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Why Zextras Suite is a Greener Solution | Blog

Using information technologies has a bad reputation of contributing to environmental problems. Computers and any IT infrastructure consume significant amounts of electricity, which is increasing day by day, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, both production and disposal of IT hardware introduce all sorts of environmental problems. The increasing use of IT by enterprises nowadays creates a larger responsibility for them to adopt environmentally sound practices to overcome environmental issues.

Zextras has always valued the importance of sustainability and tried to take a step towards a greener environment through the implementation of its powerful storage management system designed for Zimbra. Zextras has also thought of solutions to grow economical benefits for the companies who Zextras Suite. With Zextras Suite you can also join us on this journey which benefits all.

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability is all about meeting present needs without compromising the future needs of the next generations. Modern companies are more and more committed to sustainability via activities such as optimizing energy consumption, investing in renewable energy, reducing waste, etc. Sustainability consists of three pillars social, economical, environmental. These three are also known as people, profits, and the planet.

In terms of the environmental consequences,

  • Information technology (IT) industries in 2009 were responsible for approximately 10% of global electric power consumption (Phippa, 2009),
  • Information and computer technology (ICT) sectors in 2007 were responsible for approximately 3% of global carbon emissions (The Climate Group, 2008).

The negative impact of using information technology is proven to be a huge threat to the environment therefore there are social and governmental obligations to prevent further damage to the environment. Regardless of all these obligations, practices such as optimizing electricity consumption that helps to create a greener and more sustainable environment won’t be always welcomed by enterprises unless there is an economical return as their investments have to be justified.

Zextras and Sustainability

Optimizing electricity consumption is one of the most effective practices to limit negative impacts on the environment. Zextras as a company that cares about sustainability, has tried to take a step towards a greener environment through the implementation of its powerful storage management system designed for Zimbra. To learn more about Zextras storage management (also called Powerstore) please refer to Zextras Suite Powerstore and Zextras Hierarchical Storage Management for Zimbra.

A green IT infrastructure doesn’t mean anything without green software and hardware. Software plays a crucial role in overall platform energy efficiency. Whilst platform hardware should be power efficient. Besides all the unique functionalities Zextras storage management brings to Zimbra, it contributes to environmental sustainability. This mostly comes from optimizing power consumption in the system which is always Zextras approach to implement new ideas. Some of the features of the Zextras suite contributing to power consumption optimization are:

  • Hierarchical storage management,
  • Extremely space-efficient backup system,
  • Giving the option of using cloud storage,
  • etc.

We will see how exactly these factors contribute to a greener solution in the following sections.

As mentioned before, practices such as optimizing electricity consumption won’t be adopted by enterprises unless there is an economical return. Zextras has tried to step towards a greener solution whilst also having economic returns as an incentive for the companies that are already using Zimbra. This is the only way we can make sure that the companies will eventually gravitate towards these approaches.

How Zextras Suite Helps Sustainability

To understand how Zextras helps with sustainability we should first take a deep look at data storage solutions and how they contribute to environmental problems.

Data storage solutions can be different based on their complexity, configuration and size, access patterns, and the importance of the data. All these differences affect power consumption. For instance, in high-performance computing data centers that focus more on CPU resources rather than data storage, storage still accounts for about 10% of the overall energy consumption including computing, heating ventilation, and air conditioning resources. In enterprise data centers consist of both computation and data storage, 25% of total energy is consumed by storage systems. Considering the increasing growth of data, storage systems are becoming more and more significant leading to greater carbon footprints. Therefore, making data storage systems greener is always a good strategy to tackle these environmental issues.

Even though most of our produced data is stored in the hard disk drive (HDD) storage systems, flash drives, or solid-state drives (SSD) storage solutions are becoming more popular particularly for storing frequently accessed data. The cost per TB and access speed of SSDs are higher than HDDs, whilst storage capacity is usually higher in HDDs. Although HDDs have internal energy management techniques such as state transitioning, caching, and dynamic rotations per minute or DRPM, they still consume much more power than SSDs.

Power Characteristics of Different Storage Devices

The power consumption of different devices is highly influenced by their operational characteristics. A quick look at how they work helps us better understand their power consumption. HDDs are the most common nonvolatile storage media. They have disk platters on a rotating spindle and a read and write head surfs over the platters. This mechanical character results in poor power efficiency and most of the power consumption come from the rotating spindle then the head assembly that moves along the platters. For instance, a 300GB HDD power consumption with a rotational speed of 15000RPM and a 750GB HDD with a rotational speed of 7200RPM is around 17.5W and 12.6W.

On the other hand, SSDs have become more popular due to their better performance potential and higher power efficiency. Unlike electromechanical HDDs which contain spinning disks and movable heads, an SSD uses solid-state memory with no moving parts. Therefore, compared to HDDs, SSDs have lower access time and power consumption although they are much more expensive. For example, the power consumption of a 128GB SSD is about 2W. The efficiency of an SSD is mainly attributed to its nonmechanical nature.


Power Consumption Optimization

Here we take a quick look at some of the ways the Zextras suite helps you optimize your power consumption significantly.

