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Commitment to Sustainability at Data Center World Includes How to Avoid CO2 Emissions in Long Term Storage with Modern Data Tape Technology

Reading Time: 5 minutes

March 31, 2022

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism

I had the opportunity to present at AFCOM’s Data Center World (DCW) exhibit and conference in Austin, Texas yesterday. The first thing I have to share about this experience is how surreal it was to get back on an airplane! It was my first trip since COVID started two years ago with many zoom presentations and virtual conferences since then. But not much has changed about air travel. The seating is still cramped, the flight was packed full, and my dog gets more snacks in a four hour period than I did on my four hour flight!

Committed to Sustainability
Sustainability is a hot topic these days and was one of the main themes of this year’s DCW. It was also the topic I presented on, specifically “How to Avoid CO2 Emissions in Long Term Storage with Modern Data Tape Technology.” The good news is that the DCW attendees that I met and listened to in other sessions are genuinely concerned about the environment and worried about what kind of planet we will be leaving behind for our kids and grandchildren. They recognize the opportunity to improve sustainability in data center operations and are committed to it.

Key Questions about Storage
At the outset of my presentation, I asked for a show of hands for those directly involved in data storage. I was not surprised to confirm my suspicion that there would be few if any attendees to raise a hand, since AFCOM’s DCW is more about facilities management than storage management. But I was also glad to see this because we need everyone to be advocates for any possible sustainability improvements in IT operations. So I asked my audience to lean on their colleagues in storage and pose two simple questions to them: “If data has gone cold and is infrequently accessed, why are we keeping it on energy intensive tiers of storage like constantly spinning and heat producing HDD arrays? Why not move it to eco-friendly tape?” The attendees in my session admitted they can feel the power drain and heat being produced by endless disk arrays in their data centers.

Climate Change and Global Warming
I began my presentation by setting the stage on global warming from the forest fires in 2020, to the Texas deep freeze in early 2021, to the fact that July of 2021 was the hottest month ever on earth. Add to this the dire reports from the U.N. in late 2021 and early 2022. All this has led to changing consumer sentiment demanding that governments do more. Thankfully they are. Corporate attitudes are also changing from resistance to action on climate and we will be seeing more CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers) being appointed and implementing change top down. Even Wall Street and the SEC are getting in on the act, demanding reporting and disclosures on corporate sustainability initiatives.

Energy Intensive IT Industry
Next, I confirmed what we all know, that the IT industry is energy intensive and its demand for energy is rapidly increasing. The demand curve for energy looks similar to the demand curve for data storage. Driven by digital transformation, IDC expects persistent data that needs to be stored to grow from 2.0 ZB in 2016 to more than 11.0 ZB in 2025, a CAGR of 27%. Suffice it to say no one in the audience really understood what a zettabyte was or that just one zettabyte was equal to the capacity of 55 million LTO-9 data cartridges or 55 million 18.0 TB HDDs. That’s a lot of storage requirement for one zettabyte, let alone 11.0 zettabytes in 2025. We are going to need a lot of flash, disk and tape to handle that kind of volume!

Renewable Energy plus Conservation
Next came the conversation about renewables and how Greenpeace has done a great job advocating for more use of renewables in data centers, especially the cloud hyperscalers. But from the looks of progress being made on this front, renewable sources of energy likely can’t come on line fast enough or cheaply enough, or in sufficient volume to satisfy the energy needs of the massive data center industry. While Fujifilm is a big fan of renewables (we use it ourselves for our LTO plant in Boston) what’s really needed is a combination of renewables and energy conservation. How about turning off those lights and HDDs before leaving the office each night!

The Data Life Cycle
When it comes to conserving energy in data storage, one needs to understand a few simple principles related to the “data lifecycle.” Data quickly goes cold and access frequency drops off dramatically after 30, 60 or 90 days. At the same time, data retention periods are getting longer, sometimes reaching indefinite time periods. This is where data tiering saves the day as cold data can move from expensive, energy intensive tiers of storage to economy, eco-friendly tiers like modern data tape.

