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Ethernet Gets Energy Efficiency Effort

The IEEE 802.3 has formed an Energy-Efficient Ethernet study group to find ways to reduce power by automatically throttling back networking speeds.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The IEEE 802.3 has formed an Energy-Efficient Ethernet study group that had its first meeting last week in Monterey, Calif. AMCC, Broadcom and Cisco all made presentations.

A Cisco presentation suggested the group define one common mechanism to shift from 10Gbit to Gbit to 100Mbit Ethernet speeds without losing the link. By leveraging existing techniques in multi-speed physical layer chips, the approach would not add significant cost, the Cisco presenter said.

Government groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs are said to be prime movers in the effort. The EPA will be adding networking requirements to its power-saving Energy Star program, including a mandate to reduce net speed during times of low data traffic.

The effort also fits into ongoing government studies aimed at finding ways to reduce power use in large government and private data centers, something the ad hoc industry consortium The Green Grid is expected to address in the next few weeks.

Proponents estimate Energy-Efficient Ethernet could save $450 million in energy costs a year in the U.S. alone. Interestingly, the brunt of the savings-- $200 million--could come from home computers, another $170 million from offices and $80 million from data centers.