This text is a part of our unique IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.
Information storage has lengthy contributed a good portion of the computing trade’s carbon footprint, even representing as a lot as 1.8 % of the USA’ complete electrical energy consumption in 2014, in keeping with a report by the
Berkeley National Laboratory [pdf]. Brad Johns, a veteran of IBM’s knowledge storage enterprise and a knowledge storage marketing consultant in Arizona, believes that the answer to knowledge storage sustainability, for the foreseeable future at the very least, lies in a bit of know-how many may take into account already outdated: the magnetic data tape.
“There’s a chance that many organizations have to cut back their carbon footprint and do it in a approach that might scale back their prices… that’s type of a win-win,” says Johns.
At the least 60 % of all knowledge is “chilly,” but stays on HDDs. Which presents a chance to transition to a greener—and cheaper—various.
The necessity for knowledge storage is just rising, too. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated that the whole quantity of information created would improve from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 ZB in 2025, and that round 10 %, or 17 ZB, of that knowledge can be saved in 2025. Based on estimates by IDC and Seagate cited in 2021, 62 % of information is saved on HDDs, 9 % on stable state drives (SSDs), and 15 % on tape in 2021.
HDDs are extra handy for storage as a result of data may be retrieved from them a lot sooner than it may be retrieved from tape storage. The tradeoff is larger carbon emissions,
Johns explains in an article for Motion Image Journal—HDDs have a lifespan of roughly 5 years, throughout which era they produce round 2.55 equal kilograms of carbon dioxide per terabyte per yr (based mostly on an estimate from Seagate for the Exos X18 HDD). In distinction, tape media has a lifespan of greater than 30 years, throughout which era they produce simply 0.07 kg CO2e/TB/yr (based mostly on an estimate from Fujifilm for the LTO 9 [pdf]), or 3 % that of HDDs.
Tape Storage Saves Carbon
The bars on this graph point out the local weather financial savings accrued in switching out “chilly” knowledge (i.e. knowledge not often accessed however nonetheless indisposable) from laborious drives to magnetic tape. Supply: Brad Johns Consulting
Johns factors out that a lot of the monumental inflow of knowledge being created and saved in the present day is “chilly knowledge,” knowledge that’s not often accessed however nonetheless has worth and can’t be discarded. Based on a
2019 whitepaper by IDC [pdf], 60 % of all knowledge is chilly, but stays on HDDs. Johns argues that this presents an vital alternative for large knowledge companies to transition to another, tape storage, a extra sustainable type of knowledge storage which would scale back their carbon footprint.
If organizations worldwide collectively transitioned all their chilly knowledge, a collective 60 % of all knowledge, to tape, the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted by knowledge storage throughout the globe would fall by 58 %, a 79 million ton discount in CO2 emissions, Johns calculates.
Tape Storage Saves e-Waste
In the meantime, this graph signifies how a lot e-waste can also be saved by switching a portion of the world’s “chilly” saved knowledge from laborious drives to magnetic tape. Supply: Brad Johns Consulting
Transitioning chilly knowledge to be saved on trendy tape media additionally reduces
electronic waste (e-Waste). Since HDDs solely have a 5 yr lifespan, the previous HDDs will must be discarded for brand new ones to retain the identical knowledge. Tape storage is often changed each ten years, leading to much less discarded storage. For instance, if a knowledge middle must retailer 100 Petabytes of information for 10 years, storing all knowledge on HDDs ends in 7.4 metric tons of e-Waste. If 60 % of the info is moved to tape, solely 3.6 metric tons of e-Waste are generated, leading to a 51 % discount.
“Tape in the present day clearly has a compelling benefit over laborious disk drives. And when you take a look at the roadmaps, it’s going to remain that approach most likely for the following decade.”
—Brad Johns, Brad Johns Consulting
Additional incentive for this resolution is the monetary profit, argues Johns. Utilizing Fujifilm’s total cost of ownership (TCO) tool, he calculated that storing all 100 PB of information on HDD prices US $17,707,468, whereas a combination that features 60 % tape cuts the price almost in half to $9,476,339.
Many huge companies have already began shifting towards tape storage. For smaller firms, nevertheless, the method of shifting to tape has been slower. The definition of chilly knowledge is variable, and is dependent upon particular person organizations’ wants and consumer necessities. Thus, categorizing knowledge as “chilly” in order that it may be moved to tape is tricky–and prices time, cash, and energy. Whereas giant companies could have these assets, smaller firms don’t. This is likely one of the obstacles stopping tape storage from being extensively carried out in smaller scale knowledge facilities.
The opposite impediment Johns describes is the administration problem. “The know-how is fairly confirmed. It’s simply making an attempt to get the momentum amongst all the opposite issues that IT organizations should do,” he says.
No matter whether or not companies implement the answer, the query stays whether or not tape storage is the answer that’s right here to remain. “Tape in the present day clearly has a compelling benefit over laborious disk drives, and when you take a look at the roadmaps, it’s going to remain that approach most likely for the following decade,” says Johns. However there’s lively analysis into options.
Microsoft, for example, has invested in research for DNA-based storage options, he factors out. However, “there’s nonetheless a whole lot of analysis to be achieved and engineering to truly flip it into one thing,” he says.
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