UNH-IOL putting Energy Efficient Ethernet to the test

IEEE 802.3az standard promises significant data center power savings

The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL)  has begun testing Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) products to make sure they work together.

“The pre-testing process will allow [vendors] to be able to deliver new solutions in the quickest possible timeframe,” said Jeff Lapak, senior engineer for the UNH-IOL, in a statement.

Energy Efficient Ethernet, or 802.3az in IEEE terminology, is an emerging standard designed to cut down on the energy used by Ethernet networks. Standard support will enable Ethernet devices, such as switches and server cards, to enter low-power idle mode when not transmitting data in order to drastically reduce energy use.

Sanjay Kasturia, CTO of Teranetics and chief editor of the 802.3az standard, recently wrote in Network World that “LAN links generally average less than 10% utilization and even at peak times, the utilization does not reach 100%.” 

Studies have also shown that power drawn by different manufacturers’ Ethernet switches can vary widely

The standard, which will complement other recent energy efficiency standards for data center gear such as servers, is expected to be finalized by next year. Work on the standard started in 2006, when a “call for interest” was made.  The Environmental Protection Agency and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory were among early supporters of the effort.

(Meanwhile, some work has been done on reducing Ethernet energy use based on existing standards, including through an Ethernet Alliance-sponsored contest back in 2008). 

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Initially, UNH-IOL will test Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet gear, and will expand to testing other Ethernet types next year. UNH-IOL is the first third-party testing facility with EEE testing capabilities.

Earlier this year, the lab hosted a Plugfest among pre-standard gear that was sponsored by the Ethernet Alliance.

As early as last year companies such as Broadcom began rolling out chips that supported the draft standard for EEE.

Energy efficiency has increasingly become a competitive focus for leading network and data center product vendors such as Cisco and HP

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