Advantages of Eco-Friendly Tape
I then shared the research findings from Brad Johns Consulting in his two white papers where tape consumes 87% less energy and produces 87% less CO2 than equivalent amounts of HDD storage. When analyzed over the total product lifecycle from procurement of raw materials to production to distribution to usage and finally disposal, tape produces 95% less CO2 than HDD and produces 80% less e-waste. I also shared the results of an IDC study that shows migrating more cold data from tape to HDD could result in an avoidance of 664 million metric tons of CO2 on a global basis by 2030. That’s the CO2 equivalent of 144 million automobiles being taken off the road for a full year! I also referenced research by IBM showing a side by side compare of TS4500 tape library and Bryce Canyon HDD where the IBM gear produced 80% less CO2 over a ten year period than the Bryce Canyon system. To round things out, I shared the end user perspective from an executive roundtable where Microsoft Azure stated:

“When you take the material savings and power savings, tape actually does offer quite a bit of advantage compared to other technologies that are on the market today.”

Since my audience wanted to know more, I briefly covered tape’s other benefits including:

  • Tape remains the lowest cost storage media on a $/GB basis
  • Tape storage supports air gap ransomware
  • Tape can reliably store data for long periods with an excellent bit error rate
  • Tape technology has room to grow in areal density and therefore capacity, and has a well-defined roadmap

I concluded by saying that data growth is here to stay and the volumes of valuable data are getting enormous. What the industry needs to do in support of strategic data storage management and sustainability objectives is this:

“Get the right data, in the right place, at the right time, at the right cost, and…at the right energy consumption level.”

I think the attendees got the message and now see modern tape storage as part of the carbon reduction answer for the data centers of today and tomorrow. It was well worth the snack deprived four hour flight!

 

 

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A Timely Report by IDC on Sustainable Data Storage Strategies

Reading Time: 3 minutes

October 20, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism, FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.

If 2020 will be remembered for the global COVID pandemic, 2021 will hopefully be remembered as the year global warming and climate change took center stage. This year has certainly had more than its fair share of climate change-related natural disasters from extreme weather caused by a warming of the polar regions, to raging forest fires, to flooding across the globe. Consumers, governments, and organizations are taking notice and action. Carbon reduction pledges are being made as sustainability is now a strategic imperative for business leaders across all industries.

The Energy Intensive IT Industry

The IT industry is not exempt from sustainability mandates. The IT industry is said to consume 2% to 3% of the world’s electrical supply and this number is expected to rise in the years ahead amidst the rapid expansion of digital transformation and exponential data growth. Data centers are major consumers of energy and are looking for ways to become more sustainable.

The Need for Energy Conservation

A new IDC whitepaper, sponsored by Fujifilm,  entitled “Accelerating Green Datacenter Progress with Sustainable Storage Strategies”  provides an in-depth analysis of the significant energy savings and resulting CO2 emissions reduction that can be achieved by moving more data from energy-intensive storage mediums like hard disk drive arrays to environmentally friendly tape storage.

For data center operators, much focus has been placed on renewable sources of energy but renewables can’t come online fast enough or cheaply enough to keep up with digital transformation and the rapid growth of data. Therefore, energy conservation must also be the focus of every large data center operator.

Storing Zettabytes of Cold Data

The IDC report shows that data to be stored has grown from 2.0 zettabytes (ZB) in 2016 to 4.1 ZB in 2020 and is expected to reach 11.1 ZB in 2025. Just one ZB is a vast amount of data equal to one million petabytes that would need 55 million 18 TB hard drives or 55 million 18 TB LTO-9 tapes to store.

An interesting fact about data is that it quickly goes cold and access frequency drops off significantly after just 30, 60 or even 90 days. In fact, industry analysts project that 60% to 80% of all data stored is cold and qualifies as “archival.” Yet through inertia, that data often remains on energy-intensive, constantly spinning and heat-producing tiers of storage like hard disk drives. Tape does not consume any power unless being read or written to by a tape drive. As such, tape supports green data center initiatives with its ability to store data near-line in an active archive or offline without consuming power, and thereby reducing CO2 emissions.

