GPON: A New Opportunity to Improve Productivity, Reduce Costs and Go Green

For building owners, architects and networking consultants involved in either erecting new buildings or completing significant upgrades, creating an optical LAN with gigabit passive optical network (GPON) architecture is an important technology that addresses three critical issues:  enhancing productivity, reducing CapEx and OpEx costs and meeting new and sometimes stringent environmental standards. While GPON may not be appropriate for every project, it should be considered as a viable approach to achieve these objectives.

What Is GPON Architecture?

GPON is a medium where fiber is “passively” split to connect multiple end users. GPON equipment does not require electrical power, substantially reducing heat and saving energy.

The telecommunications industry has deployed GPON for years, it is a stable, proven, effective technology.  Today, innovative system architects are turning to GPON for campus and in-building environments.

GPON architecture is different than the Active Ethernet widely in use today.  In an Active Ethernet architecture, fiber travels between a series of routers and switches that are powered.  It also has a distance limitation of approximately 300 feet.  These characteristics drive up costs, increase the number of points of failure, and the amount of space and power required.

GPON Advantages for In-building Projects

Only recently have network architects considered building optical LANs with GPON for that “last 100 feet;” i.e., the distance from the node or premises to the end user.  The advantages of adopting GPON for that final connection to the end user are many:

  • Enables Short- and Long-Term Cost Savings – Multiple studies have shown that utilizing GPON in an optimal network can result in up to 70 percent lower CapEx, up to 80 percent lower power consumption and as much as 90 percent less space utilization.  Ten-year total cost of ownership (TCO) analyses have shown lower OpEx costs than Active Ethernet. 
  • Contributes to a Comprehensive “Green” Strategy – Lower power consumption translates to lower carbon emissions and a lower carbon footprint.  GPON can help all buildings reduce power consumption.  In particular, it can helpU.S.government buildings meet the executive order mandate to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015.  It also can impact a company’s LEED certification levels. 
  • Future–proofs the LAN Infrastructure – GPON ultra-fast broadband connections are delivered over a fiber infrastructure, instead of Active Ethernet using copper media. This fiber in-building cabling has longer life, smaller, lighter, stronger, better bend radius, higher bandwidth capacity, longer reach, less susceptible to interference, faster connector solutions, longer life and less expensive when compared to traditional copper media. .  It also provides gigabit-speed bandwidth to the desktop, meeting nearly any end user’s need to download or stream video and/or other very large files.
  • Facilitates Building High-performance Converged Networks – Combining voice, data and video networks into one architecture results in CapEx and OpEx savings.  IT teams can easily migrate between Analog POTS and VoIP for voice capabilities.  GPON can easily accommodate a wide range of RF video, IP video and videoconferencing options.   GPON can support existing wireless access points (WAP) and allows more flexible WAP placement.  IT teams can also easily integrate building automation security and building sensor systems.As building owners, architects and networking consultants continue to search for solutions that enable to both offer better services to their clients and save money, optical networks incorporation GPON architecture provide an outstanding alternative.  It can help these professionals successfully navigate the “rocks” of improving productivity, reducing costs and contributing to a “greener” infrastructure. 

Putting the Energy Consumption of Worldwide Data Centers into Perspective – Part 2

In last week’s post I laid out the case that there are enormous productivity and financial upsides to greening today’s datacenters.  Today, I’d like to suggest specific strategies to get there. 

1. Virtualization – The process of running multiple programs on one or two computers, or having five or six people work on one computer simultaneously. These steps can significantly reduce an energy footprint.  Benefits of a virtualization strategy can include:

  • IT becomes more efficient. Beyond just hardware savings from consolidation, virtualization optimizes infrastructure costs and increases operational efficiency. Plus, firms are able to reclaim capacity (space, power, and cooling) in their data centers, postponing costly expansion plans.
  • Time-to-market is faster. Virtualization speeds server and application deployment, makes configurations more consistent, and simplifies the staging of applications across test and development.
  • IT services are more predictable. There will always be failures and downtime, but virtualization makes recovery from these incidents faster, easier, and lower cost.

2. More efficient switching – With circuit switching, the route for communications from one point to another is decided before the communication is started. The communication remains on the same route from beginning to end of the process, even if that route is not the most efficient route.

