Looking to the LAN for More Green

Green is likely to be the new gold for enterprise networking equipment as the industry looks past server and storage consolidation to keep their electric bills down.


According to new research from In-Stat, the next likely candidate for an energy make-over is the LAN switch. Since Power over Ethernet (PoE) came into vogue over the past three years, the number of PoE ports has tripled, even though the technology draws 10 times the energy of traditional ports.


While that may be a burden to the enterprise community, for vendors it's an opportunity, one that the smaller companies are looking to exploit at the expense of the Ciscos and Brocades of the world.


D-Link, for one, is staking its name on the greenness of its technology. The Green Ethernet series of switches is based not just on its ability to cut energy costs but its use of components and materials that conform to recycling and disposal initiatives, such as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives. The company recently expanded the line with the DGS-2200 series of five- and eight-port devices.


Extreme Networks is also getting into the act, coming out with the BlackDiamond 8810 core switch that the company says consumes less than half the power of Cisco's Catalyst 6509 or Foundry Networks' RX-16 switch. The company pegs annual cost savings at about $1,000 per switch.


Energy consumption can also be cut with the right CPU configuration. Mellanox Technologies, which specializes in Infiniband and Ethernet silicon solutions, recently joined the Green Grid consortium with an eye toward improving CPU I/O environments to cut down on data bottlenecks. With multicores consuming ever larger amounts of power, poor data traffic results in idle CPUs and wasted memory cycles. The company's 20 G adapter ports draw power down to about 3.5W per port.


Among the larger manufacturers, the movement toward green technology, for the enterprise at least, has been slower. Cisco has largely concentrated on its carrier platforms as means to aid telecommuting and enhance wireless connectivity. The only green technology announcement I could find from Cisco is the ASR 1000 edge router that contains a 40-core chipset to replace multiple edge boxes.


So far, all indications are that the green switching technology coming out performs as well or better than current technology, which means that the decision to go green is left largely to cost/benefit returns. But as economies of scale drive down capital costs while the price of energy continues to climb, that ratio should start to look better and better.

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