Western Digital Pitches Greener HD to UN

PCMag reports on Western Digital presenting at a UN conference.

Western Digital to UN: Buy More Green Hard Drives
ARTICLE DATE:  07.11.08

By  Jeremy A. Kaplan

Runaway power consumption in data centers is a well-known phenomenon, but Western Digital has a new solution: replacing the thousands of hard drives in today's data centers with new, green models. In a keynote address at the United Nations on Friday morning, Tom McDorman, vice president and general manager of Western Digital's enterprise storage solutions division, will argue that the power savings, reduced temperatures, and added capacity of the company's low-power drives is a key first step towards fixing what is clearly a broken system. The speech is part of AIT Global's ICT for Sustainable Economic, Social, and Business Development Conference (aitglobal.com), taking place yesterday and today at the UN in New York City.

Data centers consumed 1.5 percent of our nation's energy costs in 2006, according to the EPA's Data Center Report to Congress from last August, and with the increased popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube and Revver, the overall capacity of data centers is exploding. As the need for storage space grows, so does the cost of running these centers. IDC estimates that between power and cooling, 48 watts are consumed in a data center for each hard drive. Drives themselves consume a mere 12 watts. Addressing that disparity is one way to control rising costs.

Groups like The Green Grid and the Green Storage Initiative are busy developing blueprints for building new eco-friendly data centers, but McDorman has an alternate solution: retrofitting current data centers with energy-efficient hard drives. By reducing the speed of Western Digital's GreenPower disks from 7,500 or even 10,000 revolutions per minute down to 5,000, and increasing the number of sectors per track (called the linear density of the hard drive), overall power consumption is reduced—yet data is pulled off a drive at the same rate.

Western Digital has also optimized "seek times," a traditional measure of a hard drive's performance; It turns out, faster isn't always better. McDorman points out that getting to a specific point on the hard drive too early merely wastes power. By seeking more intelligently, and arriving at a point on the disk at the right time, the company is able to minimize vibration, heat, and power consumption.