At once the source of all life and a looming threat to it, the energy beast is bucking at its tether. Virtually all productive human activity is dependent on energy — in its fossil fuel or electrical forms; however, the extraction, generation and consumption of that energy is having a profoundly negative impact on environmental sustainability. While the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity is widely viewed as the primary source of carbon emissions, accounting in EPA estimates for approximately 26 percent of the global total, consumption is run amok with our increasing appetite for a powered lifestyle and the transformation of living standards in emerging economies. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy for 2013, consumption will have increased 36% over 2011 levels by 2030, with close to 93 percent of increases coming from non-OECD countries.
This double-edged energy sword has its corollary in the world of technology, but with a twist. While carbon emissions associated with energy used in IT products is significant and growing — consensus estimates put the share of global electricity consumed by the operation of IT equipment at two to four percent of global totals — IT at the same time offers good prospects for reducing emissions elsewhere in the economy. In the 2012 follow up to the groundbreaking GeSI energy study, the SMARTer 2020, ICT-enabled solutions were found to have potential to reduce by 16.5 percent the emissions projected for 2020. In addition, GeSI researchers concluded that these solutions could also “create 29.5 million jobs and yield USD 1.9 trillion in savings.”
But what does this abatement potential actually look like in real life? On a recent press tour to New York, Cisco brought its JouleX acquisition out of the closet and into the light of its Connected Energy Solutions business with a presentation from Tom Noonan, former JouleX CEO and now GM for Cisco EnergyWise Solutions and German banking customer, Stefan Schmidt from Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, JouleX was a pioneer in the development agentless energy management software for data centre and network-attached and infrastructure. Attracted to the company’s ability to offer visibility and control over energy usage across global IT environments, Cisco announced its intention to acquire JouleX back in May of 2013. Since deal completion in July, the company has been working on the integration of JouleX IP into its EnergyWise Suite and took advantage of the opportunity afforded by the tour to announce this as well as the launch of four related energy services: a Fast Start program (free trial of the EnergyWise Manager application for existing customers), a Discovery Service (energy consumption assessment that identifies opportunities in the network for better utilization of devices/systems), an Optimization Service (annual subscription for optimization of the IT infrastructure), and a Management Software subscription (for distributed office and the data centre).
A key benefit of JouleX is that the application works to remotely monitor, analyze and manage the energy usage of all connected devices and systems without the use of device-side agents, hardware meters or network configurations. The software relies instead on analytics to create a set of policies that are unique to the needs of a specific enterprise, and uses the network as a management and control plane to automatically enforce these policies across all IP-based devices and systems, including distributed campus networking, personal devices and data centre. The policy engine, or control interface, can control through time-based policies used often in distributed offices, event-based policies used in primarily in data centre, and through load adaptive policies. By making the network “more intelligent,” Noonan claimed, enterprises can dispense with the need to deploy additional management software.
According to Noonan, the aim is to help “enterprises become more energy efficient, reduce operating costs, reduce carbon footprint and extend the utility of our data centres which are power constrained today” — goals that are becoming increasingly critical as businesses face increased power costs for expanded networks and IT infrastructure, new carbon/energy regulation and demand for corporate sustainability. To illustrate the magnitude of the problem, Noonan noted that in services-intensive industries such as telecom or financial services, 80 percent of energy used is consumed by the IT infrastructure.
Cisco is positioning the JouleX energy management solution as one more example of “how the Internet of Everything can solve one of our biggest challenges around energy conservation.” As senior Cisco PR director David McCulloch noted at the New York event, “70 percent of all energy consumption is in cities, and 70 percent of that is in commercial real estate.” But so far, the primary application for the software appears to be management of IT systems. This was clear in the case of the Sparkassen banking, which implemented JouleX to: introduce “load adaptive computing” in the data centre, which relies on adjustment of CPU clock speeds to respond to peak demand energy pricing; to consolidate servers, including physical and VMs; to manage the energy consumption of personal devices, including thin and fat clients; and ultimately, to manage ATM machines, which were monitored to determine which to keep in operation, temperature controlled through the integration of environmental data and instructed through policy to power up when the branch location opened. According to Stefan Schmidt, these varied applications were driven through scripting capabilities in a single platform: there was no need to integrate each device or to introduce new software for different devices so expansion was very easy, while “device and vendor agnosticism offered protection for future infrastructure investments.”
The Sparkassen implementation proved successful on a number of fronts. The bank realized huge savings through energy management of the many personal devices in use and ATMs (approximately $250 per year on each ATM), and through the removal of redundant ATMs and servers in bank data centres. In addition, the initiative delivered significant communications payback — the bank has publicized its financial and carbon savings in annual shareholder reports, as well as receipt of its Green IT Best Practice Award for 2011 from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs, and created a financial instrument for large customers with similar consumption reduction ambitions. As yet, however, the bank has not extended the JouleX/EnergyWise platform to control of power consumption across its distributed branch real estate. While this type of project offers significant opportunity for additional savings (the Smarter 2020 has estimated that buildings could contribute 18% of total global emissions abatement), as Schmidt explained, extending the platform to branch locations is problematic due to multi-vendor BIM environments within the branches and implementation challenges associated with the large number of branch assets involved. The fact that not all real estate offices have IP-enabled building systems poses additional hurdles. Ultimately, the implementation of adequate sensors to make sure customers are ready for the application may present the biggest barrier to broad adoption of the new EnergyWise applications. As Noonan explained, “that is why we start with IT, because everything that is IT is IP.”
Stories like Sparkassen’s have begun to drive adoption of JouleX’s holistic approach to energy management. The solution is being used by Cisco internally as the company works to consolidate and optimize the power efficiency of its cloud data centres, but also by virtually every federal agency in Germany and by the U.S. Department of Energy — a special coup in that this department sets energy efficiency policies in the U.S. An addition driver will no doubt be the EnergyWise platform’s ability to monitor and control energy consumption at scale, a proposition that is necessary in enterprise environments and that will extend to the smaller customer through solution delivery via the service provider — typically as a part of a cloud-based managed service. Given the financial and carbon costs associated with powering the 50 billion devices that Cisco believes will come online by 2020, scale is a critical requirement that is provided through the network: as Noonan noted, “this is a large-scale system problem and this is why we use the network to solve it.” At the same time, the partnership with Cisco has offered JouleX an opportunity to grow through access to customers in expanded distribution networks, but also to serve as an integral part of the multifold new solutions that are being built around the Internet of Everything, and ultimately to deliver energy savings “as-a-service” through Cisco’s developing cloud. “This is one of the most exciting things we are doing because it’s really going to make energy optimization available to everyone — from a live site of one to huge customers with the same efficiency and cost structure that will make it very attractive to the whole world.”