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Why it’s worth adding Cisco energy management to your to-do list

Cisco has been criticized for losing focus on its enterprise networking portfolio with random technology additions like the Flip camera. But Cisco’s move this week to expand its home and enterprise energy management portfolio is not such a loss of focus. In fact, it’s one that could move enterprises to serious cost savings in their power usage, as well as lend itself to developing a nationwide smart grid that actually works.

The problem is Cisco will have to step up its game in convincing networking engineers why they should add yet another item to their to-do list.

Cisco’s Connected Grid portfolio aims to build an IP network on top of utility smart grids to provide communication from inside the utility all the way to smart meters and even appliances and building systems inside homes and enterprises. As Cisco puts it, the network would connect from “the birth of the electron all the way to consumption.” Enterprises and residents alike could then receive constant notice of their power consumption so they could engage in controlling it on an ongoing basis. Utilities in turn would be able to better manage resources.

Cisco used its platform at Cisco Live 2010 this week to outline the expansion of its Smart Connected Buildings offering with new centralized management technology – the Building Mediator Manager 6300. The management technology allows enterprises to monitor energy consumption related to either facilities or IT. That’s especially crucial considering data center energy consumption is expected to grow five times every two years.

Speaking at Cisco Live, Dave Shroyer, senior controls engineer at NetApp, said his company integrated Building Mediator into its building facility controls, including lighting, HVAC and data center operations. NetApp also use it to monitor pricing signals from its utility, PG&E, and automate the lowering of power consumption at peak energy use times. When usage peaks, NetApp automatically dims its lights and reduces the air conditioning in its buildings, for a decrease of 1.1 Megawatts. Employees receive an email alerting them of the situation and Shroyer said he has had “all employee buy-in [with] no negative reaction at all.” The company has saved 18 million kWh and $2 Million in less than a year, for what amounts to a 30% power reduction annually.

Cisco will need to launch a campaign in which cases like this are clearly explained. That will be the only way of showing network managers that this technology is not a loss of focus, but an integral part of their future.

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