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No escaping network-based IT power management

Market forces will dictate that network managers get more involved in IT energy management.

Most network managers would be happy if they could worry about the network and nothing else, but market forces constantly dictate that they expand their remit. That's happening now as technology that manages energy consumption and conservation emerges.

You could argue that network-based IT power management has been coming ever since early iterations of Power over Ethernet (PoE) first hit the market, turning data networks into nascent power grids. With each generation of PoE, the wattage data networks deliver has grown, and so have the number of devices powered by the network. Most recently, Cisco introduced Universal Power over Ethernet (UPOE), which pushes network-delivered power to 60 watts. Cisco is expanding its partner ecosystem to take advantage of this increase, including new UPOE-powered LED lighting vendors.

Now network managers are keeping the lights on.

With more devices powered by the network and increased IT scrutiny of power consumption, it stands to reason that enterprises will ask network managers to involve themselves more in IT energy management and conservation.

"[Power management] is just now part of [the network team's] sphere of influence and expertise," said Mike Spanbauer, principal analyst at Current Analysis Inc. "A few things have changed, however. The network team still does not possess direct responsibility for power budget management, but as part of a corporate IT directive, all teams are required to report on their contribution in some of the more power-sensitive regions, such as the U.K., where the carbon tax makes their power budget three to four times what it costs in the States."

IT organizations are less power-conscious in the United States, but the cloud computing industry could raise consciousness, Spanbauer said.

"One thing that is emerging and will be important for network guys -- there are energy profiles for the cloud economic model. When you look at hosting an application in-house versus external hosting in the cloud, it becomes far more important to have an accurate power perspective on what it costs. This is why cloud economics is so difficult to characterize." 

IT power management technology for networking pros

Going beyond PoE, networking vendors are developing technology and partnerships aimed at putting IT energy management tools in the hands of network managers. Both Juniper Networks Inc. and Cisco have strategic partnerships with JouleX, an agentless energy management vendor that monitors, analyzes and controls energy consumption by IT infrastructure and other parts of the enterprise. JouleX integrates with Juniper's Junos Space SDK to monitor and analyze energy consumption of any device on a Juniper network. JouleX integrates with Cisco to monitor, analyze and control energy consumption on a Cisco network, including any device that draws PoE power from the network. Cisco's energy management protocol, EnergyWise powers JouleX's integration with Cisco.

"EnergyWise provides energy profiling and possesses the ability to capture robust metrics on device and port power consumption and trending," Spanbauer said. "It also possesses some sophisticated script controls through management systems to provide power control capabilities."

Incentivizing networking teams to consider IT energy management

Cisco is pushing hard to get enterprises to start leveraging EnergyWise-based technologies. Cisco unveiled a Fast-Start EnergyWise program at Cisco Live recently. The program offers JouleX's product for free with Cisco's Catalyst 3K and 4K switches.

"The Fast-Track zero dollar SKU gives Cisco customers free monitoring and control of switch attached PoE devices [and switches] but nothing else. If they want to go out and monitor and control servers, printers, copiers and PCs and storage devices, they need to upgrade," said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Joulex.

Meanwhile Verdiem, an agent-based PC power management vendor, has expanded its energy management footprint by integrating with EnergyWise to monitor and manage power consumption of network devices. With the Fast-Start program, customers of those same Catalyst switches can get a free one-year license for Verdiem Surveyor to manage both network energy consumption and PC power consumption for up to 1,000 PCs.

Slow adoption of IT power management technology

These Fast-Track programs for EnergyWise reflect the slow uptake of network-based IT power-management technology in many regions of the world, particularly the United States. While IT organizations in some regions of the world are under relentless pressure to lower power consumption, U.S. organizations are mostly immune, except in data centers where power consumption is often a logistical issue, not just a financial one.

"In Europe, we respond to RFPs [for power management] because someone has already budgeted for it. They're out to save money. In the U.S., we create opportunities. Then you have Japan, which just lost 37% of its energy generating capacity [with the suspension of nuclear power generation]," Noonan said. "The U.S. pays less for energy than anywhere else, so it's not very energy-conscious culturally."

In the United States, IT power management initiatives are usually driven from the top, with CEOs looking to boost an organization's corporate social responsibility profile or to cut power costs in a weak economy.

The mayor of Spokane, Wash., launched a city-wide green initiative in recent years that drove the city's MIS director Michael Sloon to start conserving power in his environment.

"Power management is an important thing here in the Northwest," Sloon said. "We have a lot of hydroelectric power and our utility provider is highly motivated to help reduce cost and conserve energy, even though they're in the business of selling energy. IT is a big part of that, because we have almost 2,000 PCs throughout 50 locations in the city. They consume electricity and produce heat."

Sloon has deployed Verdiem's PC power management product, an agent-based technology that powers down PCs at certain hours of the day based on policy.

Although Verdiem has started partnering with Cisco and its EnergyWise technology to expand IT energy management into network devices, Sloon said he hasn't expanded his power management efforts in that direction yet.

"I see Energywise as an opportunity," he said. "We just have bigger obstacles or challenges at the moment, but it's always important, and we see the ability to gain cost savings. [Power consciousness] has really picked up lately because of the budget crunch. It's made us hyper-aware because little things can benefit us."

IT delivers applications and services; facilities pay the utility bill

Network managers are often disinclined to worry about power consumption because they don't pay the utility bills -- unlike facilities teams.

"At the end of the day, we go to IT because they own and operate the infrastructure. But the electricity bills are paid by facilities. There's no doubt that it takes time to get these groups lined up. If you've got the facilities organization and a sustainability team, they have strong incentives to reduce power and have a greener organization. For IT, it's really just another project for them. They want to be supportive of corporate goals, but it's not as high a priority," said Chris Baker, vice president of marketing and strategy at Verdiem.

More on IT power management

Data center managers want better insight into power consumption

Energy efficiency and energy security in data centers

Energy efficient data centers: Balance hype and social responsibility

Noonan says it's rare for IT and facilities to collaborate except in the data center. "When we serve people in the data center, we're always working with a joint facilities/IT team. When we work with a distributed office, we're working with IT and facilities as separate groups."

But network managers are more ready for network-based energy management than they realize, since it can be seen as another form of network convergence, Noonan added. Just as IP telephony led to a convergence of data and voice, technologies like EnergyWise will drive convergence of networks and energy management. Twenty-five years ago, a network manager wouldn't have known what to do with a desk phone just as today they don't know what to do with a lighting fixture. And yet, vendors are now selling LED ceiling lights powered by UPOE.

"[Network managers] see the benefits of convergence, but they're not the guys who buy lights," he said. "But who's got to enable the new age of lighting? IT guys."


Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director

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