Orgs develop energy-efficiency spec for networking gear

Juniper, Ixia, and LBNL seeks industry input on new Energy Consumption Rating Initiative

Networking vendor Juniper, Ixia, a provider of IP performance test systems, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs have developed a new specification for measuring the energy efficiency of networking gear, dubbed the Energy Consumption Rating (ECR) Initiative.

The specification, which is vendor-neutral, first breaks down networking and telecom products into six different classifications: routers, WAN/broadband aggregation devices, carrier Ethernet platforms, experimental devices, security appliances, and application gateways. Separating products into different classes ensures apple-to-apple comparisons when measuring the energy efficiency of different devices, notes Sunil Kalidini, director of product management at Ixia. For example, a security appliance that performs data encryption uses more CPU power than does a router that's simply pushing packets around.

From there, the specification assesses a product's energy efficiency by calculating the number of watts needed to transfer data, measured in gigabits per second. A lower score is better, in that it means a device is using fewer watts to transfer data packets.

Beyond helping develop the specification, Ixia has created a platform for measuring ECR called IXGreen. The company demonstrated the testing tool at an event this week during which the initiative was announced.

Kalidini notes that when it comes to assessing energy efficiency in the datacenter, the focus tends to be on server power consumption. He says that the amount of power that goes into networking isn't trivial at all: $75 billion is spent globally each year on powering networking gear, he says. Moreover, networking is starting to bear a heavier load in the datacenter. "With virtualization, the percentage of power consumed in the datacenter shifts a little bit. Now the networking piece becomes higher than it used to be," he says.

Ixia, Juniper, and LBNL created the standard more or less on their own for the sake of expediency, according to Kalidini. They first tried working with existing standards consortiums. "We tried to get the existing organizations to speed up their own technical work on creating a metric. What we found was that it wasn't possible to accelerate the creation of networking standard at any of these organizations," he says.

The next step is to get buy-in from the industry players, some of whom have already expressed an interest in the specification, according to Kalidini. He stresses that the ECR is an open initiative and that the organizations are seeking input from the rest of the industry.

More information about the Energy Consumption Rating Initiative is available on its Web site.