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Debating Green Ethernet

Earlier this week, Light Reading posted an article that discusses the view of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) that the industry needs to develop power-consumption metrics that take into account the correlation between capacity and capabilities, and that are better aligned with carrier business models. (See Ericsson Thinks Green for Routers.)

The article spotlights one of the key topics up for debate at Green Telecom East 2009: Transitioning to Environmentally Responsible Networks, which will be held at the Westin Times Square Hotel in New York on June 17. I'll be moderating an afternoon Carrier Ethernet Solutions session with Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) that focuses on the latest energy-efficiency innovations and how efficiency can be measured to more accurately reflect real-world deployment scenarios.

When I first started exploring the Carrier Ethernet energy-consumption topic last summer, I believed the matter should be fairly straightforward. My thought was that operators ought to be able to compare product data sheets and easily calculate how much forwarding capacity each switch or router delivered per watt of power by simply dividing a system's listed total forwarding capacity by the maximum estimated wattage. This was a naïve view.

Energy-consumption comparisons based on data sheets almost inevitably lead to controversy, because they do not accurately reflect power usage in typical network deployments and because different vendors can vary in how conservatively they calculate maximum system power usage.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and others have worked on developing more standardized approaches that will help operators evaluate power efficiency of infrastructure and access equipment that is more in line with what they might see in their own networks. Verizon's Telecommunications Equipment Energy Efficiency Rating (TEEER), for example, seeks to calculate efficiency based on equipment power and performance at multiple utilization levels. Verizon has developed a TEEER formula for optical transport, switch/router, and access equipment based on watts used when systems are 100 percent utilized, 50 percent utilized, and asleep. Chuck Graff, Verizon's director of core network and technology, has spearheaded the TEEER initiative and will be giving a keynote address at the Green Telecom East event.

Another key issue that popped up in my discussions with suppliers was that system power use can differ quite a bit based on the types of services and applications supported by the platform. Relatively less power is consumed in handling 100 Gbit/s worth of Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 traffic in the same system, for example.

These are just a couple of the multiple key issues to consider when examining the energy efficiency of carrier Ethernet and other products. The bottom line is that we need to get to a point where we can develop a common set of metrics that will help reduce ambiguity and controversy and empower operators to make smarter choices in deploying the most energy-efficient solutions tailored to fit their application requirements.

We're making progress as an industry, but we're not there yet. Join us at the Green Telecom East event to chime into the debate!

— Stan Hubbard, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
Come to Green Telecom East 2009: Transitioning to Environmentally Responsible Networks, a one-day conference designed to provide telecom executives with a concise summary of the latest infrastructure developments that will facilitate a global transition to environmentally responsible networks, to be staged in New York, June 17. For more information, or to register, click here.


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