Network Vendors Play The Green Card

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Data centres could make “huge” energy savings through lower energy networks, says Juniper

The contribution of networking equipment to a data centre’s carbon footprint is often neglected, largely because the amount of energy used by the network is a relatively small proportion of the overall consumption of a data centre. However, with the data demands on networks constantly growing, networking companies are coming under increasing pressure to offer greener switches – to deliver savings in cost as well as carbon.

This translates into an opportunity for network switch makers to distinguish themselves from each other – and also to put pressure on the market leader, Cisco.  While the network giant promises to support greener data centres, its rivals are increasingly using hard power consumption figures – and green commitments – as a competitive bargaining chip with customers.

Can green networks change the world?

Juniper Networks, Cisco’s major rival particularly with service providers, underlined this at its analyst event in San Jose, California, this week. The company thinks constantly of the “greenness” of the network, Rami Rahim, vice president of product management for edge and aggregation switches, told eWEEK Europe.

This week, Juniper launched its first annual Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability Report, entitled “The New Network – Changing the World” (pdf), highlighting initiatives around green IT, employee and community engagement and sustainable business operations.

“Sustainable and efficient operations are critical to the success of businesses today,” said a statement from Mark Bauhaus, who leads Juniper’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) council, as well as managing the service layer technologies business group. “Advances in the network will continue to contribute to a more environmentally responsible world, and Juniper Networks will be at the forefront for a more sustainable environment.”

Switching to the practical benefits of more efficient products, Rahim took up the theme: “As service providers, content providers and large enterprises deploy larger data centres, I think they are realising two things. One is that a greater and greater portion  of their overall operating expenditures is now moving towards power consumption. And then there’s also the green aspect of that – what that does to the environment, what the carbon footprint is for that. And that is a concern, and it’s actually driving purchases.”

Efficiency starts with silicon

According to Rahim, the key to providing energy-efficient networks is silicon. “Juniper stumbled across into this even before it was a popular topic to discuss, because we developed networking equipment with a fundamentally different approach to anybody else before us had done,” he said. “This is back in 1998. We built a core router that was built with purpose-built silicon as opposed to off-the-shelf technology that was essentially developed with compute in mind as opposed to networking.”

Rahim explained that the original goal of doing this was to improve performance. “The Internet was growing at an exponential pace and it was clear that the status quo in terms of technology – state-of-the-art technology – was not going to keep up with the pace of growth of the Internet,” he said.

However, when Juniper introduced its first product, the M40 silicon router, it discovered that it not only increased performance but also had a significant effect on power consumption. “You look at kilowatts consumed per bit per second of performance, it was drastically lower,” he said.

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