Between the groups of school children visiting the local recycler, there is a group of PhD’s from Cisco taking their own field trip. Their objective is to gain insights on how to design products that are easier to recycle. This is just one of the many innovative programs that Cisco’s “Green Czar” Paul Marcoux established.
Marcoux's mission as “Green Czar” is to make Cisco’s products more energy efficient and less impactful to the environment. His challenge is to make changes to a sizable product portfolio at various stages of its lifecycle. There is also a large group of scientists, designers and engineers to get on-board. The approach Marcoux took was to define three major pillars that included education, enhancing Cisco's green product design and supporting industry standards.
With its focus on performance – quantity of data and transfer speed – Cisco is the premier networking company with a consistent track record of innovation as measured by quantity, quality and impact of patents as evaluated by an independent group, The Patent Board. With education, the goal is to tap into that same engineering creativity to solve green performance issues. In addition to field trips, Paul sponsored “Nerd Lunches”, sessions with universities where latest research is shared and Earth Day events.
2. Green Product Design.
A Product Roadmap was defined to ensure green engineering changes are incorporated across all products. At this point, Cisco will add green enhancements to new products and not upgrade already released products. Cisco’s focus is on power supplies that are efficient at a variety of loads, improving the energy performance for Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC) with the goal to improve by 15 to 20 percent and reducing product packaging to reduce waste and make for more efficient transportation of equipment. All new Cisco products will include these state-of-the-art power, ASIC and packaging standards.
Green specifications were added to Product Requirements Document that controls product development. Marcoux shared that “There is now mandatory review process for each product design and engineering phase to ensure that new green specifications are incorporated.” Green collaboration tools were developed to help engineers evaluate products, services and organizations consistently.
3. Industry Standards
To provide apple-to-apple comparisons among network suppliers and drive continued efficiency improvements, standard metrics are required to define energy consumed for work performed. This is comparable to the miles-per-gallon for an automobile. The discussion is still active on what the appropriate metric is for networking equipment and a number of rating systems have been proposed. For example, Verizon whose energy costs for network equipment is a significant business driver defined its own. Working with Lawrence Livermore Labs, IXIA and Juniper defined an Energy Consumption Rating. At this point, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is focused on adding servers to its highly regarded Energy Star program and hopes to work on network equipment in 2010. In March 2009, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Standard’s (ATIS) released its Telecommunications Energy Efficiency Rating (TEER). Marcoux believes “ATIS TEER is a good standard for industry to coalesce around.”
For example, Cisco uses ATIS TEER as part of its product profile and efficiencies track. All enterprise products are tested at various operating levels per the ATIS TEER standard. Marcoux explained that “This will allow a systems designer to avoid over-design because of the lack of realistic operating data and improve overall energy utilization.”
Once the scientists, designers and engineers were engaged, they valued the new technical challenges that green design provides and are on-track to incorporate green enhancements in all Cisco products by 2012. There has been healthy discussion on energy efficiency ratings that have already yielded improvements. The broader industry should sort out the best metric(s) to evaluate performance in the near term.