Rebates for using energy-efficient storage on the way

Wikibon Energy Labs lets storage vendors verify the energy savings of certain products, making them eligible for utility rebates from PG&E

IT shops will get new utility rebates for using energy-saving storage technologies because of an initiative that helps storage vendors and utilities measure and validate energy use reductions.

Wikibon, a company founded in early 2007 to gather and distribute knowledge about IT in a Wikipedia-like style, designed a service called the Wikibon Energy Labs, which lets storage vendors verify the energy savings of certain products, making them eligible for utility rebates. EMC, 3Par, Compellent, DataDirect Networks, Hitachi Data Systems, Nexsan, and Xiotech are all getting products certified for energy rebates available through the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which provides natural gas and electric service in northern and central California.

PG&E already offers numerous rebates but barely any of them are for storage technologies, says Dave Vellante, a former senior vice president at IDC who co-founded Wikibon.

[ For more news on slashing energy bills, read "PG&E dangles cash as virtualization incentive" and "PG&E adds thin provisioning to energy-saving incentive program." ]

While it's not that hard to quantify energy savings from servers, particularly with virtualization technology, storage vendors were having a tough time showing the benefits of their own efficient technologies. (Compare storage products.)

"The IT industry didn't speak kilowatts that well, and the utility industry wasn't that well-versed in geek," Vellante says. "They needed some translation to go that last mile, even though there are very smart people in both industries."

Software technologies that maximize storage space and thus limit the amount of spinning disk drives enterprises must deploy are numerous, including thin provisioning, intelligent spin down, tiered storage management, flash drives, data deduplication, and MAID (massive array of idle disks). 

Lots of IT vendors are claiming to offer "green" products, which can make it difficult to separate hype from substance. Wikibon's lab service, which charges fees to the storage vendors, was designed to quantify exactly how much spinning disk a storage-saving technology would allow a customer to get rid of, Vellante says.

So far, only MAID and thin provisioning have qualified for rebates, but more technologies should be eligible soon, says Mark Bramfitt, who manages the PG&E customer energy efficiency program.

Individual rebates can vary widely and are hard to estimate, but PG&E has plenty of money to go around.

"We have limits on our programs, but they're extremely high," Bramfitt says. "I have a big budget, big goals. I'm not running out of money."

Vellante says rebates generally range from $1,000 to tens of thousands of dollars, but the energy savings alone are even more valuable, sometimes saving IT shops up to $100,000.

While Wikibon is initially focusing on storage, its lab service can validate energy savings of server, networking, and other power-saving software products. And though the partnership initially involves just PG&E, Wikibon is in talks with other utilities in Texas, Southern California, New Jersey, New York, Vancouver, and other areas, so the rebates should be expanded over wider geographical regions later on.

This story, "Rebates for using energy-efficient storage on the way" was originally published by Network World.