The Hot Aisle is delighted to serve up another exclusive interview with a senior industry figure, 3PAR’s Senior Director of Strategy Geoff Hough. In this interview, Geoff answers some searching questions about 3PAR’s product capability and environmentalism and its intersection with self-interest – reduced running costs.
The Hot Aisle: Can you explain 3PAR’s strategy around environmental responsibility and green issues? How important is reducing energy usage in equipment designs?
“3PAR is committed to reducing both the energy requirements and the environmental impact of storage. For years 3PAR has been an industry leader in developing green and thin technologies that promote sustainability by increasing storage efficiency and reducing energy consumption.
Besides very innovative HW and SW design, 3PAR addresses these matters comprehensively:
- Carbon Neutral Storage Program
- Virtual Technology Incentive Program—Energy Rebates through PG&E
- Waste and Energy Conservation
- Green Manufacturing and Compliance Practices
- Environmentally Conscious Packaging
- Employee Participation in Environmental Programs”
The Hot Aisle: 3PAR take a very different approach to designing and building storage controllers from other vendors. Can you explain why it was done this way and what benefits it brings to customers?
“3PAR controllers and the backplane that unites them (collectively called the InSpire architecture) were designed to resolve the traditional tradeoff of high scalability and availability versus cost effectiveness. Our multi-node, tightly-coupled cluster is inherently cost effective, yet can be scaled massively in affordable elements and types of capacity, performance, and connectivity. At all times the cluster remains a single system – coherent and automatically load balanced. The architecture’s aim is to maximize consolidation potential by diminishing the reasons why customers might otherwise be forced into additional SAN infrastructure and points of management. Each controller contains a proprietary 3PAR ASIC which allows each controller to support both high transactional and throughput-intensive workloads well and simultaneously (whereas traditional architectures often must dedicate separate, and additional, resources in practice to these disparate workload types). This is another consolidation – and energy saving – benefit.”
The Hot Aisle Commentary: 3PAR were first movers in producing an architecture that automatically moves data around on the array to load balance between high transactional loads (such as those found on high intensity database applications) and low intensity occasional use applications. In conventional storage architectures different tiers of storage would be needed to match price and performance. This is a very strong positive feature that also removes any need manually to tune the storage array in life as 3PAR does it automatically.
The Hot Aisle: Many vendors don’t seem to pay much attention to integrating equipment into a real data center, I could cite the need to strengthen raised floors, non standard power configurations, difficult to maneuver frames and inability to integrate into a contained hot or cold aisle as examples. What have 3PAR done to make integration and installation easy for the Data Center Manager?
“3PAR systems utilize standard 19” racks (2’ x 3’ footprint, 2M high) and 220 volt power. Raised floors are not required, but they are recommended. Unlike many storage systems, expansion cabinets of a given system do not need to be adjacent to one another, providing greater planning flexibility by eliminating the need reserve adjacent but unused floor space. Unlike many storage systems – but like most server systems – 3PAR cooling is front to back (not top to bottom or vice versa). 3PAR’s ultra-dense Drive Chassis permit, but don’t require, customers to consume ½ the online storage floor space compared to most competing systems.”
The Hot Aisle Commentary: 3PAR are better than most vendors in this respect. Cabinets are modest in size and are loaded with disk cartridges in-situ avoiding high rolling loads on the raised floor. At 887 Kg fully loaded per 2m cabinet, most raised floors would not need to be specially strengthened or have spreader plates fitted underneath.
The Hot Aisle: Total Cost of ownership has been important for some time, but most of the focus has been on capital depreciation, license and maintenance costs. Nowadays Data Center Managers are looking much more closely at the power and heat footprint of the equipment they plan to install. Opportunities to leverage free air cooling (or fresh air in temperate climates) can make a difference but to be effective requires the CRAC temperature set point to be above the norm of 22° C. What support to 3PAR give to running at higher temperatures?
