This post is part of a sponsored Pure Storage blog post series. To learn more about Pure Storage, please visit purestorage.com.
Enterprise storage systems largely consist of deeply integrated hardware appliances with a direct interdependency between hardware components. These solutions often come with a limited lifespan that derives from multiple considerations, such as technological obsolescence (notably from a compute power perspective), natural degradation of hardware reliability over time, availability of spare parts, and overall efficiency.
In fact, most commercial-grade solutions have a lifespan of five years, which can be even reduced to three years for mission-critical workloads where peak performance is non-negotiable.
In this article, we will recapitulate operational and environmental challenges of the traditional hardware lifecycle, while also evaluating modern sustainable approaches.
The enterprise storage solution lifespan typically includes three phases: deploy, operate, and retire. In addition, organizations must consider planning and procurement activities ahead of each new hardware life cycle. These activities include solution evaluation and testing, RFI/RFP, commercial negotiations, and triggering of procurement processes.
Practical considerations also come to play. Data needs to be migrated from the old platform to the new one, a project of its own which requires both the old infrastructure and the new infrastructure to reside side by side for a certain duration to ensure all data can be successfully migrated.
Although most vendors provide migration tools and third-party solutions also exist, certain migration activities can be disruptive and require application downtime. In other cases, massive datasets can take significant time to migrate. Finally, data must be maintained in a synchronized state between both old and new systems until the cutover date.
This approach also presupposes that the organization has sufficient datacenter footprint to physically host the old and new storage platforms for the duration of the replacement process, with increased energy consumption during this period.
This energy consumption increase is just a minor point when looking at the big picture of environmental challenges that plague traditional enterprise storage solutions.
At first sight, it can be said that legacy storage appliances are based on outdated business models that rely on cyclic refreshes to create recurrent revenue. On the other hand, a lack of vision and innovation perpetuates rip-and-replace approaches which are detrimental to the environment.
Environmental challenges of legacy solutions include architecture-related power consumption inefficiencies, Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions, and electronic waste (E-waste).
Architecture-related inefficiencies were comprehensively covered in two previous posts: a primer on sustainability and enterprise storage efficiency, as well as an article covering flash architectures. Ultimately, the solution’s architecture has an impact on its energy efficiency, which impacts not only direct power consumption but also indirect power draw because of cooling requirements, which are also contributing to Scope 2 GHG emissions.
The previously mentioned storage efficiency primer also covers GHG emissions and references the commonly used US-based Environment Protection Agency (EPA) three GHG Scopes. Organizations usually report GHG emissions based on Scopes 1 & 2. Besides higher cooling and power requirements (affecting Scope 2), legacy solutions typically also have a higher GHG emission level due to Scope 3 upstream activities.
Legacy storage is subject to forklift upgrades at the end of its life cycle. Even if the retired storage can be wiped and either sold for reuse or for aftermarket spare parts, some organizations decide to just dispose of it by sending it to a shredding or recycling center. Even if recycling is the norm, the amount of e-waste generated remains significant.
In addition, these inefficiencies can be captured in ESG audits, and may require a remediation. Several jurisdictions have already implemented ESG reporting or are planning to do so within the next 12 months.
Finally, the US’ SEC may also introduce similar requirements in the future, and plans are also at work in China and Malaysia. In short, ESG regulations are expected to enter in force across most major economies before the end of this decade.
Sustainable storage architectures
Although any human production has an environmental impact, it is now possible to significantly reduce the negative impact of legacy storage infrastructure by adopting modern, environmental-friendly storage solutions.
In this area, Pure Storage is an innovator with its Evergreen architecture design. The company’s next generation all flash storage solutions are built around two engineering principles:
- a modular, future proof architecture designed to last for years and capable of supporting in-place, non-disruptive storage controller generational upgrades,
- In-house component engineering, a unique approach that provides better longevity and durability of components, while also offering uncompromising performance optimizations, outstanding storage density, and superior energy efficiency.
This innovative approach brings additional benefits and synergies. Over time, the use of custom engineered DirectFlash modules (DFM) built upon a distributed global flash translation layer increases the durability and thus the longevity of flash modules compared to commodity off the shelf SSDs and reduces the generation of e-waste.
Similarly, the modular nature of Pure Storage’s next generation storage architecture enables non-disruptive in-place upgrades of storage controllers, allowing organizations to benefit from the latest improvements in performance without the complexity of forklift upgrades.
Organizations reap the benefits and consistency of an already-proven efficient architecture – the same efficient array keeps getting better over time while producing less waste, thus reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions. Furthermore, regular OS-level improvements further improve data efficiency mechanisms and performance, adding even more value to the technology stack.
Operational gains are also obvious: complex migration projects become a bad memory from the past, and the traditional infrastructure life cycle paradigm is replaced by an operational continuum of stability and non-disruptive improvements.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Evergreen architecture, combined with Pure Storage’s Evergreen//One STaaS (Storage-as-a-Service) consumption model allows customers to only deploy and power the infrastructure they need at a given point in time rather than provisioning everything upfront, with a positive impact in GHG emissions reduction. Evergreen//One will be covered comprehensively in an upcoming blog post.
Legacy storage approaches are unsustainable be it financially, technologically, or environmentally. The exponential data growth impetus on one side, and the urgent environmental issues of this era on the other side demand a new paradigm to enterprise storage solutions: they should be efficient, scalable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.
Pure Storage understood these challenges early on and saw a unique opportunity to help organizations deploy efficient, durable, and sustainable storage infrastructure. Other contenders in the enterprise storage space have recently begun to take a similar path, comforting Pure Storage’s visionary approach, and confirming that this strategy is the right one for responsible and sustainable storage infrastructure deployment.
Early adopters of Pure Storage technology greatly benefit from these architectural choices, while organizations evaluating Pure’s technology have a unique opportunity to significantly improve not only their sustainability and environmental footprint, but also to greatly streamline operations while reducing costs, and jumping off the forklift upgrade train.