Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E; San Francisco, California, U.S) has announced the first-ever utility financial incentive program to support a new high-efficiency data-storage system that addresses the problem of growing energy use in data centers. The technology is called massive array of idle disks (MAID), and it stores rarely used data to hard disks that are normally turned off, helping customers realize 75% or more in energy savings compared to typical systems.

"Data-storage growth rates for many businesses exceed 100%, so a technology that supports that rate in a more energy-efficient manner will help our customers manage their costs," explained Brad Whitcomb, vice president of customer products and services for PG&E. "By providing financial support, we hope to ramp up industry adoption of this technology."

MAID systems manufactured by COPAN Systems (Longmont, Colorado, U.S.) qualify for the PG&E incentive and save customers money in direct energy costs and lower cooling system usage to help make these projects more financially feasible.

"COPAN is thrilled to be a part of the energy solution set for data center operators, and to be included in PG&E's program portfolio," said Roger Archibald, senior vice president of marketing and business development for COPAN. "We look forward to helping customers get a handle on data center growth, especially in terms of energy use."

The COPAN MAID unit accomplishes energy savings in a straightforward way, but one that has not been widely adopted in the industry. Data-storage needs can be characterized into different types, depending on what it is used for and how often it is accessed or changed. Data that is "persistent" — rarely changed and infrequently accessed — is saved to disks in a MAID system that is normally powered down. The information can be accessed again, but the system limits the maximum number of disks that are on at any given time.

"The energy savings, both for powering disks and cooling the unit, are certainly attractive, and from a utility standpoint, we are assured that the unit delivers energy demand reduction," according to Mark Bramfitt, principal program manager for PG&E. "In combination, this is an exceptional set of environmental, capacity, and cost-saving benefits for our customers."