Today, your network equipment eats a flat rate of electricity, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, whether anyone is using the network or not. While people may say, “Oh, it’s just a few switches and a router,” that electricity adds up over the months and years. And, while you may have just a few switches and a router, larger organizations have hundreds or thousands of switches and routers.

EnergyWise saving power across the enterprise

So, what if all those switches and routers could drastically reduce their power consumption when the network traffic slows down –virtually “napping” — in the middle of the night when all the office workers go home? How much electricity and money could be saved, and how much carbon emissions could be reduced? The answer is a lot. According to Cisco, IT equipment uses 25 percent of electricity at a company today. Lighting uses 11 percent, and heating/cooling/ventilation uses 58 percent. Even better than reducing the power consumption of network devices, what if all the heating, cooling, lighting, and other power-sucking equipment at your company were controlled by the same system with the same policies?

This tremendous power reduction across an entire enterprise is what Cisco’s new EnergyWise initiative was created to do.

Of course, these devices must “support” this, right? I can’t just install EnergyWise and control the toaster oven in the break room. Initially, EnergyWise will be a new feature for Cisco’s Catalyst switches. This feature is available for certain Cisco Cat switches and can be obtained by upgrading your IOS (of course, you must be under IOS maintenance to obtain the new IOS). Very soon, Cisco says that they will be able to support any power-over-Ethernet (PoE) device.

What are the future uses of EnergyWise?

While Cisco has the ability to offer EnergyWise on all future Cisco device software upgrades, it didn’t have the tie-in with non-Cisco devices or with building infrastructure like HVAC and lighting.

For Cisco to be able to provide this in the future, Cisco has bought middleware technology maker Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence. This company will help Cisco integrate building management infrastructure and IT applications over an IP architecture. Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence specializes in software that links automated control systems (such as lighting infrastructure, HVAC systems, locks, and other electronic resources) with IP networks.

Thus, Cisco’s first step in its EnergyWise initiative is to offer upgrades to Cisco’s OS so that EnergyWise can be used with Cisco’s equipment. Primarily, Cisco will focus on PoE gear such as IP phones and wireless infrastructure.

Cisco’s second step in the EnergyWise initiative is to partner with Verdiem Corp., a specialist in PC power management, to help control the power consumption of PCs in the enterprise.

In the last step, Cisco will use Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence to provide power management for a company’s HVAC and lighting infrastructure.

In the long term, Cisco hopes to have wireless controls embedded in commercial light fixtures so that those lights can be controlled by EnergyWise. For more information, read “Will the Computer Giants Invade Lighting Too?

How much could a company save?

As with any power-saving measures, you don’t realize much of a savings by applying it to only a few devices. The savings are realized over many devices over time.

Here are two examples that Cisco offered in their EnergyWise material:

Take an imaginary corporate office — one with 1,000 IP phones, 100 wireless access points, 700 laptops and 300 desktop computers — that decides it wants to use EnergyWise to shave power consumption during times of peak-demand pricing. That would include shifting unused phones to “sleep” mode, access points to low-power mode and laptops to battery mode. Taking those steps on an annual basis could save about $74,000 in energy costs and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by about 371 tons — the equivalent of taking 111 mid-sized cars off the road for a year.

Wow, $74,000 per year is a huge energy savings cost! And that doesn’t include the carbon emissions you are preventing from not having to purchase this electricity in the first place.


No matter where in your life you work to save energy, I applaud you for doing it. We should all work to do it in ways that can make the most difference. As commercial energy costs are such a huge expense to our company, investigating and implementing EnergyWise is certainly a smart move for your career, for your company, and for the environment.

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