10 November 2008

Creating Energy Standards for Networking Equipment [Part One]

On November 6, I had the privilege of attending an event at Ixia for a new Energy Consumption Rating (ECR). Juniper Networks T1600 Core Router was the first piece of equipment to be tested under the new standard. It was an amazing event, and one that I am grateful to be a part of.

When I first heard about the event, I started talking to people from both Juniper and Ixia about what the event was and why it was so important. I kept hearing how "ECR is going to effect networking equipment the same way EnergyStar effected home appliances." I didn't know what to expect walking in to the event, but when I walked out I was full of questions and speculations about how this could change the world of networking.

Whenever I see a car commercial on TV that touts their car has amazing fuel economy, I can't help but scoff at the absurdity of it all. I wish there was a law in place, not only for the well being of the world but for the well being of my pocket book, that would make it mandatory for a car to obtain a higher mile-per-gallon. ECR is not a law, but it will act as a means of measurement. Atul Bhatnagar, CEO of Ixia, said "what you do not measure, you cannot improve." I was struck by this statement because it is so relevant to the here-and-now.

The event lasted from 9am until 3pm and was broken up into a few sections. In the morning, we talked about the state of networking, and focused on the amount of energy that Data Centers are currently consuming. Luc Ceuppens, Sr Director of Product Marketing High-End systems Business Unit at Juniper Networks, mentioned how he often hears "it costs me more to run my network than it does to own it." This issue is something that has gained a lot of attention. Data centers have a substantial amount of information pulsing through them at all times, it costs an equal amount of energy to cool the system down as it does to power the system.

I think it is safe to say that we all expect for technology to constantly improve. We want to be able to surf the internet, exchange email, and text message amongst other things. The capability is there. Luc mentioned how it takes the same amount of energy to power the bandwidth required for an iPhone as it does to power 5,000 regular phones. But, if you waited in a 4 hour line for an iPhone and pay the $100 or so dollars a month for a phone and data plan, you don't want to sacrifice any more money in order to watch YouTube, or check your mail. Of course not--we're consumers. We want more features, faster, and for less money than the previous version. Behind the scenes, the data centers are working overtime. They need more equipment, and more energy to power and cool that equipment. The only remedy? Efficiency.

We are exceptional creatures. Our ability to produce new products with time-saving and mind-stimulating features is an incredible one. Unfortunately, we don't see the ramifications of our creation until we are in the crux of it. ECR shows our cognizance of our present-day issues. As Atul mentioned, ECR is a ways of measuring so we can make change.

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