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A Guide to Green Data Storage

12 January, 2016

Old Hard DriveData collection, storage, and analysis are becoming ever more central to organisational success.  This in turn has had a ripple effect on the need for storage practices that are both more environmentally responsible and cost efficient, especially as managing big data becomes increasingly necessary to maintain a competitive edge in many industries. MAID (Massive Array of Idle Disks) storage is a technology which manages to fulfil both of these requirements.  Here’s what you should know about it.

What does “MAID” really mean?

In prior storage technologies, drives were often spinning whether or not they were in use.  In MAID storage, this isn’t the case.  The key term in its name here is “idle.”  While there may be hundreds or thousands of drives in a single MAID, only those which are actively in use are spinning, while others remain idle. This reduces the need for constant power consumption, and results in a smaller carbon footprint (and lower costs) for the data centre. Using MAID is one way to take a hold of energy efficiency in the facility.

Other MAID advantages

One of the reasons that MAID is such a viable alternative to tape storage is the fact that, despite similar costs, MAID systems overcome many of the other disadvantages offered by tape.  The linear nature of tape storage means that file retrieval can be an inconvenient, inefficient, and lengthy process. That’s especially true if a human needs to physically retrieve certain tapes in non-automated systems.  Tape storage is also more demanding in terms of physical space, which has its own associated costs.  Transferring file information, whether to upgrade to more advanced tape technology or to back up data is also tedious. Finally, tapes are relatively easily damaged. 

MAID’s overall cost per terabyte is much lower than other disk based storage. In fact, it’s comparable to the storage costs incurred by the use of high volume tape storage.  It also offers advantages over RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) due to its far greater storage density at comparable costs.

Additionally, powering down disks that aren’t in use extends their life span, and increases the mean time between disk failures.  MAID improves data reliability in this and other ways.

Finally, the fact that MAID disks are only spinning when in use means that it has a reduced need for cooling.  This also reduces power consumption and costs significantly. Implemented MAID storage reduces physical space requirements as disks that aren’t active can be housed much more closely together.


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