Enterprise Networks Can Cut Emissions, Too

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From Energy Efficient Ethernet to a company’s own supply network, there’s a lot that networks can do to reduce a company’s environmental footprint, says 3Com’s Matt Walmsley

Now our industry is relatively mature. I don’t see it as commoditised, but it is standardised. So people don’t pay such a premium for having a single vendor end to end. We’ve been resurgent ov er the last two or three years.
In the last three or four years we’ve been leveraging the fastest growing IT market in the world – China . We bought the outstanding equity in H3C, our joint venture with Huawei in 2006 – and now we are a US company whose home market is China.

The Chinese market is one of the only networking markets that is growing. We are profitable and financially stable, at a time when the industry is… shall we say, dynamic?

The joint venture has provided the breeding ground for a new generation of products, and we are now one of the few end-to-end providers. We are number two in enterprise switching and routing worldwide… albeit a distant number two. We supply voice, video, and storage networks in China. We are number one in SANs in China – and these are our own products.

Things are converging, so vendors need to provide more different technologies. Cisco is going into servers, and SAN specialist Brocade bought Foundry. Are you going into servers, and will you bring SAN products outside China?
Consolidation in the data centre influences our strategy. We can’t talk about anything specific today, but in the next six months you will see significant strategic announcements – and the tangible products that underpin them. As markets mature they tend to consolidate.

We’ll leverage our home market advantage and we can localise our Chinese products. But it’s not just about having a great new box. It’s never as simple as that. You have to have everything else lined up around that, including support and channels.

Last year, we made a $12 million investment in insourcing our technical support. In the enterprise, you need to talk directly to your vendor’s employee.

How about making Ethernet itself better? There are moves to make Ethernet use more power itself, and also become a more efficient way to deliver power to other devices. Power over Ethernet is the only truly global power delivery standard.
We’re doing stuff in the IEEE about making Ethernet more efficient. Ethernet is a very inefficient protocol. It’s bursty, so links are nowhere near 100 percent utilisation. Energy Efficient Ethernet will power the link down when it is not in use. There’s an energy saving associated with that, but more interestingly, if I was an end point device, an access point or an IP phone, I could use that signal to power the end point down. The network can actuallycontribute to organisational sustainability.

We believe that standards underpin innovation, and interoperability is the key to widespread adoption. When the standards are there, it enables you to go and do smart things with that technology. We are very keen to get that out as quickly as possible.

So when will you have 802.3az products?
I think within the next 18 to 24 months, we will see the standards mature to the stage where we have built the silicon, and vendors taking it to market. The date for the final standard is movable, but the technical specs will be nailed down before that point.

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