Thursday, August 27, 2009

Go Green With Nexsan

by Heather

Green is hot this year, and for good reason. At last, companies can be environmentally friendly while still watching their bottom line, thanks to new technologies that combine high performance and cost savings with environmental benefits.

One company that is riding on that wave is Nexsan, with their AutoMAID technology built into all of their storage disk array products (including SATABoy and SATABeast). According to an article at Processor.com and a recent U.S. Department of Energy study, idle computers are responsible for more than half of the 53 billion kilowatt hours of power that business computers consume annually. AutoMAID addresses the SAN side of that equation by placing storage drives into an idle state when not immediately in use without slowing down data retrieval times. According to Nexsan’s website, AutoMAID users realize an energy savings up to 60%.

I spoke with Bob Woolery at Nexsan this week about AutoMAID and their other green initiatives. Here’s what he had to say:

Me: Value and green are becoming more and more interconnected. Can you talk about that connection, how it has grown, and where it is going?

Bob: That’s a great question, because when people think about value, they tend to think of low cost and often, what features they have to give up. But when Nexsan talks about value, we focus on a holistic meaning—price is part of it, but it’s not the only thing. Our value involves not only less to buy, but also improved energy efficiency, space efficiency and a lower cost to operate.

A good comparison would be the Honda Accord. It’s not the lowest priced car on the market, but it is one of the best values. Likewise, Nexsan may not be the least expensive provider but we provide tremendous value like power efficiency, reliability, space efficiency, and performance.

Me: Besides AutoMAID, what else is your company doing for Green?

Bob: Our products, compared to competitive systems, are in and of themselves more energy efficient. They use less power. For instance, the SATABeast with all drives running uses 686 watts. A comparable unit from a competitor uses 1,155. We all purchase drives from the same small set of disk manufacturers, but the Nexsan team closely monitors all aspects of energy usage in our storage systems and uses a systemic approach to analyze and reduce power usage. We work with our entire supply chain to reduce the energy our components use while delivering high quality at a good price.

Me: In seven years of selling Nexsan products, we have never known a system to fail. Tell me more about what your users are experiencing with your product, especially AutoMAID.

Bob: Adoption to this technology has been pretty darn quick. Within a year of purchase, 34% of our customers have turned on the AutoMAID functionality. That may sound a little slow, but in the arena of behavioral changes, that’s really very fast. Compare that to how long it has taken our society to transition from incandescent light bulbs to energy saving compact florescent light bulbs.

Me: I still have some incandescent bulbs at my house.

Bob: Exactly. One of the challenges in changing people’s behavior is they believe, incorrectly, that “green” means slow and expensive. And while the first generation of MAID technology was that, the Nexsan Team asked “why does it have to be that way?” and designed an energy saving technology that challenged the rules of storage and provides performance with energy savings – Speed with Green. Why should you have to compromise value and performance to be green? So we developed a MAID technology that delivers value, performance, and energy savings. No compromise.

Me: What’s next for the environment?

Bob: More and more companies are going to adopt similar energy efficient technologies but Nexsan is not sitting still. There will be additional innovation in this technology segment and users are going to become smarter about how and when to use energy saving technologies.

Me: What else should our readers and customers know about MAID technology and the future of Green?

Bob: One of the objections to this specific technology is that people think they are running their disks 24/7, that their disks are never idle, so they don’t see how shutting down idle disks will apply to them. But the reality is that very few centers are actually accessing their disks all the time. In fact, on average a disk is only accessed 15% of the time. For customers who believe they are accessing their disks all the time, we say: Humor us. Just turn on AutoMAID Level 1 for one week. Most of the time, they realize an immediate 20% cost savings. Those who turn it on, rarely turn it off again.

Another objection we hear is that it’s difficult or expensive. The truth is that there is a single on-screen dashboard with simple on-off toggle controls. You set it once and forget about it. It self-optimizes according to your instructions. And since it’s already included in our products, there is no additional expense.

Me: One last thing—SANDirect has just been awarded a GSA schedule 70 for your product, which allows us to sell complete storage solutions to government agencies. Does your product carry some sort of government-sponsored approval, like an Energy Star certification?

Bob: Great question. The government doesn’t currently have Energy Star certification for storage. That is something we will be working on. We’ll keep you posted.

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