Going Green on the Network

Arthur Cole

Even while major server and storage vendors continue to tout the energy-saving capabilities of their major hardware platforms, the networking side of the house is also pushing new green technologies aimed at cutting the power bills.


And while saving a few watts here and there on the odd Ethernet card or storage controller may not sound like much, the savings could be significant when added up over an entire enterprise LAN.


According to Gary Audin, president of network integrator Delphi Inc., the LAN switch is the biggest single energy consumer on the network. Even the largest router will have maybe 12 interface cards, compared to switches that can hold up to 128 ports and are usually fed by redundant power supplies. Anyone looking at an aging switch should seriously consider some of the new power management tools as part of any upgrade.


D-Link is garnering the most press lately with a new line of Ethernet switches featuring a power transfer technology that can identify active and inactive ports on the network and adjust the flow of energy accordingly. The system can also regulate the flow of energy depending on cable length and other parameters. The company also cuts down on the use of hazardous materials in its designs by conforming to the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives.


Broadcom is burnishing its green credentials as well, adding new energy management tools to its NetXtreme controller to maintain compliance with the EPA's Energy Star program. The company's single-chip BCM5761 NIC is based on a 65 nm process that delivers low voltage and power dissipation, and features a range of power management tools under the company's TruManage technology.


And new energy-efficient 10 GbE controllers are already showing up in the latest server interface solutions. Supermicro recently came out with a set of PCIe and Universal I/O adapters based on Intel's new low-power 10 GbE controller, offering dual-port connectivity while drawing an average of 6.5 watts.


The most significant energy savings are still likely to come from virtualization, consolidation and other hardware efficiency measures on the server and storage side. But if the cost of electricity continues to climb as projected, it will become increasingly hard not to justify efficiency on the network because "it just doesn't save enough."

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