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Sustainable Enterprise IT Will Be Built on Consumer Storage Technology

Occasionally, enterprise technology trends begin in the consumer domain.  With a renewed push for sustainability in the modern data center, we are experiencing this effect again.  

As the days of limitless power for data centers come to an end, there is intense pressure to innovate from governmentscommunities, and end users demanding more sustainable data centers.  Enterprises looking for strategies to cope with the new reality can learn lessons from consumer technologies that have focused on delivering performance and power efficiency within tight envelopes for years. To fully address sustainability issues, a vast range of data center systems and applications need attention, each requiring its own detailed profiling of power utilization and plan for improvement. Today, I will focus on enterprise storage and one approach to optimizing power utilization.  

Comparing Enterprise and Home Storage Solutions 

In simple terms, enterprise storage refers to the systems and technologies used by large organizations to store and manage their data. These include various storage devices and technologies, such as hard disk drives, solid-state drives, tape drives, network-attached storage (NAS), and storage area networks. The primary goal of these systems is to provide a secure, reliable, and scalable storage solution. There are many excellent solutions available: Dell PowerMax, NetApp AFF, Pure Storage FlashArray, and IBM FlashSystem, to name just a few. As you dig into their specifications, you will notice they are all built on the x86 architecture. Is that needed? Let’s consider a fresh approach to enterprise storage, taking cues from the simpler little sibling of these systems.  

It’s a rare type of individual who runs a Dell PowerMax or equivalent at home, but many of us are running a home NAS system. Like enterprise storage, a NAS system is a specialized solution that provides centralized file storage and sharing services over a network, accessed by multiple users or applications. NAS systems are designed to be easy to use and typically include a web-based interface for configuration and administration. They also often provide advanced features such as data backup and recovery, remote access, drive failure protection with RAID, data reduction, and support for different file-sharing protocols such as NFS (Network File System) and SMB (Server Message Block). You can get an excellent NAS system from Synology with their DiskStation product family, QNAP with their TS Series, or Asustor with their DriveStor line. Or you can take the DIY route a build one with a  Raspberry Pi.  

Home NAS systems deliver excellent storage capacity in small footprints, low thermal management requirements, and minimal power consumption. It’s also no coincidence that most designs run on Marvell, Annapurna Labs, and Realtek CPUs, all processors built with ARM cores to provide the mandatory performance and features set at a much lower up-front expense and total cost of ownership than the x86 alternatives. 

Unleashing the Power of ARM Cores for a Sustainable Future

The thermal and power benefits seen in client systems can translate to enterprise storage solutions that are much more sustainable. We can architect enterprise storage systems with ARM cores today.  

This is not the first time we have seen client technology adopted and adapted for data center applications. The Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus became available in the early 1990s as a standard interface for connecting expansion cards for client systems before being deployed in data center systems. Graphics cards with dedicated GPUs were first introduced in PCs in the 1990s to improve graphics performance in video games and other applications. Solid state drives (SSDs) were first introduced in personal computers in the mid-2000s as an alternative to traditional hard disk drives, providing faster read and write speeds and improved durability. The expectations for modern SSDs used in data center servers are to continuously lower latency, increase bandwidth, and come with advanced features. The best strategy to sustainably meet these expectations is aggressively adopting ARM cores CPUs across the data center, adding intelligence to devices, and optimizing infrastructure at every level. 

An Innovative Sustainable Architecture

Image from Ampere One Announcement

We already see some CPUs with ARM cores in the data center: Amazon has their Graviton Processor; Ampere Altra, offering an impressive 128 cores; Marvel ThunderX2, which can support up to 4TB of DDR4 memory; and several others. In many ways, these CPUs with ARM cores go toe to toe with x86 processors. However, x86 processors have more powerful built-in instruction sets and support for hardware-accelerated operations, such as compression and encryption, making them better suited for intensive data processing and management tasks in enterprise storage solutions.  

With innovative system architecture, we can bring all the benefits of ARM cores to enterprise storage. Pairing the Ampere Altra with ScaleFlux CSD3000 solid-state drives enables the ARM cores in the CPU to run at peak efficiency and performance. At the same time, we offload compression and encryption to the storage. ScaleFlux NVMe SSDs use processing cores within the drive to perform hardware-based transparent compression and AES 256-bit encryption at line speed. With the ScaleFlux CSD3000 SSD, you can store 16TB of data on a single 4TB drive, decreasing the system’s power draw and making an even more sustainable solution. 

Learn more about the adoption of ARM CPUs in enterprise applications at Then order an Ampere Altra system from Pheonics Electronics, fill them with ScaleFlux Computational SSDs, and create a sustainable feature-rich enterprise storage solution. 

Tim Amundsen

Tim Amundsen

As an Application Engineer, Customer Success Engineer, Field Sales Engineer, and Business Development Lead; Tim is passionate about creating amazing customer experiences, diving deep into new technologies, and architecting optimal storage solutions. He firmly believes that putting people first, having vision, and listening to feedback result in better direction and solutions for everyone.