juice your 3.5-inch-drive arrays are slurping?

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