“3PAR systems are supported at the following altitudes / temperatures:
0–3,000ft / 0-914.4m – 50–104°F/10–40°C
3,000–10,000 ft / 914.4m-3048m – 50–95°F/10–35°”
The Hot Aisle Commentary: Being able to run the product at 40°C is a distinct advantage and will help to enable free air and fresh air cooling at high CRAH set points thereby reducing input energy and improving the PUE of the data center. Nevertheless it would be nice to see higher allowable temperatures (50°C would be great).
The Hot Aisle: If the equipment operates at higher temperatures what is the impact on energy use? (For example are there larger emitter currents in the circuitry or do fans need to operate faster to maintain internal temperatures).
“The impact on energy use at different temperatures is within measurement error (i.e., a very small percentage). Our fans run at a constant speed regardless of temperature.”
The Hot Aisle Commentary: This is a positive benefit as quite often the advantage to the building systems of running at higher ambient temperature can be depleted by higher power being drawn by the equipment as it is subjected to higher temperatures.
The Hot Aisle: Can 3PAR equipment selectively shut part of itself down when not in use to minimize power usage when idle? For example Copan offer MAID technology that selectively shuts down disks that are not being used.
“No. Our architecture seeks to eliminate the overall need for disk drives my maximizing their utilization.”
The Hot Aisle Comment: This is not one of 3PAR’s core strengths, and it is obvious that the MAID approach does not work for every vendor or for every customer requirement. Geoff rightly points out that thin provisioning is a critical part of improving energy efficiency, it is bad enough having disks spinning all of the time without them mostly being empty as well.
The Hot Aisle: Are there any specific features of the 3PAR offering that is useful in driving down energy TCO by reducing electricity usage or reducing the amount of Data Center capital equipment tied up in supporting it?
“Yes. 3PAR tackles this is a couple of ways:
- Thin technologies. We eliminate disk drives and related power/cooling requirements by requiring raw capacity only for written data (Thin Provisioning). Most systems require raw capacity and spinning disk in proportion to the amount of capacity allocated to server hosts. In a typical IT environment, written data is only 25% of allocated capacity. Thus 3PAR can help reduce raw capacity and related energy requirements up to 75%. All of 3PAR copy technologies are thin-aware, and so local and remote data copies do not consume capacity/energy for wasted copy space either. We recently announced our latest generation platform which contains a new, silicon-based facility that enables the thinning of “fat’ volumes.
- Wide striping. By default, 3PAR distributes every application volume over every internal system resource evenly (CPU, cache, loops, drives, ports, etc.) For this reason, fewer and/or less consumptive resources are needed to achieve a given level of performance. Moreover, such distribution allows the capacity of our drives to be fully accessed and utilized while eliminating contention. This principle can be illustrated in some concrete ways:
- Fast RAID 5: High performance without the high data protection overhead of RAID 1. See these test results from Oracle: http://www.3par.com/technical/tech_pop_0134.php?KeepThis=true&
- Nearline for Online: Using energy efficient enterprise SATA technology (low watts/MB) to meet all application demands, an alternative to tiering. See http://www.3par.com/solutions/it_solutions/nearline_for_online.html
- SPC-1 benchmark results: http://www.3par.com/technical/tech_pop_spc1.php?KeepThis=true&
- By fully utilizing the drives, we not only set a performance record, but also uniquely achieved very low cost per useable (ASU) TB.”
The Hot Aisle: Trying to get meaningful and comparable numbers for energy use per stored GB or transferred GB is very hard as this is often linked to how fully populated the frames are and how much capacity is utilized. However a useful approach is to define the outer values, i.e. the frame is fully populated and minimally utilized as worst case and the frame fully populated and fully utilized as best. Can you share those numbers?
“Yes. We supply actual power draw and heat dissipation figures on a component by component basis. Thus users can accurately estimate their power based on their particular and chosen configuration. Moreover, for each component two power figures are supplied: watts when idle and watts when under maximum (transactional) load.”
