Tech Watch: EnergyWise pushes convergence of IT, energy management

In an energy-conscious era, VARs see Cisco EnergyWise effort to bring energy management technology and IT together as a selling point.

The field of network management is taking on a new dimension with the emergence of energy monitoring features and frameworks, notably by Cisco Systems' EnergyWise initiative.

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The long-term premise for VARs is that they can use energy management technology to extend IT networks and services into facilities management, providing insight into energy use across entire buildings. But even network resellers that want to stick to their core businesses in switching will find that energy efficiency is an important future selling point.

EnergyWise is a free software update for those using certain Cisco Catalyst switches, and it is being built into future switching products. Initially, it was used to control power usage within the network and for clients such as IP phones. In late 2009, it will be extended so that PCs riding on Catalyst-powered networks can be managed. By sometime next year, Cisco will push into the broader building controls market.

"I'm interested in EnergyWise for two reasons," said Brian Gregory, president of Network Innovations Inc., an Olathe, Kan.-based network integrator. "The bottom line is anything we can do to provide measurable [return on investment] to our clients is important. Also, I think cost-cutting is here for the long haul and our clients will be asking for solutions like this."

Rick Seiden, senior program manager for the Connected Real Estate practice at Cisco partner World Wide Technology Inc., in St. Louis, said many of his customers want to build control networks to help save electricity costs.

"Using technology like this, you can turn lights off when no one is in the office," Seiden said. "You can reduce the power used by switches and IP phones. You can measure, manage and monitor the usage."

What's more, companies could earn rebates from utility companies by reducing their power consumption, he said.

How would a client use this technology? Consider the case of the Council Rock School District in Pennsylvania, which teamed up with Aramark Education to develop a comprehensive energy management program.

Even before EnergyWise was announced, Council Rock figured out a way to start monitoring its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems by integrating them to a Cisco backbone via a fiber network. Almost immediately, the school district discovered that the heat in certain classrooms was being left on around the clock and around the year. Since December 2005, the 18-building district has cut power consumption by 42.7%, saving close to $5.3 million.

Matthew Frederickson, director of information technology for the district, said his team is evaluating the use of Cisco's EnergyWise software. His team hopes to be able to use EnergyWise to extend power management to roughly 230 access points throughout the district plus all IP phones that are used by the administration.

John Growdon, director of go-to-market activities for worldwide channels at Cisco, said the company's traditional VARs can start using EnergyWise immediately to help their clients power-manage IP phones and PCs on their networks.

In the future, Growdon said there will be a more formal partner program for EnergyWise and related energy management initiatives that will be targeted at partners that want to offer more formal services around this area. But the company has no official plans to disclose at this time, he said.

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