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Building a case for sustainable networking

01 Jun 09

Concerns about the environmental impact of IT equipment have been around for years, although the emphasis has largely been on how to reduce energy consumed by IT equipment and how to properly dispose of end-of-life hardware. Today, discussions on ‘green’ IT go beyond servers and storage equipment.

Enterprises, regulators and IT leaders are starting to look at networking from a broader perspective – in terms of how it can reduce waste in areas like the supply chain, productivity, building construction and management.

Networking plays a key role in IT infrastructure management and has become crucial to supporting green IT initiatives. But despite the growing awareness, very few firms have actually committed to integrating green networking principles into their IT roadmap.

Building a case for sustainable networking could be daunting, but here are some factors you can consider to help persuade the management and staff.

Power consumption
Reducing power consumption is critical for companies that want to improve sustainability and reduce costs. Clever planning will help accurately determine the amount of electricity you need. Ignoring this issue may cause problems, including project delays, which will affect your return on investment.

A recent IDC research paper called Second Wave Sustainability, which surveyed 100 enterprises on their green IT road map, found that the obligation to comply with national and regional green IT regulatory initiatives is the single most important reason firms embark on sustainable projects.

Because most ‘green’ initiatives are currently voluntary, they have been criticised for setting key variables at a level that doesn’t mandate change. However, compulsory regulation will not always bring change; publication of the organisation’s performance will often be sufficient, as few organisations would like to be named as a poor performer and suffer the associated negative reputation and financial consequences.

Green IT strategies need to have strong leadership and be held accountable for any changes made. Any initiative, green or otherwise, would fail without a coherent infrastructure to implement change. Green initiatives are often led by the CEO, although some companies have created a role whose responsibility it is to oversee sustainability projects.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in the manufacture of energy-efficient products, from servers to storage and networking devices. The availability of power management tools is driving this trend.

Networking vendors drive energyefficiency improvements through the integration of standby features and functionality on the equipment. Power supply units have seen five percent power efficiency gains in recent years and the power consumption in each generation of devices has been drastically reduced.

Implementing sustainable networking programs takes more than knowledge of technology and processes. You need proper timing, management co-operation, KPIs and the right motivation to make it work. Here are some guidelines:
? Timing: Pick the right time to evaluate your networking strategy to make it sustainable. Look at current equipment end-of-life or capital investment write-offs. Are you consolidating infrastructure gained from M&A (merger and acquisition) activities? Are there plans to implement new collaborative services?
? Measurements: To show progress, organisations need to determine the power consumption, equipment, age and management characteristics of their networking equipment. They also need to ensure that power efficiency is added to the equipment’s price, functionality and performance in their technology evaluation.
? Duration: Come up with short-, medium- and long-term plans, as there are quick, simple, and cost-effective measures that organisations can implement to improve infrastructure. Enabling power management settings, for instance, is a low-cost activity that can bring immediate savings.
? The moral dimension: Never ignore the moral dimension of sustainability. Why should your organisation act in an environmentally aware and costeffective manner? Linking your ‘green’ IT projects to organisational and corporate social responsibility goals can make them easier to fund and accomplish.

Murray Holzworth is the Regional Program Director for 3Com Asia Pacific. He is based in 3Com’s Brisbane office and is responsible for reviewing the solutions that 3Com currently offers to its service providers, and providing marketing support for solution developments across key technology categories such as switching, routing, security and network management.
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