Power-saving storage could be a lot more common in future, following Adaptec's announcement of souped-up software for its RAID controllers which will boost their power management capabilities.

Adaptec claimed that the new Intelligent Power Management capability, available on its Series 5 and Series 2 RAID controllers, will allow IT managers to configure banks of disk drives to operate in different power states at varying times. 

For instance, they can automate drives to go into standby mode or even spin down completely during idle periods. If a drive is accessed while powered down, the controller will spin it back up; alternatively the administrator can define peak IT activity periods when drives will never be spun down. The RAID controller also monitors drives that have been powered down for a while, to make sure they still work OK. 

The IPM technology will be included in new controllers at no extra cost, but the company was unable to say whether it would also be available as a firmware upgrade for customers who currently have these RAID controllers. 

"Disk drives are one of the most energy-intensive components in any computing system," said Suresh Panikar, Adaptec's director of world-wide marketing. He cited estimates from IDC which suggest that over 50 million disk drives are currently spinning in external storage arrays around the world, at an annual power and cooling cost in excess of $1.3 billion (around £730 million).

"The potential cost and energy savings with Intelligent Power Management are enormous," he added, noting that IPM will work with SAS and SATA disk drives from a range of suppliers. 

He claimed that the technology could easily be configured to reduce a drive's power consumption by up to 70 percent without sacrificing performance, and offered two examples - the Seagate Barracuda ES SATA drive, which consumes 8.6W at full-power, but only 2.2W in power-off mode, and the Hitachi Ultrastar SAS drive, which drops from 16.7W to 4.4W when powered down. 

Adaptec added that a "staggered spin-up" technique would avoid overloading an array's power supply, by not trying to power up all its drives at the same time.

However, unlike specialist MAID-type storage systems from the likes of Copan, Nexsan and HDS, which are designed to automatically detect the opportunity to save power and react accordingly, the Adaptec technology requires power-saving to be enabled and configured manually - a potentially laborious task. 

Still, as storage subsystem developers incorporate IPM-capable controllers into arrays - and hopefully automate its set-up, too - we are likely to see a lot more MAIDs decked out in their green finery.