Zextras hierarchical storage management for Zimbra

Zextras storage management enables you to benefit from hierarchical storage management or HSM in your Zimbra. HSM is an approach to manage data layout. In HSM, data are migrated between different storage devices based on their data access patterns. Different storage devices have significant differences in one or more attributes such as price, performance, capacity, power, and function. HSM monitors the access pattern of the data, predicts their future usage pattern, stores the infrequently accessed data on slower devices (e.g. HDD), and frequently accessed data on faster devices (e.g. SSD).

HSM allows us to organize data based on our needs and purposes, and each storage device, depending on its properties and specifications, gets the share of our data that it can handle best. For, example suppose you divided your data to be stored in a high-speed storage device and a slower one (like an SSD which are more expensive but faster than cheaper HDDs), in a way that all the frequently used data is stored in the faster storage, the advantage is that the total amount of data is not on faster but more expensive storage, which translates to lower costs, and since the less frequently used data is on the slower storage, the users generally won’t experience any slowdown. If a user reuses a file from the slower storage, it will automatically move to the faster storage. Moving data from hard disks to HDDs reduces the power consumption of the storage system by storing rarely accessed data to devices with lower power efficiency.

With Zextras storage management you can easily define some policies to perform these migrations automatically.

Zextras backup system for Zimbra

Every system administrator who has worked with Zimbra has at least once wondered why Zimbra OSE doesn’t have a built-in backup feature. Furthermore, no third-party alternative is perfect Zextras suite introduces a backup system for Zimbra to easily handle backup and restore procedures relying on innovative and easy to configure features. Deduplication and compression and implemented in Zextras Suite leveraging symbolic links can immensely help to reduce the backup size. Using this technique Zextras reduces the backup size by 50% compared to the operational filesystem. This not only leads to better performance but is also extremely effective in optimizing power consumption.

Zextras and cloud storage for Zimbra

Zextras Suite gives you the option of using secure and durable cloud storage for hosting primary and secondary volumes created with Zextras storage management on S3 buckets. Cloud storage refers to data storage offered by third parties, instead of storing data to the local storage devices. Third parties, also known as hosting parties, can offer a better-optimized power consumption due to the amount of data they handle and the different techniques they use. They always try to improve their power consumption optimization not only to benefit the environment but also because it is much more financially advantageous for them, especially in the long run.

A major advantage of cloud storage is taking the burden of storage power management off the local system administrators, as it is taken care of by the cloud service provider. The cloud service provider has a wider variety of options and techniques for power consumption optimization, because of the large load of data and workloads it has at hand. For example, the service provider can use more optimized storage devices and use more power-aware storage techniques, like HSM, or storage virtualization which brings different workloads from various users together into a single storage device, thus letting for a smaller device idle time and improved storage efficiency. Despite some reliability issues still being a cause for concern, the growth of cloud storage provides massive opportunities for greener storage. We can opt for better reliability by using the most reputable cloud storage providers.

For instance, we can take a look at the carbon efficiency of Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure compared to surveyed US enterprises according to 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise survey on the cloud, hosting, and managed services.

  • 61% of carbon reduction is attributable to more efficient servers and higher server utilization,
  • 11% of carbon reduction is attributable to more efficient data center facilities,
  • 17% of carbon reduction is attributable to reduced electricity consumption and renewable energy usage.

Even when compared to the top 10% most efficient organizations surveyed, moving to AWS would deliver a 72% reduction in carbon footprint on average. The results suggest that moving to the cloud would reduce the workload carbon footprint for virtually any US enterprise in this cohort of companies with revenues between $10m and $1bn. 451 Research expects this carbon benefit to grow in the coming years. Our modeling suggests that AWS should be able to improve its efficiency faster than enterprises using on-premises infrastructure based on currently known server technology roadmaps and expected growth rates in public cloud infrastructure.

Source: Voice of the Enterprise: Cloud, Hosting and Managed Services, Workloads and Key Projects – Quarterly Advisory Report, 451 Research, June 28, 2019.

Economical Incentives

As mentioned before, having an economical incentive is a key factor for companies to migrate to greener solutions. We can not expect companies to ignore their economical benefits for environmental sustainability. That is why Zextras has not only focused on strategies to lower the power consumption of Zimbra servers but it has also thought of solutions to grow economical benefits for the companies at the same time. Below we learn more about these incentives.

Zextras Suite enables Zimbra to use cloud storage and local storage devices with different speeds and prices through HSM, leading to cost optimization for the companies. Furthermore, the capability to use cloud storage leads to the elimination of the need for purchase and management of local physical storage devices by local system administrators, setting them free of the heavy workload of maintenance practices such as backup, preventing running out of storage, etc. as all these complex tasks are taken up by the cloud service provider and performed in a much more efficient manner while also reducing overall costs, due to the greater variety of optimization techniques they have at hand. This is one of the various reasons cloud storage has been growing increasingly more popular among companies every day.

We can take a closer look at the financial appeal of employing such green practices by doing technical calculations on how they lead to a better return on investment for the company. The following whitepaper will provide you with more information and details on this matter:

Download Zextras whitepaper on Zextras smart storage management for Zimbra.

Will It Be the End?

Absolutely not, as you saw Zextras has proven that adopting sustainability strategies can be possible for all IT companies while having economical returns for them. Zextras will continue to develop such strategies to have a greener future as it is not just a temporary goal for Zextras but a philosophy. With Zextras suite you can also play a crucial role on this exciting journey.

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