Reducing CO2 Emissions with Tape

The IDC paper shows that in a certain scenario if more of the world’s data is appropriately designated as archival and migrated to tape, a 43.7% reduction in CO2 can be achieved over the forecast period. This equates to an avoidance of 664 million metric tons of CO2 (equal to CO2 produced by 144 million passenger vehicles in one year or 80 million homes in one year).

Company leaders should indeed evaluate all IT resources through a lens of sustainability. Doing so will uncover the environmental benefits of shifting more data to today’s modern and highly advanced tape storage.

For the complete details, you can access the full IDC report here.

 

 

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Taking Action Against Climate Change by Reducing CO2 Emissions with Eco-Friendly Tape Systems

Reading Time: 3 minutes

September 30, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism, FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.

In early August of this year, a United Nations panel called the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)” issued a new report, the Sixth Assessment Report, on climate change and global warming. You can explore the lengthy and technical full report here. But in short, a few key headline statements from the report include:

  • It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere have occurred.
  • Global warming of 1.5 degrees C and 2.0 degrees C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
  • Many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and intense tropical cyclones as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover, and permafrost.
  • Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets, and global sea level.

The U.N. report is pretty scary, especially that last bullet. But think about the severe weather events we experienced in 2020 only to be outdone by recent calamities in 2021 like the Texas deep freeze, the record heat in the Pacific Northwest, torrential floods in Europe, China and the U.S., extreme storms, not to mention the worsening forest fires.

A Time for IT to Take Action on Climate Change

We as a society, as individuals and as commercial organizations and governments need to take action. No effort is too small, even turning off a single light switch when not needed is worthwhile. Collectively we can make a difference.

The IT industry is no exception and needs to take action. Data centers are major consumers of energy amidst rapid and widespread digital transformation initiatives resulting in exponential data growth. While the IT industry has made significant strides in ramping up renewable sources of energy, it can’t come online fast enough or cheaply enough to make a big difference. What is also needed is energy conservation and storage is a good place to start.

Assessing the Eco-Friendly Advantages of Tape

Back in November of 2020 industry expert and consultant Brad Johns published a whitepaper on the energy advantage of today’s modern and highly advanced data tape systems. That paper, entitled “Reducing Data Center Energy Consumption and Carbon Emissions with Modern Tape” showed:

  • Tape systems consume 87% less energy and therefore reduce CO2 emissions by 87% compared to equivalent capacities of HDD storage.
  • What’s more, the lower energy consumption of tape contributes to an 86% reduction in TCO.

More recently, Brad Johns did an even deeper dive into the energy advantage of tape in a second whitepaper on the subject entitled: “Improving Information Technology Sustainability with Modern Tape Storage.” This time, instead of just looking at energy consumption during the operational usage phase of tape vs. HDD, Brad decided to look at the energy consumption and environmental impact of tape vs. HDD from “cradle to grave.” That is to say, from sourcing of raw materials to manufacturing, to distribution, to usage, and disposal at end of life. Here are the key findings:

  • Tape produces 95% less CO2 than HDD during its lifecycle from manufacturing to disposal.
  • Electronic waste (e-waste) at the time of disposal is reduced by 80% for tape compared to HDD.
  • Ten-year TCO in this paper shows a 73% reduction for tape compared to HDD.

Brad also did a “what if” scenario as follows: what if industry best practices were truly observed and 60% of HDD data was moved to tape systems?

  • 72 million tons of CO2 would be avoided, a 57% reduction compared to keeping all the data on HDD!

To download this whitepaper for complete details, click here.

While simply using more tape for cold and inactive data won’t solve climate change or make scary U.N. reports go away, it certainly is a positive contribution to the global effort. We all need to do whatever we can so that collectively we can make a difference.

 

 

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From LTO-1 to LTO-8: Tape Manufacturing in Bedford, MA

Reading Time: 4 minutes

July 28, 2021

In this Q&A, we talk to Andy Feather, Sr. Director, Engineering & Technical Services at FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc. about the company’s tape manufacturing process and robust sustainability efforts.

