August 7, 2008

Force10 Networks Senior Research Scientist and IEEE Task Force Chair Advocates Industry Role in Move to Eco-Efficient Networks

Achieving true eco-efficiency across the network requires an industry-wide effort to define metrics and develop standards necessary to efficiently plan for new, cost-effective bandwidth and power and cooling requirements, said Force10 Networks Senior Research Scientist and Chair of the IEEE P802.3ba task force John D'Ambrosia at the Next Generation Data Center conference. While moderating a panel discussion at the conference that included presenters from Intel, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Facebook and CiRBA, D'Ambrosia said such standards-based efforts complement existing best practices for designing efficient data centers.

"Consolidation and virtualization are increasingly used to control escalating power costs within the data center, however these practices also have the side effect of increasing bandwidth requirements," said D'Ambrosia. "Standards bodies have the opportunity now to provide the additional tools that will allow organizations to move to a more eco-efficient design without creating bandwidth or performance limitations."

In the IEEE, two standards are currently underway that will provide organizations with tools that have the potential to save millions of dollars while supporting the growing need for bandwidth. The IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet task force is proposing a standard that aims to automatically reduce power consumption on links that are underutilized. According to research estimates, U.S. companies could save $450 million a year in lower power costs.

"Although several Ethernet links in data centers are fully utilized, many are under utilized. Anyone who has looked at network utilization plots understands that typical traffic patterns on Ethernet links are bursty," said Mike Bennett, senior network engineer at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Chair of the IEEE 802.3az task force. "The opportunity to save energy exists when the link utilization is low, even for periods as short as a few hundred microseconds. Energy Efficient Ethernet will enable data center managers to take advantage of those savings opportunities."

The IEEE P802.3ba 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s Ethernet task force is creating the standard for the next generation of Ethernet. Designed to address bandwidth needs of both computing and networking applications, the standard will define two speeds of Ethernet: 40 Gigabits per second for computing applications and 100 Gigabits per second for networking. The higher speed standard will provide organizations with the capacity they need to support variable traffic patterns that increasingly includes bandwidth-intensive applications, like video, over the next several years.

"We need everyone on the same page, speaking the same language, and the standards bodies are an effective way to achieve that," said D'Ambrosia. "This is how we will all come out ahead and help resolve this crucial issue that has the potential to impact how organizations do business."

In 2006, power and cooling costs in U.S. data centers reached $4.5 billion. In addition to reducing costs, increasing data center efficiency also leads to an increase in capacity and ultimately the lifespan of the facility.

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