Cisco

Nortel attacks "Cisco Energy Tax" in TV commercial - Are you swayed?

The Nortel "Piles" commercial seeks to win over existing Cisco customers with an "our equipment costs less to power" message. If you are/were in the market for new networking equipment, how much impact would Nortel's ad have? Are Nortel's claims of a "Cisco Energy Tax" even accurate?

Although Nortel launched their "Cisco Energy Tax" ad campaign earlier this year, the company has recently gone full-throttle with a new television commercial. The new Nortel "Piles" commercial shows IT pros and business people standing near or holding large stacks of cash and telling us how much the power used by their network equipment (presumably from Cisco) is costing them.

As IT commercials go, this one caught my eye--not least of all because I've seen it almost every morning for the past two weeks on several cable news channels. Yet Nortel seemed to be making a pretty bold claim, and I thought a little more digging was in order. Luckily for me, Jason Hiner had already talked with April Dunford, Nortel's "Green" guru in the marketing department, about the company's claims. In a Tech Sanity Check blog post, Jason describes how Nortel discovered their equipment's miserly power consumption rates and the research they use to backup their commercial's claim:

Simultaneously, in recent years when Nortel decided to make a strategic push into LAN networking, the executives told the staff to go out and find something that they do better than Cisco. One of the sales engineers had a customer who remarked that Nortel's gear sucks a lot less power than Cisco equipment. The sales engineer took that information back to the company, which started testing this in its labs and quickly verified it to be true. Next, they commissioned Tolly Group to do a lab study and Tolly came up with similar results.

While I think the commercial does a good job of conveying Nortel's "use our equipment and cut your power bill" message, I'm not sure energy savings alone will convince current Cisco users to switch. To be fair, Nortel also touts its equipment as delivering a "network with superior performance, resilience and recovery time than Cisco." But, it's the "cut your power bill" message that's being blasted across the TV.

If you are/were in the market for new networking equipment, how much impact would Nortel's ad have? Leave a comment in this post's discussion and tell us what features top your list of must-haves for networking equipment--performance, security, reliability, power consumption?

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

10 comments
sam
sam

Sure - Nortel is well known in the industry and $100k is a human's job who can raise a family! Sam M

george
george

I run a number of networks where power has slowly become a large issue. I have known for a very long time that Cisco equipment uses 10 times more power than it should. I am not exaggerating. Sure, security, reliability, and other factors are higher on the list of factors driving the purchase of network equipment. One lab I run has been measuring the power consumption of everything plugged in for years, with power being a major network design element. While another lab I run has only recently looked at power as a factor. I am currently throwing away perfectly good systems, in favor of new systems that use less power. The new systems are free, because the power savings over 3 to 6 months will pay for them, and after the ROI kicks in, we are actually being "paid" to throw the old machines away. And it is not just Cisco, we have several other vendors that are "bad" with regard to power. As an electrical engineer, I can tell you the major problem is in the power supply design, not the electronics. An ethernet chip uses the same power no matter who's switch it is installed in. It is the design of the power supply that is the largest factor. And it is the equipment with redundant power supplies that are the worst offenders. And they don't just use a little more power, redundant power supply systems typically use 5 10 or even 20 times more power than a simpler designed modern system. One could argue that the redundancy translates to greater reliability. But in my 20 years of experience running data centers, that is simply not true. Redundant power systems typically cause crashes and are less stable. AND since the generate more heat, they need more cooling. Sooner or later your room cooling system fails, and in a short period of time the room turns into an oven... and if you can't get the room powered down quickly, a number of systems will end up failing due to excess heat... So the cooling system gets repaired, and much more money is spent recovering from the failed systems. Power hungry network equipment can have hidden costs related to the power consumption, and the importance of that is commonly overlooked... even after the event. Did your air handler fsilure kill your database server, or was it the big Cisco or Dell system on the next row over that was dumping 160 degree hot air on the database server that caused it to fail? If the whole room used 80% less power, would the database server have failed at all? Power consumption is important, but most IT people completely ignore it because we are not trained to think about it, until the room is short on power or cooling. If power is not important to you, then either you have a small infrastructure, or you don't understand what power means to your operation.

jschuler.spokane
jschuler.spokane

I would put power usage at the bottom of the list. I would look first at secutity next reliability then performance and last power usage.

