The company's outreach to other green-power companies focuses on integrating power management with network devices to monitor and control power usage.

Mike Fratto, Former Network Computing Editor

January 27, 2009

4 Min Read

Cisco this week initiated a partner program that integrates power management with network devices to monitor and control power usage. The company estimates 30% reduction in power consumption could drive adoption.

Dubbed EnergyWise, the program was announced Tuesday along with partners from Schneider Electric, makers of power distribution and automation equipment; Verdiem, which manages PC and laptop power; and SolarWinds, known for network management. The collaboration lays the groundwork for robust, automated power management, Cisco said. EnergyWise software will be available on Catalyst switches via a software upgrade to all customers with a support contract.

EnergyWise is a three-phase program. Phase one will be available in February 2009 with management for Power over Ethernet devices like VoIP phones and cameras. Phase two, which will be completed in 2009, will add support for non-PoE devices and will be able to integrate power consumption with location information learned from Cisco Mobility Services Engine. Phase three, due to be completed in 2010, integrates building controls for lighting and HVAC. Initial support will be included on the Catalyst 2960, 3560, and 3750 switches. Catalyst 4500 support will be available in June and Catalyst 6500 in early 2010.

Power management offers the biggest bang for the buck for companies that have a lot of electrical devices that only need to be on for part of the day such as during office hours. Shutting down electrical devices can save money without having to rely on employees remembering to turn off equipment. Cisco provides one example where a company that has 500 wireless access points and 5,000 phones that are powered down after office hours can save approximately $37,000 per year.

Managing power consumption requires monitoring power usage and reducing power needs when equipment sits idle. Why keep IP phones, computers, and lights running during off-hours? Vendors like Schneider Electric and Verdiem offer building management and PC power management, respectively, but until EnergyWise, there was no way to integrate all the power systems under a single management umbrella. Cisco said its EnergyWise program could become the integration point for software developers and device manufactures.

Cisco still has to firm up plans around the partner program and determine how it will distribute and license a software development kit so other vendors can integrate with EnergyWise. With similar programs like its NAC partner program, participation required a nominal fee to pay for support of the SDK. Cisco acquired Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence, which provides middleware integrating building management with IT systems. While Cisco holds switching market share, there are many other switch vendors, particularly for the edge of networks and remote offices.

This opens the door for either a standards body that could specify protocols for power management or for Cisco to release the specifications to the world.

So how do the partners fit into Cisco's plans? SolarWinds Orion Network Performance Manager interacts with Cisco Catalyst switches to collect power consumption data. Power management policies are created in Orion Network Configuration Manager and configuration commands are sent back the Catalyst switches, which in turn forward the commands to the correct target.

Unless you're a SolarWinds customer, you won't be able to automate the power management, but it wouldn't be a stretch to expect other network management vendors to participate. Schneider Electric, for example, is planning on integrating their TAC Vista building management software. With TAC Vista, Dave Johnson, Schneider's senior VP of home and business networks, said companies can save 30% on energy bills. EnergyWise could expand those savings with control over IP devices. In addition, EnergyWise provides a migration path for non-IP connected powered device to an IP network. Verdiem provides the ability to manage PC and laptop power through an OS agent.

The endgame lies with integration with building automation systems to control HVAC and lighting as well as powering down workstations and laptops when not in use. Kevin Smith, CEO of Global Access Point, a data center and disaster-recovery services company, is particularly excited about EnergyWise. His company has embarked on a project to monitor power consumption from the transformer to the endpoint and then optimize usage based on demand.

"Most people have no idea where their power is being consumed, nor do they have a way to automatically reduce demand," Smith said.

His company is working on a building management system to monitor power consumption, predict demand, and automatically power down unnecessary devices. EnergyWise provides the common communications framework to collect power usage and push commands to network devices, which will save Global Access Point the time and expense of doing the integration itself.

About the Author(s)

Mike Fratto

Former Network Computing Editor

Mike Fratto is a principal analyst at Current Analysis, covering the Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology markets. Prior to that, Mike was with UBM Tech for 15 years, and served as editor of Network Computing. He was also lead analyst for InformationWeek Analytics and executive editor for Secure Enterprise. He has spoken at several conferences including Interop, MISTI, the Internet Security Conference, as well as to local groups. He served as the chair for Interop's datacenter and storage tracks. He also teaches a network security graduate course at Syracuse University. Prior to Network Computing, Mike was an independent consultant.

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