A New Answer to Controlling Energy Consumption and Costs

A New Answer to Controlling Energy Consumption and Costs

In today's connected age, we have come to rely on the network infrastructure to advance our businesses. But it's also a critical tool for achieving environmental goals.

Remote collaboration tools, such as web conferencing and telepresence as well as secure teleworking systems, foster greater productivity and work efficiency. And, they reduce emissions impact by cutting down on air and car travel as well as facilities demands.

In addition, advanced Green IT practices such as data center virtualization ensure optimum resource utilization and ever-ready access. What's important to note here is that all of these capabilities share a reliance on the network in order for their benefits to be fully realized.

But beyond these tools and technologies, the network can play an even bigger role toward meeting sustainability goals while achieving substantial business cost savings.

Energy Management: Extending the Power of the Network

Industry studies estimate that lighting and HVAC systems account for around 70 percent of commercial energy costs. These same studies indicate that IT infrastructure accounts for another 25 percent. The Climate Group assigns 49 percent of these IT-related energy costs to end-user devices such as PCs, phones, and printers.

Given these statistics, it's easy to see that network-based energy management can yield tremendous potential returns to the environment and to businesses. But having a clear view of where and how your business uses power is a critical first step. Do you know how much energy your IT infrastructure uses? Are departments in your company charged for the energy they use? How much energy is used to light, heat, cool, and secure your buildings? These questions are becoming big concerns.

Enter Cisco EnergyWise

As the old adage states, "You can't manage what you can't measure." And that's exactly what Cisco EnergyWise tackles head-on. A network-based energy measurement and management system that runs on Cisco Catalyst switches as part of the Cisco IOS software, Cisco EnergyWise is designed to drive energy efficiency—not just within the network, but across the entire IT and business infrastructure. Its principal functions: to measure, report, and regulate.

Measure: Cisco EnergyWise polls devices under its control and gathers energy usage information. This data represents actual device power draw at the time of measurement. And, by using centralized policies and domain-based device groups, you can easily assess large sets of assets across an entire network. Energy maps show the current status of all controlled devices (e.g., full power, sleeping, turned off), as well their actual and relative power draw.

Report: With accurate and complete energy usage information available, Cisco EnergyWise is able to report consumption and costs at a detailed (e.g., for a device) or aggregate (e.g., for a group, location, or company) level. With "what-if" analysis, further areas of savings can also be identified.

Regulate: Understanding your energy usage and whether it's efficient or not provides the opportunity to make adjustments, as needed. EnergyWise correlates usage data with pre-defined business needs and then automates the process of powering a device on or off, or lowering its energy usage. This helps ease direct operator involvement, and ensures maximum impact.

These functions give complete control to IT and facility managers looking to get the most from every dollar spent on energy, while also reducing energy-related environmental impact. To illustrate with an example, let's look at a branch office model of a bank. By using EnergyWise just to turn off IP phones and wireless LAN access points (APs) at 100 branches during non-working hours (7pm to 7am) you would see a huge impact. In a company with 5000 employees (with 5000 phones and 500 APs -- 1 per 10 employees), the savings would equate to $37K annually and 185 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

From the Network to IT to Facilities: Complete Coverage, Complete Control:

Cisco will be dramatically extending the capabilities of this technology over the next 12 to 18 months to fully deliver on the promise of Cisco EnergyWise. The following three main phases define the Cisco EnergyWise rollout:

Power-over-Ethernet Devices. Currently, Cisco EnergyWise controls assets that are actually powered via their network connection. So, the Cisco Catalyst switch will efficiently power these devices directly and manage their actual energy usage. Devices in this category include IP phones and Wireless LAN access points.

Networked IT Devices. Next, Cisco EnergyWise will enable control of the energy "state" of devices that are attached to the network; it will turn these devices on and off or put them into reduced power modes (e.g., Sleep). In this category, we're talking about PCs, printers, and even shared servers and storage units -- systems that require significant power and cooling, even when idle.

Facility Control Systems. Ultimately, Cisco EnergyWise will extend its influence over the energy efficiency of building systems and equipment such as lighting and HVAC. Advancements in this area are also bolstered by Cisco's Building Network Mediator, a comprehensive integration platform for building automation systems. Given that facilities account for such a large percentage of commercial energy costs, savings as low as 5 or 10 percent here can translate to big returns to the bottom line. It's not hard to imagine even more savings when examining "part-time" facilities such as those branch offices we talked about earlier.

Playing a vital role in Cisco's energy management plans will be technology partners. These partners will bring their own unique energy management expertise and systems to the mix. For example, PC power management partners will help reduce the power demands of user desktops. Lighting and HVAC management partners will help with the power demands of business facilities. This "eco-system" approach ensures that Cisco EnergyWise and Building Network Mediator will fully deliver on the promise of comprehensive network-based energy management.

What it comes down to is the simple fact that controlling energy consumption is clearly good for the environment. Controlling energy costs is also good for your business. Cisco EnergyWise is designed to help you succeed on both these fronts.

For a quick view into the potential impact of Cisco EnergyWise on your organization's energy bill and environmental impact, I invite you to use the Cisco EnergyWise Business Value Calculator. And remember… Turn the lights off and power down your PC when you leave tonight!

Marie Hattar is the vice president of Network Systems and Security Solutions at Cisco.