How long has Fujifilm been manufacturing LTO tapes in the U.S.?

We first started LTO tape manufacturing here in Bedford in September 2003.  This was the start of LTO-1 and we have made every generation since then up to the current LTO-8.

How has the manufacturing process changed over the years?

At the start of LTO production, as with most start-up manufacturing processes, it was a very manual process, over the years we have added more and more automation.  We’ve also refined our methods for controlling the manufacturing equipment so, for example, on the winding machines, we focus on preventive maintenance and sophisticated process control to monitor the quality during the tape winding process.  This allows us to reduce the dependence on testing cartridges after they have been wound.

In our packaging operations, we have focused on improvements for the environment.  We’ve introduced soy-based inks for all our printed materials and we’ve eliminated most of the paper instruction sheets and user labels.  We’ve switched to recycled paper and corrugated and reduced the thickness of the plastic cases.  In our latest “bulk” packaging design we have eliminated corrugated completely and reduced the use of plastic shrink film to the absolute bare minimum.

“Having our manufacturing facility in the U.S. allows us to respond quickly to any customer request.” – Andy Feather

What are the advantages of having a manufacturing facility located in the U.S.?

Having our manufacturing facility in the U.S. allows us to respond quickly to any customer request. Much of our production volume is customized with barcode labels specific to a customer’s order.  We can receive the order, custom print and apply the barcode labels, and then drop ship to any location in the U.S. within 48 hours.

Was Fujifilm’s manufacturing facility impacted by COVID?

As an essential business, our manufacturing facility has remained open through the pandemic.  Naturally, we took every precaution to ensure our employees remained safe, including providing masks and reorganizing the facility to accommodate for social distancing.  During the peak of the pandemic last year we minimized the number of staff on-site to just the critical manufacturing employees.  To achieve this we implemented working from home for as many of the administrative functions as possible.  We also implemented a strict visitor policy that ensured that only visitors essential to the ongoing functioning of the manufacturing facility was permitted on-site and while on-site all visitors were required to follow the COVID restrictions,

What changed during COVID and have you kept some of the new processes you may have implemented?

As the pandemic thankfully subsided in the fall of last year we were able to relax some of the restrictions and gradually bring more people back into the facility.  We still have people working from home and continue to social distance while in the facility.  With the experience from last year, we are looking at our work from home policy to allow continued flexibility for our employees where possible.

What are some of the green initiatives manufacturing has initiated?  

The solar panel installation project at our Bedford manufacturing facility began in response to a FUJIFILM corporate mission of energy conservation and Greenhouse gas reduction to address issues of climate change. With 1,870 solar modules, our solar installation has produced 2,977,000 kWh since its inception in November of 2013. That is the equivalent amount of energy used by 4,666 homes during an entire month. It is also the equivalent to a reduction of 1,787 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Over 20 years, this would equal the carbon sequestered by 7,280 acres of U.S. forest in one year.

In addition to our solar panels, we have just recently converted to LED lighting in our manufacturing facility. By converting to LED bulbs we will reduce our carbon footprint by approximately one-third, minimize daily maintenance work, decrease our UV emissions to zero and overall be more energy efficient. With over 3,000 bulbs replaced, we estimate a savings of 400,000 kWh this year!

Of course, tape is the greenest form of data storage available consuming 87% less energy than the equivalent hard drive storage.

What are some of the largest accomplishments manufacturing has achieved that you are particularly proud of?

Fujifilm continues to innovate the technology of LTO tape working with our OEM partners to further enhance the performance of LTO tape cartridges.  As each successive generation of LTO is released, tape cartridge capacity and performance increase which naturally imposes tighter and tighter requirements on the tape, the cartridge, and all the components that go into the product.  In manufacturing, we’ve been able to innovate the production processes to stay ahead of the technical challenges of manufacturing a product that operates in the realm of sub-nanometer tolerances. We’ve achieved this through a continual focus on automation and the dedication and expertise of our engineers and technical personnel.

 

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