Next-Generation Network Hardware and Software Can Play a Bigger Role in Helping Telecoms Get More Green
There is an interesting article in the December issue of the Economist, “How Green Is Your Network?” The article states that telecom networks and the devices they connect account for 1% of global greenhouse-gas emissions. I’m a little shocked but I guess I shouldn’t be. It takes a lot of resource to keep networks up and running. On a related note, I recently overheard an executive from a very well-known semiconductor company comment that for every two dollars spent building a piece of network equipment it takes another dollar just to power it and keep it running.
The good news is the telecom industry is well aware of the excessive amounts of energy its equipment consumes. And, according to the article, companies such as Vodafone are employing various field-level tactics to reduce this consumption. Painting base stations white to reflect the sun’s heat and ultimately use less cooling power is one example.
At the infrastructure level, service providers are starting to deploy next-generation core, edge, and access equipment that utilizes multicore and multiprocessing technologies. This new hardware is being designed to achieve higher levels of application and system performance while also achieving greater operational efficiencies.
However, to truly extract the benefits of the new hardware requires more intelligent software. The operating systems, middleware, applications, and development tools are being fine-tuned and optimized with the hardware. Embedded operating systems such as VxWorks and Linux now have built-in multiprocessing functionality such as asymmetric multiprocessing (AMP) and symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) to execute high-performance packet processing applications. Middleware software such as networking protocol stacks are being manipulated to streamline tasks and gain processing efficiencies. Applications are now being consolidated onto fewer network elements. And development tools now have the capability to debug multiple applications running simultaneously on a single piece of equipment.
Multicore technologies are just starting to gain a foothold in next-generation networks. The initial “green” benefits are promising. For sure there are many other great energy saving techniques that can be used when it comes to hardware and software. What else can we do in software to achieve even greater hardware efficiency?