What is ‘Green Networking’?

Green networking is a phrase much bandied about, but is there any substance behind it? Sid Deshpande, senior research analyst at Gartner tells Network Middle East that it is a trend that is hard to define.

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What is ‘Green Networking’? Sid Deshpande, senior research analyst at Gartner says there are no specific benchmarks to define green networking.
By  Georgina Enzer Published  May 10, 2012

Green networking is a phrase much bandied about, but is there any substance behind it? Sid Deshpande, senior research analyst at Gartner tells Network Middle East that it is a trend that is hard to define.

To be ‘green’ in terms of networking hardware, the accepted definition is that the technology must use less energy than other networking hardware products. But, the problem with the term green networking is that there are no specific benchmarks to define what is considered a green technology or not, says Sid Deshpande, senior research analyst at Gartner.

There are a few energy usage standards that are applied in developed countries, such as the US and Germany, to define what is considered a green data centre, but none for individual products.

“There are lots of different standards in different countries, for example in the US, the EPA has their Energy Star standard and there are several countries with different standards like in Germany and the UK, which mandate the amount of electricity used by the data centre over all, but in terms of labelling specific networking products as specifically green or not green, there is no clearly demarcated line there,” Deshpande explains.

There is significant hype in the networking marketplace around green networking, but until there are unified global standards and even a legally mandated organisation to define green networking hardware, the sector will be poorly defined and open to wide and varied interpretation.

So, is the phrase green networking merely a trendy marketing statement for hardware manufacturers to try and sell more products?

According to Deshpande, green networking is an important market development, whether the products are designed specifically to be more energy efficient so as to fall under a ‘green’ label, or whether the improved energy efficiency of a device is a by-product of that hardware’s overall evolution.

“Green networking is not an individual product and there are technologies that are more energy efficient then others. I would not call this a trendy label, it is important. Green networking is important when you are looking at data centre planning but it is not always the pivotal decision-making point. Vendors will try to create hype around it and try to use it as a selling point and they will not always be incorrect, but it will not suit every organisation to completely replace their existing infrastructure with completely new technology just because it is green, there have to be other benefits,” Deshpande adds.

Despite a lack of definition, enterprises, particularly cloud service providers, are implementing energy saving technologies in all-new greenfield datacentres.

“If it is a greenfield deployment and a deployment of a significant scale, there are several emerging [green] technologies across the data centre spectrum from storage to networking to cabling, so newer deployments are more likely to factor in cost, based on the current green scenario. I would categorically state that greenfield deployments are more likely to adopt the latest technologies in terms of features and functionality. Energy efficiency is becoming one of the key requirement areas for newer products,” states Deshpande.

By definition, a newer product in any domain cannot consume more energy than its predecessor and by design, all newer technologies are supposed to consume less energy.

Energy costs for a data centre are now much higher then they were five to seven years ago, so organisations that are still operating on old data centre designs, are feeling the pinch when it comes to their energy costs.

Often in the case of networking, the deployment of technology is quite dependent on what already exists, unless it is a complete replace scenario, it is always about how a company can make a new purchase work with the old solution.

“I would say that we are reaching a point where cost efficiency is going hand in hand with technological advancement. Increasingly in the data centre we find the hardware is being commoditised and the value is moving to the software, so the advancements in green technology go hand-in-hand with commoditisation of hardware and in the long run, cost reduction,” Deshpande says.

Sid Deshpande, senior research analyst at Gartner.

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