Lawyer Bait

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

600 Trillion Bytes per box - ROI of Pod Container Storage

I read recently that the IRS stores 15 to 20 Terabytes of data for each year of tax returns.

If the number is 20 Terabytes, 600/20 = 30 years of tax records storage is possible with a single container/POD. Since they go back 10 years for most practical applications of retrieval this means, at least conceptually, that the IRS and any other entity that stores records electronically (lawyers) will pay for 66% of records they seldom or never need to access for legal, operational, or other reasons.

For other organizations (banks, brokerages) it is 4-7 years where records need to be accessed on a 'regular' basis and after four years the trend falls off a cliff and after 7 it's hello abyss. So let's look at what a company might pay to store all this data and then let's look at what they would save if they thought differently about how they actually implemented their storage both in dollars and in energy efficiency.

1024 Gigabytes (GB) = 1 Terabyte (TB). I will round it to 1000 to keep it simple.
I will also assume that the cost per GB is $.50 - 50 cents US, so cost per TB is $500 USD. So that means in raw Capex you're at $300,000 ($500*600) for a container of raw storage.

Let's look at Opex now. We have power, cooling (subset of power), and space.

Power for a container is 350-600kw. If I use 600 or the max draw/densities I have seen, then 1TB = 1 KW of power for keeping the equipment fired up. At $200/kw or $200/Tb you're at $120,000 per month in base rent. Here is where the containers leave the data centers in the dust - PUE.

A data center PUE (Power Utilization Efficiency) looks at how much additional power is needed to power the cooling and facility in which the computing equipment is stored. Most data centers are at 1.7 for a PUE, meaning for every Kw of power needed to power the computers, an additional .7 Kw is needed for cooling it and ultimately powering the chillers, the A/C, etc.

POD Containers are 1.08 to 1.3. What does this really mean?

That you will save .4 to .6 per Kw in a container per month in power alone.

In real dollars that means per TB of storage, saving .5 Kw (mean average) equates to cutting my Opex by about a 1/3 over a traditional data center FOR THE SAME FUNCTION - storage of data.

So we lop off $40K/ month, which means that over a year we save $480K ($500k to round it). This covers the cost of the storage ($300k) and then some. You can look at it as free storage plus $200K, or a substantial reduction in Opex, or $200K to do other things with.

Bottom line is a POD/container pays for itself in under a year, is FAR more efficient than a data center day to day and that's not only good for our bottom lines, but it's good for our environment, and is responsible computing.

I will take a look at an even smarter solution for older records using MAID - Massive Arrays of Idle Disks.

Want help crunching your numbers? Email me -

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