Cisco System launched a major green initiative Tuesday that includes free software to help customers use their networks to automatically turn off computers and network gear at night and whenever they aren't being used.
By next year, Cisco is aiming to expand the new technology, EnergyWise, to allow building managers to control lights, heat, and other systems, said William Choe, director of Cisco's Ethernet switching group.
The software has been in development for three years and will run on the Cisco Catalyst switching line, available as a free download now for existing Catalyst users, or available with new Catalyst purchases.
Cisco also said today it will be acquiring Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence Inc. of Santa Barbara, Calif., to provide the intelligent middleware used by EnergyWise.
Inbar Lasser-Raab, a senior marketing director for network systems at Cisco, said the software could be used in a variety of businesses, from helping shut off power to empty guest rooms in hotels to controlling bank branch usage of wireless access points, switches and IP phones.
Because the software puts Cisco in a large market for building systems controls, analysts said it could be an important new direction for Cisco.
"I think it could be huge, honestly," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group. "It shows that more and more things are going to be connected to corporate networks, including intelligence from building systems to make better decisions [about energy conservation.]"
For example, the software could be used to track how many employees have left a plant or office complex at the end of a shift based on the number of workers with badges who were still inside. If everybody has left, "why keep the systems working?" Kerravala said. "It has a lot of benefits."
Kevin Smith, CEO of Global Access Point, said he implementing the EnergyWise software to cut energy uses on Global's datacenter operations, which are used by third parties for off-site storage and data recovery.
"It will give me broader ... energy information than I could have had myself," Smith said. He expects the software can be used to cut his electricity usage by one-third, or even by half, when rewards for energy conservation from his energy suppliers are included. He now pays about $38,000 a month for energy costs.
Smith said the EnergyWise software will be a useful addition to Global's efforts to erect facilities with green in mind. The company's newest building has natural ventilation and its reflecting ponds act as cooling towers for datacenter cooling.