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Green Gas has made the headlines this week - it has reached a milestone whereby it supplies 1 million UK households. According to the G...

Networks have become the backbone of many organisations. In the corporate environment, nearly all business applications are dependant on the strength and reliability of the network they deploy. The demands and complexities of delivering reliability and scalability in the 21st Century are often key issues for CIO's and IT Managers across the board. A common trend in today's business environment is the demand for permanently 'on' network services. Businesses want to achieve more with less and so demand solutions that deliver a multitude of applications at an attractive price point.

However, in recent years most corporations have become increasingly environmentally conscious. With numerous recycling schemes and company specific initiatives to reduce carbon footprint, the green agenda is now pertinent.

The most common drivers for businesses to go green include reduction of hazardous waste, reduction of carbon footprint, reduction of energy consumption and perhaps most importantly, reduction of operational costs. What can businesses realistically do to go green' What technologies are able to help them deliver more and reduce operational costs, whilst delivering against the green agenda' The easy answer is for all businesses to deploy simple actions and smart methods to run IT operations that are repeated many times over. These methods add up to make a significant difference, though it is worth examining those that can also provide a clear pathway to greening the IT infrastructure.

For many going Green is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme. A recent survey carried out by Data Integration and Extreme Networks revealed that while 64% of organisations say that environmentally friendly IT equipment is key to the organisation, only 20% actively measure IT related energy spend, suggesting that a majority of organisations are guilty of 'green washing'.

Product Procurement

In the current economic climate, businesses are looking for equipment that will improve operational efficiency and improve customer retention at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Businesses are looking for technologies that can meet the requirements of the most demanding users within their business. In nearly all cases, large corporations provide a plethora of mobility solutions to its staff to enable workforce efficiency. With the deployment of mobile technologies in mind, what type of products should businesses look to implement'

The Green IT Survey that was carried out in December 2008 revealed that environmental concerns play a key part in the decision to purchase, so businesses should select equipment that will make a significant contribution to their green agenda. Products should be chosen on the basis of energy consumption, and as networks are at the core of information sharing, it is important that buyers choose those that consume the least amount of power.

Not only will lower energy consumption play its part in greening the IT equipment, but it will also reduce the cost of operation. In a recent study conducted by the Tolly Group, it was found that some core switches can consume up to 1759 watts of power whilst racking up a staggering $7,000 in energy related expenses. At the other end of the scale a similar switch consumed 511 Watts of power, at only $2,117 in energy expenses. This is clearly a significant difference in operational expenses.

Organisations should also consider the Capital Expense (CAPEX) of equipment. It is important to bear in mind that building the network around the lowest CAPEX may mean the need to upgrade that network in two or three years time, rather than five to seven years, as user demands on the network grow. The least expensive networks could also cost the most to maintain due to the requirement for more manual administration of network devices. Also, low cost network switches that lack critical features such as Power over Ethernet (PoE) may demand a complete network upgrade in order to support the addition of converged services such as Voice over IP (VoIP).

Additionally, when choosing network equipment, businesses need to research those products that will provide scalability and ease of management. Depending on the size of the organisation, skilled IT staff may be scarce due to the current economic climate, so it is vital to ensure that the network works for the end users, not vice versa.

Designing the Network

Once a suitable vendor has been found and the business is satisfied that its network now delivers more with less, it is equally important to ensure that the design of the network is energy efficient, whilst supporting a variety of applications and connected devices. Purchasing switches that consume the least amount of power will help organisations reduce carbon emissions, but an intelligent network design can actively assist in reducing TCO and green their operations.

When designing a green and efficient network, businesses should consider the port speed they need. For example, nearly all IP Telephony handsets support 10/100 port speeds, so there is no need to provide a gigabit port where is it not needed.

Another simple deployment that can be utilised is to use two-tier network architecture instead of three tiers. Through deploying high-density solutions, organisations can eliminate layers and the number of switches and ports required, which obviously leads to further cost and environmental savings.

Using Intelligence to Green IT

By deploying an intelligent network, businesses can undertake some fairly unique steps to further reduce operational costs and carbon footprints. In the same way as maintenance turns off the lights at the end of the day, organisations can use less power at the network's edge by optimising powered devices. To achieve this organisations can deploy the following steps:

Use native software intelligence to optimise powered devices connected at the networks' edge.

Introduce automated power management to optimise power over Ethernet devices.

Power down non-essential devices such as VoIP phones during out of hours periods.

By using this embedded intelligence around events and operations throughout the network, IT Managers are able to turn off equipment that is not being used.

One of the most innovative functions of an intelligent network is that they allow a network manager to choose the exact hours of operation of a given network port, dictating when powered network ports must provide power and when they should be automatically shut down. Through technologies such as this, network connected VoIP handsets that consume energy and power every hour can immediately be powered down at the end of the business day, and then woken up the next day. Energy savings associated with intelligent power management of such edge devices with a truly universal approach can be over 50 percent.

Conclusion

Saving energy and building a green infrastructure takes thought and commitment. Businesses must utilise innovative and unique technology and solutions to achieve their goal of 'Going Green' through the deployment of efficient devices, intelligent network design and unique software that can control the working environment.

The author:

Paul Phillips, is Regional Director for Extreme Networks for UK and Ireland.

(ITadviser, Issue 57, Spring 2009)

Article Date: 10 March 2009

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