Here is a brief exercise in how to save some money for your company, and make yourself a hero at the same time. Do a quick census of the gear inside all of your wiring closets. You don’t have to be too anal here: just quickly estimate the number of ports, regardless of whether or not they are in use. Now use some fudge factors for the number of watts per port – if you have this information, fine, otherwise for the purposes of this tally, use 50 watts for unpowered Ethernet and 500 watts for powered ports, and add in the power consumption figures for anything else that is plugged into an electrical outlet.
Now add up the kilowatt hours and multiply by the cost of electricity in your area. If you don’t know, say 15 cents per kwh. Surprised at how big this is? Now here is where the hero part comes into play: suggest that you replace some of this gear with switches that can turn themselves off during off-hours.
Hunh? “Our networks have to operate 24x7” you say. “We can’t turn anything off. What about the people that come in on the weekends?”
Still, think about it. I got the idea after visiting Adtran this week, and they were showing me some of their switches that do just that. You can set up profiles for particular ports on the switch to shut off at certain times of the day, or to provide less power to those ports that are just running to ordinary PC endpoints. You wouldn’t think this would add up to a lot of saved juice, but if you have a lot of powered Ethernet ports – say supporting Wifi access points and VOIP phones – it can really add up quickly, into the tens of thousands of dollars a year. This could easily pay for part of the upgrade to your infrastructure.
Switches aren’t the only things that can cycle their power loads down these days. Intel’s latest multicore chips have the ability to turn off several of their cores to save on electricity, or to funnel processing to particular tasks to match their computing loads. There are virtualization provisioning products that will automatically spin up virtual servers to match increased loads, and then spin them down when the loads drop.
It is funny, when you think about it. Going green these days means getting a more powerful box and turning stuff off. Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? Oh, and when you are done, ask your boss to give you at least a third of the savings as a bonus, and tell them I put you on to the idea. You can thank me later.
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- David Strom
- David Strom has looked at hundreds of computer products over a more than 20 year career in IT and computer journalism. He was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, and now writes for Baseline, Information Security, Tom's Hardware, and the New York Times.