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How much CO2 is your data creating? If you can’t monitor it, you can’t manage it

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Measure and Monitor Sustainability Video

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Matt Watts

Every email you send creates around 0.5g of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Add some attachments, and that number can go up to 10–20g CO2e. I bet you've never thought about that, right? It's the same for your Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok activity, and for pretty much anything you interact with through your device of choice.

So, maybe the next time you’re ready to send an email with a really big attachment to 200 people, instead just send it to the few people who actually need to see it. You'll be doing everyone a favor, and you'll save a little bit of CO2e, too.

The bigger opportunity for good here, though, comes from the technology companies that provide all the infrastructure that sits behind all of this. For storage, that means we need to work out ways to store and manage the estimated 1YB of data that will be created by 2030. And we need to figure out how to do it while considering the environmental impact.

Efficiencies in storage systems

NetApp works to deliver efficiencies in our storage systems, although these efficiencies were primarily designed to enable companies to store more data on less storage. The byproduct of this approach means that you’re using less storage and therefore creating less CO2e. For most companies, the motivation has been cost reduction, or maybe reduction of the data center footprint. But now, with such an important focus on reducing emissions, we need to do much more. Here are a few things NetApp has been working on over a relatively short period.

We joined PAIA in December 2021, and we were the first “storage only” vendor to become a member. PAIA enables us to produce complete carbon lifecycle analysis reports for our products—everything from the components to the logistics to the use of the system. We plan to integrate this analysis into our presales tools so that we can model any system according to a customer’s need to balance performance, capacity, and emissions.

Our customers requested tools that could help them understand the real-time power consumption of our arrays. Yes, all vendor specification sheets show “nominal” or “typical” wattage, but these figures can be very different from what the arrays are consuming in a real-world scenario. To enable this calculation, we updated NetApp® Harvest and built a Grafana dashboard that any company can use free of charge to get these details.

At the start of August, we also made power reporting for our newer arrays available as a no-cost option in NetApp Cloud Insights. We’re working on supporting older systems, too, but want this functionality sent out quickly. This reporting enables Cloud Insights users to identify workloads that are consuming the most power. With this information, users can decide whether to move the workloads to platforms that can support them with a lower power demand, which can lower emissions.

Of course, there’s more we can do, and we’re working on it. Perhaps we could use this data to proactively provide recommendations for workload placement, reducing emissions, or data tiering to the cloud—the cloud providers are typically net zero, so there are huge opportunities here. Or maybe we could use NetApp Cloud Data Sense to look for stale data, unused data, or duplicate data. For most companies, 68% or more of the data they store is never used again after it's been created, so this is a big opportunity to reduce the storage footprint and therefore emissions.

We've made rapid progress in this area, because we believe that you must be able to base emissions reduction on facts. You must know exactly what your starting point is—according to real data—and use it to show exactly how much of a positive impact you've made.

A Multilayered approach

  1. At NetApp, we have a multilayered approach to enabling companies to reduce their emissions.

    • Storage and services including storage efficiency, high-capacity drives, and the ability to intelligently tier data to lower-cost storage or move it to a more environmentally friendly location. Our data fabric strategy and partnerships with the major cloud providers gives us industry-leading capabilities.
    • Data analytics. Cloud Data Sense gives organizations a greater understanding of what data they have and how that data is being used (or not!). With more data intelligence, you can make better environmental decisions.
    • Infrastructure analytics. Cloud Insights provides visibility and reporting of an organization’s use of compute and storage across all on-premises and cloud environments. This information provides a foundation for finding and addressing waste and inefficiencies.
    • Spot by NetApp helps you take action to operate more efficiently, saving costs and reducing your carbon footprint.

    This topic is important to me, and I imagine it's important to many of you, too. It’s why I keep saying that CO2e reduction must be based on facts and data, so I’m really pleased with the steps that NetApp is taking. When you see some vendors using the environment as a flag-waving exercise with bold but unsupported claims, essentially “greenwashing,” asking for all the data to back it up is important.

Check out our Sustainability Series to learn more

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Matt Watts

As Chief Technology Evangelist, Matt Watts provides guidance on NetApp’s overall strategy and technology solutions to a wide base of customers and the global partner community. Matt is also part of the portfolio leadership team, providing advice and guidance on technology and transformation.

Matt is increasingly in demand as a keynote speaker, combining his knowledge of the IT industry with anecdotes and stories that bring technology to life with witty, easily understandable examples.

Prior to this role, Matt Project Managed a number of significant IT projects; managed System Engineers responsible for providing installation and onsite support; as well as overseeing IT outsourcing contracts. This experience has given him contact with all levels of Leadership, enabling him to understand, communicate with and support clients with their IT and transformation Strategies.

Matt Watts shares his experiences and industry learnings on his blog www.watts-innovating.com.

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