Cisco adds power management to switches

Switches turn off Internet Protocol phones and wireless access points after normal working hours.

Cisco Systems Inc. has announced software for its switches designed to turn off Internet Protocol phones and wireless access points after normal working hours. Dubbed EnergyWise, the software will eventually be used in building control systems to automatically turn off lights, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

"I do think (the cost saving) could be significant," said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president for global enterprise research at the Boston-based Yankee Group. "For Cisco, it's a continued expansion of the role of the network. I don't know if another vendor could make this initiative work."

The first phase of EnergyWise, available now, is a free software patch for the Catalyst 2960, 3560 and 3750 switches, said William Choe, director of the Ethernet switching group at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco. The focus, he said, is on controlling Power over Ethernet devices, including IP phones and access points, whether or not they are made by Cisco. Eventually, Cisco plans to make it available in its Integrated Services Routers.

Choe said a bank with 100 branches might use 5,000 IP phones and have one access point for every 10 employees. By turning these off after normal working hours, the bank could save $US37,000 ($CDN45,313) per year. This is a hypothetical example, and was not proven by a Cisco beta tester.

The second phase of EnergyWise, scheduled to roll out this summer, will let companies control power to personal computers and printers. This will involve a partnership with Seattle-based Verdiem Corp., which makes Surveyor, a product that puts PCs on lower power settings when they are not being used.

Quoting the market research firm Dell'Oro Group, Choe said businesses worldwide are using about 80 million IP phones and 8.5 million wireless access points.

"If you can turn these off four hours a day you can see what this would mean in carbon (emission) reductions to our planet," he said.

The third phase of EnergyWise, scheduled for availability next year, will control building systems including HVAC, elevators, lights, employee badge access systems, fire alarms and physical security.

Though these systems are often automated, they operate on networks using protocols such as Modbus, said Dave Johnson, senior vice-president for home and business networks at American Power Conversion Corp., a subsidiary of Schneider Electric.

Modbus, a communications protocol used between programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to transfer messages and data, was developed by Schneider Electric in 1979 and is now an open standard.

Schneider Electric will be one of Cisco's partners in Phase 3 of EnergyWise.

"We expect in June to have some announcement around building management," Johnson "How we're going to do that (we're) not ready to say."

Although some buildings are designed to use less light and HVAC energy when workers have left, Cisco plans to introduce Internet Protocol into the equation.

"Certain siloed building systems, like lighting, heating and cooling, may have a certain amount of intelligence and can be operated by a person in the facilities world, but there is currently no ability to have different systems interact with one another even though they kind of depend on each other," said Rick Huijbregts, Cisco Systems Canada Co.'s director for real estate sales.

Kerravala agreed.

"These things today are already networked together but in their own isolated networks," Kerravala said. "What this allows companies to do is to make much smarter decisions on how these facilities work, and the things they interoperate with. Right now you could do what you're doing without attaching it to one network, but you'd have to have a lot of coordination between all the systems."

Choe said a hotel may be able to save $US400 per year per room by not having energy-consuming appliances operating when the room is empty.

Some hotels in Europe and Asia require you to put your card though a slot to get power to your room, he added.

"Here in North America power is being consumed pretty much all day while you're at meetings even though your room may be vacant," Choe said.

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