With packet switching, a communication is divided up into packets and each packet is allowed to find its way to the destination by the most efficient route possible. Packets are sent and then the recipient device re-assembles the packets to form the original transmission. Because each packet can use the best route possible, the transmission of data via packet switching allows for optimum efficiency versus circuit switching. Our experience is that packet switching is more efficient and robust, increasing worker productivity, enhancing data security, and enjoying greater energy savings.

3. Mobility and Collaboration – Already a $57 billion market, the mobility and collaboration market is expected to grow at a four-year compound annual growth rate of 13.8 percent, according to industry analysts. Gartner predicts that 34 percent ($1.2 trillion) of the total data center spend will be associated with mobility and 67 percent of all workers will be mobile by the end of 2012 (Gartner, 2010).

Contributing to this unprecedented market growth are the dramatically changing dynamics of the enterprise workplace. With people working away from their desks more than 67 percent of the time, businesses in every industry are seeking data center solutions that allow them to be more productive and profitable in this mobile environment while addressing new challenges in data center security, storage and manageability.

The more we can replace physical travel with networked virtual experiences, the more we can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. “Move electrons and photons, not atoms.” Strategies include:

  • Networked connectivity to enable more people to work from home and reduce commute consumption and waste
  • Networked connectivity to enable remote access to education services
  • High-performance videoconferencing solutions to reduce the need for business travel
  • Networked distribution models to reduce trips to video stores and shipping of digital content
  • Networked sensor and control systems to improve traffic flow and management and reduce waste
  • Networked transportation information kiosks to make public transportation options more appealing (e.g. by showing real
  • bus and train arrival times)
  • Better implementation of computing and software technologies to efficiently manage vehicle operation and provide efficiency feedback to vehicle operators

Perhaps we’re looking at all this the wrong way. Anything in the business world that is more efficient and saves money is almost always green. So, we’re really talking about streamlining and optimizing an organization, maintaining a hard ROI approach to everything, with the positive environmental aspects of doing so coming along for the ride.

That argument makes for a better selling point. “Green” can be equated as much with greenbacks as the natural environment – it’s just a change in perspective.

Putting the Energy Consumption of Worldwide Data Centers into Perspective – Part 1

Fact: In 2010, the cost for powering and cooling the worldwide server base was about $43 billion, with cooling accounting for 30% or $12.9 billion of that figure. To put the energy consumption of worldwide data centers into perspective, the global energy requirements for data centers equaled 1.5x the energy requirement to power New York City.

Fact: Data centers are responsible for about 2% of global carbon emissions and use 80 million    megawatt-hours of energy annually. If the current growth rate were to continue, without improving energy efficiency, data centers will produce 359 megatons of CO2 by 2020, equivalent to the CO2 produced by 48% of the cars estimated to be on American roads at that time.

Fact: From 1998 to 2007 server performance increased 75x while the performance per watt has increased 16x. This implies that, for every watt consumed, the consumer is getting 16x the throughput that they got in 1998. Roughly speaking, the performance/watt of a server doubles every 2 years. This steadily increasing performance requires increasingly greater power capacity. The trend toward virtualization, the growth of applications like video streaming, and the massive expansion of social media have all contributed to a massive demand for higher-performing machines.

Fact: Traditionally, every watt of power devoted to computer processing in data centers required a half watt of power for cooling and lighting. This ratio has now flipped: Every watt consumed by computing resources now requires two watts of power for cooling and lighting. The result is that, even though global spending on servers has increased on an almost linear basis over the past 15 years, we have seen a dramatic increase of 400% in spending on power and cooling over the same period.

Ultimately, the evolution of IT network technologies and management systems, changing ideas of how to provide for reliability and redundancy in networks, and the need to be environmentally responsible will challenge existing paradigms of what a “DataCenter” is. Electrical utility companies are already planning for a future that includes far more distributed power generation, with a variety of renewable, nonpolluting power sources located close to the loads they serve. Prefab Data Centers on wheels are available today, as are mobile, liquid-cooled enclosures that can go most anywhere there is space, a power source, and a robust network connection. In the future, for many enterprises, the “DataCenter” may be more of a concept than a place.

Greening your Data Center and building an environmentally sustainable future for IT will require imagination, new skills, new thinking – a whole new perspective. It’s a challenge but, it can be done. Your thoughts?