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Navigating the green frontier: The rise of network suitability

Network sustainability, once overlooked, is gaining traction as enterprises prioritize eco-friendly solutions. Advances in network technologies are fostering a shift towards sustainability.
 
5 minutes read
Shubham Pandey

Author

Shubham Pandey
Product Manager, Global Network Services
Kushi Kedia

Co-author

Kushi Kedia
Senior Management Trainee, NextGen Networks Product Management
5 minutes read
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Navigating the green frontier

Introduction

Sustainability has become a global phenomenon, with every enterprise scrambling to find eco-friendly solutions. Meanwhile, one technology area has remained largely untouched: ‘networks.’

Indeed, the complex systems that power our digital lives, powered by other digital technologies, continue to slowly contribute to a rise in carbon emissions. Proximus, a leading Belgian telecom service provider, reported that more than 75% of its electricity consumption last year came from its fixed and mobile networks. (source)

However, the tide may finally be turning. While networking and sustainability may appear to be incongruous terms, advancements in network technologies are now enabling the two concepts to coexist. And consequentially, CXOs are recognizing the importance of incorporating sustainable practices into their network transformation strategies.

But what do we mean by network sustainability?

According to Gartner, “Network Sustainability is an attribute of networking products and architecture that optimizes space, materials, and energy efficiency.” While network sustainability may not have reached widespread adoption yet, Gartner’s Hype Cycle, 2023, suggests it will reach its “Plateau of Productivity” in the next 5-10 years, highlighting the growing interest and potential for significant business impact.

network sustainability

So, just as sustainability has transformed other industries, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we build and manage networks. By embracing this new frontier, network leaders can reduce their environmental footprints and contribute to a greener future, optimize costs and improve network performance.

Driving forces behind network sustainability: Navigating the path to greener future

The rise of network connectivity has undeniably enhanced customer experience (CX). However, this increased reliance on networks has also contributed to a growing environmental impact. Previously, network infrastructure played a passive role within organizations. But today, it has become central to daily operations, requiring significant investments in resources and leading to more energy-intensive practices. This necessitates a thoughtful approach to ensure a sustainable balance between convenience and environmental impact.

With executives recognizing its importance, sustainability is now top of the boardroom agenda. A recent study found that 90% of executives believe sustainability is important, and 60% of organizations have sustainability strategies. (Source)

Driven by a confluence of factors, from environmental concerns to economic realities, organizations are taking initiatives for greener networks. Here's a breakdown of the key drivers propelling network sustainability to the forefront:

#1 Regulatory demands: A global push for net-zero

The Paris Agreement marked a turning point, urging governments to take stricter action on climate change. Countries like Sweden and Germany have set ambitious net-zero targets for 2045, while others like the UK and Canada are aiming for 2050. (Source)

Additionally, regulations like the EU's taxonomy, which regulates businesses based on environmental impact, are forcing transparency and holding enterprises accountable. This trend is only intensifying, with stricter regulations around transparency on the horizon, such as the EU's CSR Directive taking effect in 2024. (Source)

#2 Evolving consumer demands

Driven by growing awareness of technology's environmental impact, customers seek providers who offer digital sustainable products. A staggering 88% of consumers say they'd reconsider buying from environmentally irresponsible companies. (Source)

Today, eco-conscious customers resonate with investments in network upgrades that are powered by clean energy sources like solar or wind and minimize energy consumption. They appreciate transparent reporting on the environmental footprint of network operations.

So, embedding sustainability into your corporate strategy is essential to remain relevant and attract customers. This will enable network OEMs and SIs to offer sustainable products and services.

#3 Investors pressure for ESG integration

Investors are becoming increasingly vocal about Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors in their decision-making. Research shows that 85% of investors considered ESG factors in their investments by 2020, and banks are actively monitoring the ESG performance of their investments. (Source)

With giants like Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, highlighting the long-term financial benefits of sustainability, it's clear that investor pressure is a powerful force driving sustainable practices across industries. (Source)

#4 Green networking

High energy consumption continues to be an issue in organizations. Still, they are moving to energy-efficient systems, including sustainable data centers and access points, to manage and reduce their power usage. Gartner predicts that 75% of organizations will have implemented a data center infrastructure sustainability program by 2027. (Source)

Beyond these drivers, the financial benefits are undeniable. Optimizing network infrastructure and adopting energy-efficient technologies can significantly reduce operational costs, especially in the wake of the 2022 energy crisis. This "win-win" scenario offers both environmental and financial advantages for network providers.

Recognizing the urgency of environmental responsibility, it's time to translate these drivers into actionable steps. The next section outlines a roadmap for attaining greener networking, highlighting strategies to minimize their environmental footprint and build an eco-friendlier infrastructure.

Pathways to attain greener networking

Investing in green networking may require a heavy initial cash outlay, but the products and services involved typically save money over time. Adopting industry best practices can help organizations optimize their network infrastructures for both performance and sustainability. While significant progress can be made quickly, lasting change comes from setting long-term goals and implementing a series of steps.

Gartner has rightly said, “Working to attain environmentally sustainable infrastructure is a marathon, not a sprint, that requires long-term goal setting.”

Organizations can take internal steps like energy audits, optimizing network utilization and prioritizing energy-efficient equipment during procurement. Responsible e-waste disposal and employee awareness campaigns further contribute to a greener network. Apart from this, partnering with System Integrators like HCLTech, enterprises can begin leveraging their in-depth knowledge of network technologies and best practices to conduct Network Assessments, recommend sustainable solutions and streamline implementation to accelerate their journeys toward greener networking. Similarly, collaborating with OEMs that offer eco-friendly products like green data centers, energy-efficient access points and cloud-based solutions (NaaS) can significantly reduce carbon emissions within network infrastructure.

This symbiotic approach, combining proactive internal efforts with strategic partnerships, accelerates progress towards sustainable networks. By leveraging both internal commitment and external expertise, organizations can minimize environmental impact, reduce operational costs and build a positive brand image, all while ensuring a future-proof, efficient network.

Demystifying network sustainability at HCLTech 

HCLTech considers network sustainability a comprehensive approach that minimizes environmental impact while ensuring optimal network performance. In this journey, we partner with our clients to achieve this through strategic planning, cutting-edge technologies and best practices in network design, operation and management.

We're committed to delivering the best possible network experience for your business, and that includes keeping sustainability at the forefront. Some strategies adopted by HCLTech to deliver network sustainability include:

#1 Universal Customer Premises Equipment

uCPE, or Universal Customer Premises Equipment, acts as a one-stop shop for your network needs. It virtualizes specialized hardware like routers, firewalls, etc., onto a single device. This reduces the need for multiple physical appliances, leading to less hardware waste and ultimately a reduced carbon footprint.

For instance, to add a new SD-WAN function or enhance your firewall, we leverage our expertise in to deploy software updates on the existing platform, extending the lifespan of the hardware and minimizing e-waste for an eco-friendlier network solution.

#2 Private 5G

The adoption of private 5G network is rapidly increasing. This next-gen technology offers businesses a dedicated, high-performance network tailored to their specific needs. But the benefits go beyond just performance, as it can also be a powerful tool for reducing environmental impact. The World Economic Forum estimates that 5G connectivity can cut global carbon emissions by up to 15%. (Source)

HCLTech offers that leverage advanced techniques like dynamic spectrum allocation and smart power management to amplify their impact. Dynamic spectrum allocation optimizes spectrum usage, thus eliminating energy waste from unused bandwidth, and smart power management minimizes power consumption of network infrastructure based on real-time traffic demands. These features translate to significant energy savings, reducing your environmental impact and potentially lowering your operational costs.

#3 Green data centers

While traditional data centers can be energy guzzlers, green data centers are taking root in the networks. These eco-friendly facilities focus on minimizing their environmental impact through practices like:

  • Utilizing cutting-edge cooling systems and renewable energy sources like solar and wind power to significantly reduce our data center's carbon footprint.
  • Employing smart technologies, powered by IoT sensors and AI monitoring tools, which enable precise power management as they are programmed to autonomously manage heating, cooling and power in data centers and office buildings.
  • Prioritizing efficient layouts and materials, such as automated power shutdowns during extended periods of inactivity and initiating the use of energy-intensive peripherals like laser printers only when needed.
  • Refurbishing older devices and the use of energy-efficient units and selecting energy-efficient HVAC equipment to monitor temperature and humidity as needed.

#4 Power over ethernet

Power over Ethernet (PoE) delivers power to user workstations, surveillance cameras and lighting, simplifying installation and reconfiguration. It enables power distribution through direct current (DC) microgrids and well-established technology for connectivity.

We partner with leading technology providers to deliver best-in-class PoE solutions to ensure compatibility, scalability, and ongoing support for our clients' network infrastructure. This empowers them to achieve a more sustainable and efficient network environment. By leveraging PoE, we aim to streamline operations, reduce energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions.

#5 Lifecycle disposition/asset management

Ensuring optimal performance, maximizing equipment lifespan and disposing of old assets responsibly are all crucial elements. HCLTech offers a comprehensive solution that addresses these challenges through strategic partnerships with leading Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) providers like Cisco (Cisco Capital) and Aruba (HPE Greenlake Services). These partnerships allow us to offer a wider range of IT asset management and end-of-life disposition services, leveraging industry-leading expertise and technology from our partners.

For instance, with our IT Asset Management (ITAM) solution, we help our clients track and maintain network equipment. This proactive approach allows us to identify potential issues early on, extend equipment lifespan through proper maintenance, and leverage software upgrades on uCPE platforms to avoid unnecessary hardware replacements. Secondly, through responsible disposition with certified recycling partners, we help clients minimize environmental impact by diverting e-waste from landfills and recover valuable materials for potential reuse in future equipment generations.

By combining proactive asset management with responsible end-of-life practices, we create a closed-loop system for network assets. This translates to reduced environmental impact, cost optimization, and a more sustainable network solution for your business.

By combining our expertise with established partnerships, we empower you to achieve a sustainable, cost-effective, high-performing network environment.

OEM Initiatives 

HCLTech is dedicated to minimizing environmental impact throughout the network lifecycle. We recognize that achieving true sustainability requires a collaborative effort and we actively work alongside OEMs who share the same commitment. By combining our expertise with innovative eco-friendly technologies from leading OEMs, we empower businesses to build greener, more efficient networks. Below are some initiatives taken by the OEMs highlighting their contribution to a sustainable future:

Cisco

HCLTech leverages comprehensive suite of programs targeting waste reduction and resource efficiency. Programs like Cisco Refresh and Takeback Incentive enabled HCLTech to offer a closed-loop system for hardware. They actively minimize manufacturing waste by collecting and repurposing excess materials through their Manufacturing Scrap/Reuse and eBin/Lab Scraps programs.

Apart from these programs, they also have a Green Team Network (CGTN) empowering each other to make Cisco a more sustainable company for the last 10 years.

  • HPE Aruba

HPE designs network solutions with features that minimize energy consumption throughout their lifecycle. This includes intelligent power management on switches and access points, consolidating network management in power-efficient cloud data centers, and data-rich AI automation.

Additionally, Aruba Central enables zero-touch provisioning which streamlines equipment deployment. It promotes extending the life of IT equipment through refurbishment and upcycling programs. HPE Financial Services also uses a network of trusted partners to take in assets at over 80 processing locations in 50+ countries, ensuring global coverage.

  • Juniper

Juniper Networks entered the sustainability space with its Cloud Metro Services, a new service designed to help build next-generation metro networks. Cloud Metro is built with sustainability in mind and aims to reduce energy consumption and e-waste. The scale, capacity, performance and smart features of Juniper’s Cloud Metro portfolio have been built to replace the traditional three to five-year “rip-and-replace” network lifecycles with seven to 12-year lifecycles.

  • RF Code

The main way RF Code supports sustainability is by providing visibility into the data center through its asset management and environmental monitoring tools Johnstone said. This visibility allows data center professionals to identify and fix problems quickly, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings.

Charting the Course: The Future Roadmap 

As environmental concerns escalate, embracing sustainability isn't just a nice-to-have — it's a strategic imperativea must-have. By prioritizing sustainability, enterprises can unlock a future filled with opportunity.

CEOs can create a ripple effect of positive environmental impact, empowering not just their own companies but also their end customers. Network modernization, if coupled with strategic network sustainability goals, can help clients unlock digital advancements and reduce carbon footprints while offering new eco-friendly services that fuel business growth. Also, by sharing best practices and working together as an industry, we can accelerate progress towards a greener future for all.

Embrace the challenge. Make sustainability a core value. Together, enterprises can build a network that's not just powerful but environmentally responsible.

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