Cisco green plan looks beyond routers

By , IDG News Service |  Green IT

Cisco Systems wants to
turn the enterprise data network into an electricity meter.

Using open standards, the company wants to get server and storage vendors to
collect and share information about their equipment and send it to Cisco routers
and switches. The data could include power consumption, operating temperature
and more. It's becoming a critical job, and because the network touches all
IT resources across the enterprise, data collection should happen there, according
to Paul Marcoux, vice president of green engineering.

Marcoux joined Cisco from American
Power Conversion
only about six weeks ago, after Cisco created the position
to overlook energy issues across all parts of the company. Networking gear itself
makes up a much smaller portion of IT power consumption than do servers or storage,
but Cisco plans to go beyond just making its own products more efficient.

Power is a growing issue in data centers as the cost of energy rises and concerns
about global climate change increase. Being able to collect and analyze information
about power usage is a big part of the battle and becoming more crucial in the
age of virtualization, according to Marcoux. Distributing storage and processing
cycles without regard for power issues is not just inefficient, it's dangerous,
he said.

If virtualization software looks at a process that requires more computing
power or storage space, then enlists servers or storage devices that are near
to overheating or running out of power, it could send a rack of servers over
the edge and shut it down, Marcoux said. For that reason, the virtualization
system needs to know the power status of all the resources it may call upon,
he said.

By the same token, consolidated data centers typically serve many departments
of an enterprise and consume a lot of power, but those groups generally don't
have to pay for their part of the power. In fact, the electricity bill often
bypasses even the IT department, going to building management instead, Marcoux
said. Collecting data about the power consumed by each device, and eventually
by individual transactions, would allow enterprises to bill each department
for the power it uses, he said.

Software on routers and switches would collect the information and then take
actions or forward it on to separate building management, energy management
or virtualization control systems, Marcoux said. Given the large amount of energy
data to be processed, Cisco may introduce daughtercards for its platforms to
provide extra computing power, he said. He hopes the technology will be in place
and collecting information in enterprises within three years.

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