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Measuring Progress: Green Metrics

I’ve been involved in networking standards work at Cisco for 12 years and I’m currently helping with a major program that I think will lead to some of the most important standards and developments that I’ve seen during my time here. We’re currently involved with several organizations like the EPA, EUP, ITU, ATIS, METI and The Green Grid examining standardized ways to measure the energy efficiency of networking gear. This fits really well with the program that we have been running internally for more than two years to improve the energy efficiency of networks overall (see a list of related links below covering other sites we’re involved with and projects we find important). At its simplest, we at Cisco view measuring energy efficiency in the network much like miles-per-gallon metric used by the auto industry. It’s great to have a standard way to express energy efficiency that’s well understood by all manufacturers, but these standards are only meant to be a guideline for typical conditions. Any user should look at their own situation to decide the most efficient solution -you wouldn’t choose a Prius to carry a load of bricks to a construction site. In Cisco we have focused on the energy efficiency of networks as a whole, in real-world environments. Efficiency for networks is a more difficult problem than for many other products because, in a network, everything talks to everything else and everything may affect everything else. You can’t look at things in isolation. In addition, overly simplistic bench tests that don’t take into account real world operating conditions can give misleading results; it is crucial to examine the efficiency of a solution doing the job that needs to be done.We want to help our customers come up with ways to evaluate solutions to get the best real-world results. This is not just a competitive issue -- we think our gear compares well to anyone’s in real-world conditions -- but the biggest effect on efficiency comes from choosing the right solution for the real job. Cisco, along with other networking companies, is moving forward on a path that we hope will benefit everyone in the industry, especially the end user. We look forward to the upcoming votes in ATIS that will introduce practical and useful metrics and we hope that this approach is adopted worldwide throughout the networking industry. Hugh Barrass, technical leader, Cisco. Related links:IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient EthernetUS Department of Energy, Data Center Energy Savings Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Data Center Efficiency

Near-Sighted Or Far-Sighted? Just Stay Focused

When victory or a major step in the right direction is in reach, focus is critical. Take, for instance, last summer. Gas prices were sky-high. Oil was approaching $150 a barrel. You couldn’t turn on the TV or surf the internet without some story about conservation, plug-in hybrids, wind farms, or the like. Bookstores created ‘green’ sections. Momentum around environmental sustainability was beginning to build. But then, gas prices started to drop, and old habits began to resurface. We lost our focus. Skip ahead to the present, and some of the most forward-looking projects are now in jeopardy. Just last week, James Kanter from the New York Times blogged about falling prices for permits to emit carbon dioxide and governments putting green-focused efforts on hold. According to Kanter, the economy is to blame. But views like that are limited—or at the very least, blurred. Investment in green can actually open up new economies. As the Seattle Times recently reported, President Obama’s proposed stimulus package includes more than $25 billion for energy-efficiency projects. And, according to the White House website, the Obama administration intends to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years in climate friendly energy and deployment initiatives. They believe such an investment can create five million new jobs and stimulate the economy. But let’s get more granular and zero in on what businesses can do today to weather the economic turbulence. Read More »

Cisco Energywise – Welcome to Green IT 1.0

Today was a very good day. Guppies everywhere take note.With a little hype we announced the first energy management application in the IT industry using the network as the platform for monitoring and controlling infrastructure. Cisco EnergyWise was announced today at our Cisco Networkers event in Barcelona, Spain. This announcement represents many months of development within Cisco and from key partnerships to address energy management at scale. The scale in this case refers to Cisco networks, we have a few installed. The solution comes through normal IOS upgrades. Now, currently installed Cisco products can become well, energy wise, get it?Joking aside, existing Cisco products can now act as the aggregation point for energy consumption data from anything with an IP address. Proprietary reporting…problem solved. In its first iteration and with the help of an agent, EnergyWise can also shut it off. Proprietary shutdown…problem solved. But what about automation you say? At the risk of sounding like a Ginsu commercial, yes it does that too. It allows for policy-based management. Part of the policy is the ability to put different classes of infrastructure into different power states (10 power states in fact), then correlating this process with time of day type policies. This gives you a scalpel where only a club existed before. Read More »

How much would you pay to know the Embedded Carbon Footprint of a Product?

Many customers are now widening their focus on carbon emissions from their own operations, to those of the companies they partner with. It is quite common for Cisco to be asked about its environmental policy and initiatives, or for specific metrics to illustrate progress of our sustainability programmes. Communicating these matters between neighbours in the supply chain is recognised as an acceptable and constructive conversation. However, a few customers are taking a giant leap, not just asking for information on our own performance, but of those beyond us in the total supply chain. The most extreme form of this is a request for information on the “embedded carbon footprint” of individual products or a specific bill of materials in a proposed transaction.It is remarkably easy to ask this question, simply by inserting it into a Request for Proposal document. However, coming up with an answer, of sufficient quality to be used in the assessment of suppliers’ responses, is decidedly tricky. The sheer size of Cisco’s product portfolio, combined with the complexity of our outsourced supply chain operations, means that a massive computational service would be required. This begs the question: how much would you pay if you did not expect the answer to be supplied “free of charge” in an RFP response from Cisco? Read More »

Top Ten Ways to be Greener through Better Networking

A very worthy recent posting by the Sierra Club offered a Top Ten list of ways to work greener. It can be found at http://sierraclub.typepad.com/greenlife/2007/03/10_ways_to_go_g.html.In reading this Sierra Club entry, I was reminded of a presentation I first did back in September, 2007 at the inaugural Green IT World Expo. The presentation, offered in many forums since, was titled — The Top Ten Ways to Be Greener Through Better Networking. For those network and IT managers out there working to attain their own sustainability goals, I offer this posting as an add-on to the Sierra Club’s sound words of advice for the individual worker.I will say this right up front… I work for Cisco Systems. However, nowhere in this blog entry do I “sell” you on Cisco networking products. Rather, I offer the following Top Ten list in order to stimulate thinking around using your network to better green advantage — in your own work habits and in your organization’s business and IT practices. Read More »