Rethinking the Storage Process for Sustainability

April 11th, 2023 by By Shawn Brume, Tape Evangelist and Strategist at IBM

Object storage is the best way to store all the data that is not transactional. No more need for managing multiple tiers of data or having disparate infrastructure.  Hard disk Drive costs are positioned to make HDD only data storage lower cost than any other available storage.

That was 2010.  By 2016 managed service providers running large object stores and or managing huge data on HDD only infrastructure for digital storage started looking at maturing their infrastructures. What is driving the maturity shift? The total value of sustainability in data storage is a primary driver.  Sustainability includes the combined factors attributing to CO2 equivalent (CO2e) production, also expressed as carbon footprint. Materials acquisition, manufacturing, delivery, energy consumption and disposal are the tier 1 and 2 contributions for products and solutions.

Sustainability is not separate and equal from reducing the cost of storing the massively growing data in data infrastructures, technology that is growing at over 16% compounded per year.  As data in the infrastructure grows, so does the amount of data that is infrequently accessed (archive data).  It is estimated that 65% of all data storage falls into the archive category(1).  That does not mean that the data is never accessed, only that most of the data is never accessed.

Modern storage administrators of object st­orage recognize that object storage was meant to be the final solution for data, no management of tiers was planned into the software.

Pressure to reduce storage costs and carbon footprints has led these admins and data center directors to look for new ways to store data.  On a pure Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) basis all these data managers recognize that tape is a lower cost solution but understanding sustainability can be complex.

Let’s talk sustainability

A discussion of tape TCO quickly creates the assessment that tape is significantly less expensive than HDD lifecycles. Sustainability requires a much deeper dive into the components, manufacturing, energy consumption and product lifecycles of the solutions involved in data storage.  At the high-level tape is 80% lower carbon footprint when comparing 10PB of data stored for 10 years(2). The efficiency grows with the total capacity being stored, meaning hundreds and thousands of petabytes will result in even greater CO2e savings.

How does a lower CO2e result in lower costs?

There are 2 primary drivers of cost in sustainability. First is the cost of energy. Regardless of the price being paid for energy, there is always a relevant cost and the magnitude of contribution to most Information technology comes from energy consumption during operation. Tape is 92% lower in energy consumption for archive data(3). Second is the impact to the environment of the component and infrastructure.  Infrastructure lifecycles play a large part in contribution in this segment. Tape has a 2x longer replacement lifecycle than most HDD deployments.  This reduces end-of-life disposal and e-waste costs.

All this leads to one conclusion, tiering data from HDD to tape reduces the total cost of ownership and contributes significantly to advancing corporate sustainability planning. This is before factoring in the methods of carbon offset investments required to meet net-zero directives.  This is achieved while meeting regulatory requirements and 11-nines of single copy durability(4).


  1. IDC data Sphere 2021 –
  2. IBM product Compare Sustainability 20210901.pptx
  3. Improving Information Technology Sustainability with Modern Tape Storage – Brad Johns Consulting, LLC – 2021

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