Having long touted itself as a frontrunner in green technology, Cisco Systems Inc. wants to prove it by taking control of power management in your building. (See Cisco Meets Al Gore and Cisco Takes Hold of the Edge.)
A free upgrade to the vendor's IOS operating system being announced today will let some of Cisco's enterprise routers handle power management. In the most ambitious cases, the router will team up with facilities-maintenance software to turn down lights on the weekends or move office laptops into battery mode.
For now, things are simpler than that. Cisco is putting the new software, called EnergyWise, onto fixed-function Catalyst switches, where it will control the power to power-over-Ethernet (PoE) devices.
Those are easy targets because the router already works with those devices. EnergyWise can turn off one of the radios in each WiFi access point (AP) during the weekends, or send IP phones into low-power mode.
But from there, Cisco wants to go beyond its usual boundaries. "If we can pull together the other major components, it makes a lot of sense," says William Choe, director of Cisco's Ethernet switching technology group.
The goal isn't just to be cool; Cisco is talking up its power watchdog function as a way for corporations to save money, trimming costs off of expensive building maintenance. Choe claims Cisco is doing this, not for self-aggrandizment, but because customers came to the company with the idea.
But why should it be the router that's running the show?
"The network is perhaps one of the more pervasive platforms," Choe says. "The network exists in most corporations today, and it provides the intelligence for a holistic approach to managing power across a complete organization."
The EnergyWise technology was developed by the same engineers who normally work on Catalyst. The marketing is landing in Choe's group because they have charge of the fixed-function Catalysts that are getting EnergyWise first.
Today's launch puts EnergyWise on the Catalyst 2000 and 3000 lines, and on Cisco's Integrated Service Routers (ISRs). Six months from now, Cisco plans to expand EnergyWise's reach to the Catalyst 4500 family and extend support to some non-PoE devices such as PCs.
The flagship Catalyst 6500 is slated to get EnergyWise a year from now. By that time, Cisco hopes to have the features working with building-management software from partners such as Schneider Electric. That's the point where Cisco's routers start fiddling with customers' air conditioning and turning off their lights on weekends.
But even then, Choe sees more utility in having EnergyWise in the smaller routers rather than in enterprise core-network boxes like the 6500.
"The majority of these switches in this application are in the wiring closet, touching the endpoints -- the APs and the IP phones," Choe says. "Touching the endpoints is really where you get the impact."
In addition to teaming up with facilities-management companies like Schneider, Cisco wants to connect EnergyWise to network management systems. Its first partner along those lines is
SolarWinds, which sells administration software for network operating centers. (The "greenness" of the "solar" name is just coincidence.)
Another partner being announced today is Verdiem Corp., which sells software for remotely monitoring and controlling power usage on a PC. Cisco wants EnergyWise to connect to, and take advantage of, that software.
â€” Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading