Environmental Sustainability: "Reduce, Reuse, Refocus Applies to the Network Too"

Nov 16, 2018

We have entered the era of corporate responsibility and sustainability: Organizations of all sizes are being asked to think much harder about the environmental impact of the products they produce, from manufacturing to disposal. Environmental responsibility also extends to the corporate office, moving well beyond “Don’t print this email,” signatures to sustainable construction, smart buildings and the deployment of IT.

Indeed, thanks to scheduled rollouts, standard “rip and replace” practices and the planned obsolescence of compute and network infrastructure, corporate IT departments are a significant contributor to electronic waste. As part of our in-depth research into local network design, it became clear to us here at Frost & Sullivan that environmental sustainability simply must be an important consideration when deploying today’s business networks, what we call the Modern LAN. The Modern LAN principles, developed by Frost & Sullivan, seek to develop a new set of best practices around local network design—and in the process, focus on sustainability.

In our research, we have discovered that the local network, which all the cabling and infrastructure to support it, is an excellent place to start. The traditional way of building networks applied a “one size fits all” approach to network architecture, and whenever the network is upgraded to the latest speeds and feeds, a lot of older switchgear gets turned into e-waste, even more new cabling gets shoved into the walls and some devices, like IP phones and IoT sensors, receive more bandwidth than they really need.

In contrast, our Modern LAN includes sustainability as a best practice, rather than a vague goal to strive for: “Develop an environmentally responsible framework around LAN design and deployment. Re-use and repurpose existing endpoint cabling infrastructure, reduce IDF closet requirements and adopt energy-efficient PoE switches and end points wherever possible.”

What this really means:

-        Reduce e-waste by replacing only the network and infrastructure that is absolutely necessary. PCs and servers may need the latest gigabit and above speeds, but those phones, security cameras and smart building sensors do not. Break the rip and replace cycle on network endpoints that won’t take advantage of the upgrades.

-        Reuse and Repurpose network and cabling infrastructure, because not every network device requires brand new CAT 6 cabling to operate. A number of really clever Long Range Power over Ethernet (LRPoE) solutions on the market today let IT reclaim that long-lost phone wiring or coax cabling for wiring IP phones or cameras.

Achieving sustainability in IT may seem like a daunting task, but it really just takes some out of the box thinking and a willingness to take advantage of what it is already in place. But environmental sustainability is just one of several design best practices incorporated in the Modern LAN. To learn more, read the whitepaper “The Modern LAN: Rethinking Network Design for the Modern Age,” available at https://go.frost.com/Lan.



Michael Brandenburg


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