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Energy initiative covers PCs, building controls

Posted: 29 Jan 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:energy initiative? management power? control building?

Cisco Systems Inc. has unveiled a broad energy management initiative leveraging its prowess in Ethernet switching. The company hopes to extend its EnergyWise software to cover everything from Internet Protocol (IP) phones and Wi-Fi access points to PCs and building controls.

EnergyWise uses updated software on Cisco Catalyst switches to monitor and manage energy use in connected devices. It is based on an API still in development using standard and Cisco proprietary protocols.

30 percent energy savings
One service provider using a beta version of the software said it believes it could save as much as 30 percent of its energy use on connected devices. The initiative is one of a growing number among companies including Philips, which is seeking to use technology to address concerns about energy use and climate change.

Cisco will initially make its enabling IOS version 12.2(50) software available on fixed Catalyst switches in February. It will progressively roll it out to other systems including modular switches by the end of the year.

The first phase targets Cisco's IP phones, Wi-Fi access points and other devices that get power over Ethernet such as surveillance cameras. The company estimates there are as many as 80 million IP phones in use and about 8.5 million access points, two-thirds of which get power over Ethernet.

In Q2 09, Cisco will publish a software developer kit (SDK) to let third parties tap into the code. It has not determined yet whether it will charge for the SDK or whether it will openly publish the API behind it. The switch software will be available as a free download to Catalyst users.

Cisco is working with Verdiem, a provider of power management software for PC networks, to develop an interface for PCs. An initial version of that API and a software client for PCs should be available in Q2 09.

Separately, Cisco is working with Schneider Electric to develop an interface for building controls. As much as 75 percent of a building's energy use comes from non-IP devices such as HVAC systems, according to Cisco.

"We ultimately look to partner with a number of building controllers," said William Choe, a director of product management in Cisco's Ethernet switching group. "We've been working with a number of them over the past several months."

"We have a [corporate] strategic alliance with Johnson Controls, but we just are not prepared to launch an alliance with them around EnergyWise right now," he added.

'Glue it together'
Cisco must also build a software interface to link its API to network and power management products. SolarWinds, a network management company, is partnering with Cisco on that effort.

"The real value comes in having a standard API working with a PC agent to collect power information that you can view in a management dashboard and then invoke an energy policy," said Choe. "Most of this work is done today in silos and standalone systems," he said. "We are trying to glue it all together."

The technical glue is based on the UDP Ethernet transport protocol and a combination of the standard Link Layer Discovery Protocol and Cisco's own Cisco Discovery Protocol. It will also use XML, SOAP and SNMP standards.

The company envisions features that range from simply monitoring energy use and turning devices on and off to more fine-grained controls such as putting devices is specific power states or turning off one of several radios on an access point.

A new standard?
Analysts praised the initiative as a smart move for Cisco. They were generally upbeat about the company's prospects to use its market clout to extend the initiative beyond support in its own products.

"This initiative is expanding the role of networking to include devices people would not traditionally think of as networked such as elevators and badge readers, and HVAC systems that are often managed separately," said Zeus Kerravalal, senior VP of enterprise research at Yankee Group.

"In some ways if it's a Cisco thing, it becomes an industry thing because of the market share they have," he added. "They are the vast majority of the market in some segments, but if it came from Nortel or 3Com it would have less appeal."

"Given that EnergyWise requires the use of proprietary Cisco equipment, it's not likely to become an industry standard in the traditional sense," said Doug Washburn, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"But given Cisco's network footprint, and their potential to encourage partners to develop energy management applications on top of the EnergyWise platform, Cisco might be able to grab market share in this relatively nascent space," he added.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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