Network significant contributor to environmental footprint

Gartner advises organisations that even if they can’t turn their network off to reduce their environmental footprint, they must take simple steps to reduce it.


A new report, Green IT: The New Industry Shock Wave”, by market researcher Gartner has identified the business network as a significant contributor to organisations’ total environmental footprint.


Gartner defines environmental footprint as the combination of the energy consumed by the equipment, the environmental impact of its production and the impact of its disposal. The analyst is advising firms interested in combating the problem to adopt a three-point plan.


“Unlike client computing, where significant footprint reduction can arise from simply turning off devices when they are not in use, the network needs to be ‘always on’ regardless of its utilisation,” explained Neil Rickard, research vice-president Gartner. “As organisations can’t turn their network off to reduce their environmental footprint, they must take simple steps to reduce it.”


Gartner outlined three steps that it feels can help organisations reduce their network environmental footprint:

1.       Don’t overbuy
Gartner advises organisations not to let themselves be influenced by vendors into buying networking technologies they don’t require ‘just in case’ or just to protect ‘use it or loose it’ budget cycles. However adding additional network functionality can sometimes reduce environmental impact elsewhere in IT.

2.       Minimise the number of layers and devices
Gartner says that the blind application of ‘established design practices’ in networking can result in the over layering of devices and subsequent performance bottlenecks.  Technological advances in many areas mean that the mountains of networking boxes in most networks today can be collapsed and replaced with a far smaller number of devices.

3.       Consider power consumption of networking devices during product selection
In addition to making power efficiency one of the new product selection criteria, power efficiency can become a factor in decisions regarding the replacement of aging network equipment.  In the longer term Gartner expects to see the evolution of new more energy efficient networking technologies such as ‘Energy Efficient Ethernet’.


“By following these three steps organisations will be able to minimise the environmental impact of their business networks without negatively affecting the organisation’s network functionality,” added Rickard.  “However, this needs to be part of an ongoing network strategy, not just performed in isolation as a one-off.”

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