The Hot Aisle Comment: We calculate that in maximum capacity RAID 5 mode of 8:1 data to parity disks this is an 256 TB raw / 227 TB useable capacity storage controller that uses 12.3KW idle and 14.7KW on full load. From this the power to capacity ratio is 15.4 TB/KW on full transactional load and 18.5 TB / KW on idle.
(A fully loaded T400 consisting of 4 nodes, 640 400GB 10k drives, 16 drives chassis, and 1 service processor. Per the referenced sheet, that’s 12,297 / 14,687 watts at idle / max. ~256 TB raw and ~227.5 TB useable (at R5 8+1).)
The Hot Aisle: The ability for storage to recover from catastrophic failure is crucial; can you explain the fault tolerance approach taken by 3PAR?
“All hardware (except our passive backplane) and software is fault tolerant. All SW/HW upgrades are non-disruptive. By default, RAID sets are isolated across multiple Drive Chassis which minimizes the impact of failures (i.e., you can loose an entire drive chassis and still have access to your data). The most interesting aspects of 3PAR availability stem, again, from the wide striping. For example, we return customers to a protected RAID state very quickly after a drive failure through what we refer to as Rapid RAID Rebuild. We do this by rebuilding only the used portions of a lost drive in a massively parallel fashion (from many drives to many drives).”
The Hot Aisle Comment: 3PAR do offer a better than average answer here with data spread across multiple cartridges in different cabinets. I wonder how it compares to the resilience provided by IBM’s XIV product?
The Hot Aisle: To further demonstrate their green credentials, 3PAR offer customers a Carbon neutral storage program on their website, I asked Geoff to comment – see exert and commentary below:
“3PAR is committed to reducing both the energy requirements and the environmental impact of storage in the datacenter. As part of this commitment, at the start of 2008 we extended our Carbon Neutral Storage initiative. This program funds the purchase of offsets equivalent to one metric ton of CO2 for each terabyte of 3PAR Utility Storage sold with 3PAR Thin Provisioning. The outcome is effectively 100% carbon neutral storage. To date, 3PAR’s Carbon Neutral Storage program has funded the purchase of more than 8,700 metric tons of CO2 emission offsets. Between these offsets and the disk capacity savings from green storage technologies like 3PAR Thin Provisioning, we estimate that 3PAR customers have achieved a total CO2 emissions reduction of more than 17,000 metric tons since the program began in 2007—the equivalent of removing more than 3,000 cars from the road for an entire year.
To further recognize and promote energy-saving measures, PG&E is now offering financial incentives to customers in Northern and Central California who deploy 3PAR Utility Storage systems through 3PAR V-TIP. Wikibon Energy Lab validated 3PAR’s energy savings with PG&E based on a review of actual 3PAR customer installations that included the use of 3PAR Thin Provisioning software. According to David Floyer, CTO of Wikibon Energy Lab, “3PAR Thin Provisioning has been shown to dramatically increase utilization rates on InServ disk drives–and reduce energy consumption by up to 75% relative to traditional modular and monolithic arrays.” This enhanced efficiency permits 3PAR customers to use less physical disk space and fewer disk drives for a reduced datacenter footprint and substantial energy savings. The financial incentives offered to 3PAR customers by PG&E further reward 3PAR customers for deploying energy-smart storage. PG&E rebates are based on the amount of energy savings achieved by datacenters through storage virtualization and the use of 3PAR Thin Provisioning and other thin technologies from 3PAR.”
The Hot Aisle Comment: Personally I think Carbon offsets are pretty useless, (although many, including the providers used by 3PAR like Terrapass (http://www.terrapass.com/) would strongly disagree). Many studies find the investments made as a result of offsetting are ineffective and short term. However they are a matter of taste and do show that at least 3PAR are thinking about green issues in a constructive way. Much better to use the cash consumed buying offsets to fund some product development that takes out running costs, particularly in the idle state.
Geoff tells me that PG&E, the power utility for Northern California, is backing the use of 3PAR thin technologies with hard cash rebates.