Window on WANs

May 6 2009   6:39PM GMT

Network designs going lean and green

Tim Scannell Profile: TScannell

A well-known frog of the Muppet persuasion once said that it’s not easy being green. 

While that may be true in Jim Henson’s world, it is definitely not the case as more and more companies and their networking organizations launch green initiatives to help save the planet as well as more than a few bucks in the budget.

No conference worth its socially responsible salt would skip the opportunity to touch upon the green theme, and the FutureNet gathering taking place in Boston this week is no exception.  There were a number of companies on the agenda presenting their green philosophy and talking a blue streak about lowering your carbon footprint, halting global warming and all that other good stuff to benefit Mother Earth.

At the end of the day, and to be brutally honest, most companies wouldn’t throw a lot of muscle behind the movement if there wasn’t a significant cost benefit to going green.    That’s not a bad thing, because the fact is that a whole lot of money can be sliced from an IT or networking budget by consolidating servers, making better use of people and equipment resources, and expanding telecommuting and teleworking beyond traditional mobile work forces.

The idea is to move from an ‘always on’ way of thinking to an ‘always available’ mindset, says British Telecom’s green guru and head of corporate social responsibility Kevin Moss.  Most electronic devices are designed from the get-go to be always on because they can then lend themselves better to fast hand-shaking and accessibility, he notes.  What users basically want, however, is for devices to be readily available and not necessarily on all the time.

This is important when “thinking ahead to the next generation of networks and next generation of equipment,” he added, pointing out that the global emission created by ICT companies worldwide account for about 2-3% of the total worldwide emissions, according to studies.  This is equal the global carbon footprint attributed to the airline industry, which is routinely criticized for spewing all sorts of nasty things into stratosphere as it shuttles passengers to and fro.

The global market for green IT will peak at $4.8B in 2013, says market researcher Forrester.  Also, up to 57% of companies worldwide have strategies to reduce carbon emissions, according to published reports.


BT is among those firms that actually practices what it preaches, said Moss, by making better use of people and equipment resources at its headquarters in London – the end result being a quadrupling of the number of people it can support by using the same resources, all through internal mobility and office ‘hoteling’.

As companies experience more pressure to go green, a new ‘green RFP’ is emerging as IT and network groups are charged with reducing their carbon footprint and overall costs.  As it turns out, trends toward device consolidation and server consolidation are yielding significant reductions in energy and cooling costs across the network, points out David Cox, senior VP of operations at WAN optimization company Blue Coat Systems.  The evolution of network systems and applications is taking energy and resource conservation into account, and even becoming a part and parcel of distributed nodes at branch offices.


Blue Coast also puts its green themes into play, having reduced its server farm from 80 systems to about three, resulting in a reduction of power costs from roughly $140K to $30K today, he noted.  In the process, the company has also reduced its carbon emissions footprint from 469 million tons to about 73 million tons per year.  Those are figures that any frog – green or otherwise – would have a problem croaking about.



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  • Mosske
    Tim, thanks for highlighting the 'always on' component of my presentation. There is much we can do now to improve energy usage, but the real gains will come from including energy consumption as a key criteria in the design of the next generation of networks and standards. On valuing the green IT market, I am a cynic. While we define a green IT market we are acknowledging that there is a market for IT equipment that is environmentally unfriendly. It will be a good sign, in my view, when the green IT market has the same value as the IT market. Lots more on this ad related sustainability topics at my blog [A href=""]
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