4 ways to reduce network power consumption

A heavy reliance on the network can increase energy use across businesses. Here are some best practices network teams can follow to reduce power consumption.

In corporate and branch offices, organizations expect wired and wireless connectivity in all locations. The network is the foundation that controls virtually every technological aspect of business, and ubiquitous connectivity is essential. As the need for network connectivity grows, however, so does overall power consumption.

Organizations typically install additional wired and wireless network devices to handle this greater need, which can create situations where network hardware is online but sits idle and needlessly consumes power. This practice has become concerning for organizations that seek to cut costs and lower their power consumption and carbon footprint.

Organizations looking to lower their carbon footprints can follow some best practices that help deliver end-to-end networking capabilities and improve overall energy efficiency.

Wasteful power consumption networking practices

Organizations typically add network equipment to access closets and data centers to manage the need for anywhere access and the growth of IoT usage. While more equipment can support the need for greater network connectivity, it also creates several side effects that lead to unnecessary energy waste.

Other ways in which network teams increase their power consumption include the following:

  • Inefficient equipment cooling practices. Equipment closets and data centers that consist of too many network appliances can lead to cooling inefficiencies.
  • Overuse of twisted-pair copper cabling. The energy required to transmit and receive data on copper Ethernet is three to four times more when compared to fiber connections.
  • All switches in active mode. In many data centers and access switch closets, switches or portions of switch stacks stay fully powered despite being unused.
  • All switch ports in full-power mode. Regardless of whether a network switch port is active, inactive or only runs a short distance over copper cabling, the power transmit settings automatically default to full operation and output.
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) consumption. PoE devices, such as IP phones, video conference systems, wireless access points and smart PoE lighting systems, remain fully powered around the clock.

How to reduce energy, costs on your network

Enterprise network teams often work in ways that increase their organization's power consumption, but teams can follow several best practices to reduce energy waste. In some cases, enterprises only need to make small investments to make their networks more energy-efficient. In other cases, teams need to make bigger changes to their network configuration to realize the benefits of energy saving.

Some changes network teams can make to reduce power consumption are the following:

  1. Manage airflow for better cooling efficiency.
  2. Use copper cables only when necessary.
  3. Disable switch ports when not in use.
  4. Configure network switch power efficiency.

1. Manage airflow for better cooling efficiency

If a network closet or data center has an ineffective airflow design, it can create a situation where the data center requires more cooling than necessary. Instead, enterprises can invest in network rack blanking panels and diffusers to keep cold air rows from mixing with hot air as it exhausts from the equipment.

2. Use copper cables only when necessary

Unless the network design requires twisted-pair copper cables for PoE or twisted-pair cables are the only option for device connectivity, network teams should use fiber cables because they require less power to operate.

3. Disable switch ports when not in use

Most enterprise-grade network switch hardware offers the ability to schedule when to enable or disable switch ports for use. This capability is especially important for switch ports that deliver power for PoE devices. Enterprises can set schedules to turn off ports and associated PoE devices during nonworking hours to save more energy.

4. Configure network switch power efficiency

Many network switch vendors have included configurations that help reduce network power consumption and conserve energy, including the following capabilities:

  • automatically place idle switch stacks in standby mode;
  • detect idle switch ports and put them into standby mode;
  • identify unused network uplinks and place them into a lower power hibernation mode; and
  • detect short-distance copper or fiber cable runs and decrease the transmit power output.

The network as a power-savings catalyst

It might be helpful for enterprises to follow these methods to cut back on energy use when it comes to daily network operations. However, enterprises might also want to consider using PoE-connected smart sensors for supplemental cost savings and lessen the energy consumption of an entire building.

PoE-connected smart sensors can identify unoccupied parts of a building and disable or cut back on lighting, heating and cooling in those areas. The use of network connected smart sensors is a growing trend that places the network at the heart of energy conservation.

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