Is Your Network Green Enough?

Green IT

Green fell out of favor with IT managers once the recession hit back in 2007. Green IT was considered to have a premium price tag, making it a luxury few could afford at a time when budgets were being squeezed and businesses of all sizes found themselves under serious strain.

However, in 2012 green is back with a bang as a top priority for governments, industry and businesses worldwide, as evidenced by GLOBE, the 12th annual conference and trade fair on business and the environment taking place in Vancouver in March 2012. Heavy hitters of industry, government and policy are lining up to discuss how going green is a priority in 2012.

With network managers under considerable pressure to ensure they are effectively managing resources, cutting costs and reducing overheads where possible, reducing the energy used by greener, more efficient equipment is the most obvious solution. What’s more, there are obvious CSR and reputational benefits for any business taking real steps towards sustainable, cleaner, green processes.

The evolution of Green

So what exactly has triggered this green revolution? New chipsets are launched all the time, offering substantial improvements to hardware. Increased processing power, reduced power consumption and greater throughput all result in more green IT networks.

Simultaneously, we’ve seen improvements to firmware, which also substantially reduce wasted power consumption. Firmware on the market today enables network managers to make better use of resources. For example, you can now reduce line power when a port is not connected, saving substantially on power consumption during less busy periods. Similarly, it’s possible to also switch off sections of equipment during periods of downtime for optimal power consumption.

Meanwhile, there have been significant advancements in architecture. The advent of active/active systems balances the strain on systems architecture, allowing the market to evolve from a product approach to a solutions based approach.

In short, the time is right to go green. So what action should network managers take? This article outlines three steps businesses can take to improve energy efficiency and embrace a green strategy in 2012.

1. Increase control for improved cost cutting

There is a wide range of equipment now available to help IT managers to gain more control than ever before over the network. PoE devices in particular enable an IT manager to make power-rationing decisions centrally for all PoE devices by configuring the application through the switches, giving greater control over energy consumption than ever before.

Of course businesses of all sizes have the best of intentions to reduce power consumption to save energy and reduce their energy bills and become greener but the fact is that many leave IT equipment running all night, consuming power.

How many offices have means of switching off networking or networked equipment such as wireless Access Points (AP), IP phones or surveillance cameras? Probably just one out of a million. PoE powered devices can provide a simple, cost-effective solution that can help companies of all sizes improve its green credentials.

PoE can be powered on or off remotely, giving far greater control over power usage while maintaining the high level of security required to manage devices such as surveillance cameras. Powering off devices ensures you only pay for power that you’re actually using, an obvious cost efficiency for any business.

As well as providing power to VoIP phones for emergency use, a business owner could also power down phones using software controls, not only saving a business energy but also money. A dedicated emergency phone could be allocated, with all other phones powered down when not in use.

Take for example, a company with 200 employees who adopts VoIP phone systems across the business, with each phone handset consuming between 2W and 7W of power each day when not in use. This business could use PoE to power down equipment overnight, say between 7pm in the evening and 7am the next morning, and also at weekends and during personal and public holidays for maximum energy efficiency. A business of this size could save as much as 8,736kWh over the course of a year with this energy efficient practice in place, saving almost £1,200 in just one year .

What’s more, where the business has installed a fully integrated system using PoE to power access points, door entry and intercom systems, the business can rely on a management system intelligent enough to power down PoE devices while the premises is empty, providing an energy and cost efficient system for any cost sensitive business.

2. Network consolidation for cost reduction

Virtualisation allows a business to detach the physical aspect of an infrastructure from the way it is used and appears to the user, splitting a physical resource into virtual memory, virtual machines, virtual servers and virtual LANs. The majority of servers and desktops are used less than 15% of the time they are powered on, with hardware consuming as much as 90% power while the equipment lays idle.

Virtualisation allows a business to monitor usage in the data center and power off any physical servers that are not in use, with no disruption for the customers using applications, significantly reducing energy consumption without any compromise on reliability and business continuity.

However, any business that wants to truly embrace the benefits of Green IT needs to take Virtualisation a step further by consolidating their network. By consolidating the network, the administrators purchase and manage less network peripherals and ports, and at the same time can improve the performance of the network.

Let’s take a practical example. A redundant network continues to drain power, whereas a business with an Active-Active resilient network, which splits traffic between two branches, can maintain the same level of performance at just 70% of the power. What’s more, energy is saved as less air conditioning is required for cooling.

3. Getting return on your green investment

Many network managers are put off investing in green by the assumption that they will need to invest heavily to reap the benefits of green. Some equipment providers will attempt to sell a whole new system which is not compatible with existing infrastructure – a time consuming, expensive approach to going green.

Businesses need to ensure they partner with a network provider that delivers professional technology for a secure network, promising the same levels of resiliency and functionality for mission critical applications. As architectures evolve and become more complex, adding energy efficient products to existing system equipment can still have a considerable effect on energy consumption and cost savings.

The green network of the future

The network of the future will be virtual, consolidated and have effective power management systems in place. This gives business users remote control to efficiently manage energy consumption, resulting in energy saving, improved operations and a return on green investmenst.

While customers continue to demand new innovative features to give greater control to power up and down equipment, the role of network equipment providers is to educate the market on the true benefits of green, all the while pushing for improved ratings and energy efficiency.

Melvyn Wray is Senior Vice President of Product Marketing for Allied Telesis. In this role, he is responsible for driving the company’s product marketing and strategic direction. Melvyn started his career as an engineer at CASE, developing networking equipment, before he became a principal engineer at Northern Telecom, and then a product specialist for AMD. He joined Allied Telesis in 1990 as its first employee in Europe. Melvyn has since worked all aspects of the business at Allied Telesis including sales & marketing, service, and logistics. He took up his present role in 2005.