Three Smart Ways for the Network to Save Power

As governments, the business community and media have turned their focus to environmental issues and global warming, enterprises are evaluating creative and innovative ways to reduce their energy consumption. As a direct result, a drive is underway to reduce their energy consumption and as a direct result driving a reduced carbon footprint for the organization.

A valuable part of the green movement is to create momentum for the cause; where simple actions and smart methods of running electrically connected devices, repeated many times over, add up and make a great difference. This extends into a number of different markets, such as healthcare, schools and universities, manufacturers, retail, finance and hotels and hospitality. As a direct result of reducing energy consumption, the cost of operations will also decrease for the participating organization.

Given that Information Technology represents one of the largest consumers of energy within the corporate environment, IT professionals that oversee the procurement and operation of enterprise networks and computing data centers have the ability to meaningfully impact energy consumption. What can be achieved during the infrastructure selection process, the solution design and deployment phase and then the ongoing network operation that will result in energy savings?

Energy Saving Ideas:

  • Procuring Ethernet switch products that consume less power
  • Designing the network to use less power
  • Intelligently optimizing power to edge ports and connected devices

1. Product Procurement: The IT networking team can seek out network equipment that consumes less power and factor this attribute into the RFP process from the outset. Comparison shopping with respect to power consumption can make a real difference over the life of the network. Much like a refrigerator or similar household appliance can save money over older generations of appliances, so too can Ethernet switch technology. Look for Ethernet switches that consume less energy during normal operation as they will save you energy and operating budget.

2. Network Design: Todays LAN can be designed to use power more efficiently. One route to achieve this is to collapse tiers of the network and as a result reducing the number of switches required to serve the enterprise.

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Traditional LANs were designed with various fixed and modular switches playing specific roles in three distinct areas. At the edge of the network, fixed switches would connect users and devices at 10/100MB speeds. At the aggregation layer, another class of switch became a "connection point" to attach all the edge devices and traffic and feed it into the network backbones and to centralized data centers. The final tier was the network backbone or core, where the largest and most powerful modular switches connected traffic from the aggregation layer to servers and between locations.

With the introduction of more powerful Ethernet switches and technologic breakthroughs during the past five years, including 10 Gigabit Ethernet speeds and system resiliency, network designers now have the ability to collapse the traditional three tier network into just two tiers-the edge and core network-removing the aggregation layer and its associated energy consumption.

The capital savings associated with the upfront purchase, followed by the on-going savings from reduced energy consumption through the use of a smaller number of Ethernet switches in a Two Tier network design, brings tangible and real benefit for both IT managers who have to manage and operate fewer devices and the environment, where less power is needed overall to run the network.

3. Optimized Power Management: The third method is to save energy through the network using native software intelligence to optimize powered devices connected at the networks edge. Managing edge devices and network ports is similar to the way a maintenance and operations team for a facility turns out lights and other appliances in a large building when it is not occupied.

Todays Ethernet switches support 802.11af standards-based POE (power over Ethernet) to enable the transmission of power over the copper twisted-pair wiring to the devices connect at the network edge, transmitting 48 volts of DC electrical power along with data bandwidth connectivity to each port. Thus, devices such as IP phones, cameras and Wireless LAN (802.11) access points can be powered by the network while also receiving data bandwidth. This saves network and facilities staff the cost and complexity of separately wiring a building for both the LAN and power needs at every network node.

Automated power management through optimization of POE devices can reduce costs and power usage associated with running the network edge by between 50 and 75 percent, a very significant amount that will reduce a business carbon footprint and allow it to more intelligently and proactively manage and operate its LAN infrastructure.

Harpreet Chadha is the director of product management at Extreme Networks, where he oversees product development of scalable Ethernet switching solutions.