The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.3 working group has recently hosted the first meeting of its new Energy-Efficient Ethernet (EEE) Study Group as it seeks to develop standards that will help reduce the environmental footprint of network equipment.
If the technology is implemented, estimates for cost savings run to $450 million in the US alone.
The proposed process relies on switching to lower speeds during low link utilisation. Speed bumps for network interface cards (NICs) are 10Mbit/s, 100Mbit/s and 1Gbit/s - 10Gbit/s over copper NICs are available but the switches are doing interop tests with the cabling.
Ironically, firms who are developing 10Gbit/s switches are currently also trying to get the power per port used in these devices down to manageable levels, as I discussed recently in IT Week's labs blog.
In principle the Energy Efficient Ethernet is a great idea. If you're at work, and you have a 1Gbit/s NIC and the local area network supports 1Gbit/s then if you're just tootling along surfing the web, nothing too demanding, your link might then decide to drop the data transfer rate to say 10Mbit/s, saving energy and money in the process.
If you then decide to download a 1GB .PDF file, from an internal portal, you're link might crank up to 100Mbit/s. It's highly unlikely that your WAN link goes much above 10Mbit/s, especially if you're at home using a broadband. So the only reason that you're link rate would ramp up to 1Gbit/s would be if you wanted a large data file say a 50GB database chunk over your internal LAN.
The IEEE is right, millions of dollars could be saved and the carbon footprint of network equipment will be reduced.
But, is this the same IEEE that is currently working on a new energy profligate power-over-Ethernet standard, the 802.3at spec otherwise known as power-over-Ethernet Plus (PoEPlus)?
In case you were wondering, yes it is. At their last shindig on Jan 17th, the group passed a motion which could allow at least 30 watts and potentially up to 60 watts of juice over network cabling. In theory, PoEPlus could allow users to run or even recharge laptops over network cabling, which would prove extremely tempting to many organisations.
OK, it's different technology, but if it takes off it could make a massive dent in any energy savings achieved through rolling out the proposed EEE standard. The EEE standard is a step in the right direction, but the IEEE has a long way to go before it can regard itself as a green organisation.
New report released at Clean Energy Ministerial confirms corporate demand for renewable power is accelerating fast
Energy giant says new target would see it cut the carbon intensity of its power by 75 per cent against 2006 levels
Steve Holliday reflects on the 10th anniversary of the UK's last generation-related power cut, and a decade in which the grid has coped admirably with an ever cleaner electricity mix
Environmental Audit Committee finds a majority of large pension funds are addressing climate change, but warns a number of funds are ignoring strategic risks