S,David
S,David

I have been involved in the purchase of hundreds of computers, network gear, printers, terminals, and other stuff++, and the only time the power draw comes up is to make sure the existing circuits or UPS can power the additional equipment. The question "How much more or less does it cost to run X instead of Y" never gets asked. I don't think anyone is opposed to saving electricity, and it may become more of an issue in the future, but the main concern is about doing what is needed reliably.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm tired of people referring to a fee for a good or service as a 'tax'. When one voluntarily purchases an electronic device, the cost of the electricity is part of the operating expense. When one purchases a computer with Windows pre-loaded, one is not paying a "Microsoft" tax. Taxes are imposed by governments, not businesses. Taxes cannot be legally avoided; operating costs and operating system prices are optional and voluntarily undertaken. If Nortel's marketing department doesn't know what a tax is, I doubt their R&D department knows what they're doing either. End of rant.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

Although Nortel launched their "Cisco Energy Tax" ad campaign earlier this year, the company has recently gone full-throttle with a new television commercial. The new Nortel "Piles" commercial shows IT pros and business people standing near or holding large stacks of cash and telling us how much the power used by their network equipment (presumably from Cisco) is costing them. You can watch the commercial and find a link to information supporting Nortel's claim in an IT Dojo blog post. Original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=176 If you are/were in the market for new networking equipment, how much impact would Nortel's ad have? Leave a comment in this post's discussion and tell us what features top your list of must-haves for networking equipment--performance, security, reliability, power consumption?

mario.vasquez
mario.vasquez

I completely disagree with your last statement. It is only the smallest of companies that care about saving power. Any large data center will have a room for battery backup and an external generator. Uptime, security and support are the major concerns. If we went to our CTO and said we want to forklift our Cisco equipment for Nortel because it wold save us money on power, he would laugh off his $1500 leather chair.

road-dog
road-dog

A single factor in TCO would have to be huge to overcome all other factors pushing the decision the other way. Unless the cost per KWH increases dramatically, IE President Obama's anti-coal initiatives; the "green" factor is simply not a compelling reason to deal with a mixed shop and retrain. Any company switching out a hundred thousand dollars or more worth of gear for being "green"s sake is being run by a dolt who makes management decisions based on articles in Sky magazine.

mtaylor619
mtaylor619

If this campaign really works, then Cisco will be finding out how to trim the energy consumption to cut the advantage (which they are doing already anyway). So, any benefit is pretty short term. If that is the only advantage Nortel can offer, it might help explain why a once $80 stock is now only $2 (and thats with the 1 for 10 reverse split).

mario.vasquez
mario.vasquez

If Nortel wants to legtitimately put a dent into Cisco's market share, they are really going about it in the wrong way. This latest campaign altough aimed at Enterprise will only really be well received by small businesses to whom every penny is counted. As a poster mentioned before, mosy large companies' only real power concern is if they have enough circuits in their data center and how long the load will last on battery or generator backup. In a data center environment, the networking equipment's power usage is but a drop in the ocean. Servers, mainframe or midrange host systems, tape libraries, voice switches and cooling devices hog up much more power. It would be like intalling one flourescent bulb in the field lights of a major league stadium. In fact, most IT departments are not even on the hook for their power usage. It is an expanse that falls under facilities' or operations umbrella. We just tell them how much we need and they bring it in. So the new "green IT" buzzphrase is one that management is singing but when it comes down to it, their primary concern is the "5 nines" of operational uptime (%99.999). In fact the cost of forklifting existing infrastructure to replace it with "green" equipment would far outweigh the savings. Even in part, no one would go for a mixed shiop. How many of you CCNA's ever touched a Nortel box anyway? How much would it cost in training for a new platform? (Have I driven this point home yet?)

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