Green Networking: Parsing the Facts From the Marketing

Mark_seery_jpegStrategic Thinking

by Mark Seery
July 2007

Over the coming year there is
likely to be more green marketing in the networking industry as
equipment vendors tout how green their wares are because of lower power
per bit ratios.

This begs the question: how
should network managers respond to such claims? If green networking is
not desirable, then the answer is very short — it is an irrelevant
waste of everyone’s time. So let us examine the more complicated
scenario, where green networking is desirable.

If green networking is desirable, then surely the marketing points
should go to those that are doing the most they can, or at least doing
something other than what they would have done anyway?

A vendor simply going to the next smallest silicon process, in an
orderly manner, is, I would argue, doing what they would have done
anyway. So to call this "green" is to raise the question of what it
means to be "green." On the other hand, an equipment vendor skipping a
generation of silicon process, moving between silicon processes on an
accelerated schedule, doing something about the fundamental power
source, or power properties, has enough authenticity to pull off the
green angle.

The goal of marketing is to sell, so whatever works is its own
reward, and has merit with respect to that goal. However, sometimes
marketing messages have to have a base of authenticity to work over the
long run. Simply going to the next lower silicon process is always
going to be authentic in the context of typical metrics such as price /
performance and operating costs, and I have no argument with that.
However, I think those people who really believe in green are not going
to be so forgiving of "light green" marketing messages, they likely are
going to want to see a tropical lush dark green message, or none at

It is a tricky issue. Obviously networking equipment becomes
greener every year on a watts per bit basis, because equipment vendors
ride a natural technology evolution curve. So there is a legitimate
claim to "green." At the same time, how differentiating is it to be
marketing a green message when an equipment vendor is simply riding the
same technology curve as everyone else? Perhaps it could be argued that
each subsequent generation of technology is enough to spur a new buying
cycle simply on the basis of power and cooling savings?

What is your take? Will "green marketing" get the attention of
network managers and will it make a difference to purchasing decisions?
What does an equipment vendor have to do to look authentic with a
"green" message?

Mark Seery has more than 25 years experience working in ICT
including 10 years in network operations, 10 years in product
management/marketing for networking equipment companies, and five years
in market research and consulting. He is a guest columnist for
GreenerComputing News, and he maintains a blog at
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