Green Networking

Creating the "green" networks of the future

According to a number of studies, IT can consume up to 2 percent of a nation’s total energy production. Much of the scientific data carried by ESnet and fellow research and education (R&E) networks is either generated by simulations at supercomputing centers, or ends up at data centers for storage, analysis, and access by others. These have been the subject of intense energy efficiency efforts, but the networks that connect them have been largely overlooked.  Moreover, in computing-intensive scientific fields ranging from high-energy physics to climate studies, the amount of data that traverses scientific networks continues to rise exponentially. There are several reasons for this; more powerful supercomputers are churning out more data, conducting higher-resolution and more accurate scientific modeling requires more data; and scientific collaborations can include many thousands of researchers around the globe who need to exchange data. But as networks expand capacity to handle the increasing amount of traffic, their appetite for energy is projected to grow increasingly voracious. Supercomputers and data centers are on track to reducing power consumption, but shrinking the carbon footprint of the decentralized networks that connect them is more challenging.

Mapping a path forward

To create a future generation of "green" networks that can carry increased data traffic while consuming less energy, ESnet is embarking on a program of research and innovation, seeking broad-based community engagement, with the following “green networking” goals:

  • Engage in research initiatives to explore new ideas and options.
  • Create better tools. Build tools to collect and visualize live network energy consumption. As part of the MAVEN Project, ESnet instrumented the 100Gbps Advanced Network Initiative prototype network, and now ESnet5, their latest network, for real-time power measurement, including power distribution units and sensors.
  • Build an open knowledge base. Establish open datasets for network energy efficiency research, working with community groups such as IEEE, Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the GreenTouch Consortium.
  • Spur innovation. Catalyze initiation of research and experimentation by industry for redesign of network equipment and best operational practices.
  • Develop uniform, achievable standards for “green” networks with community groups.
  • Collaborate with community groups and industry. ESnet is actively looking for collaboration opportunities for research and development of smarter networks that are more energy-efficient. ESnet joined the GreenTouch™ Consortium, a global industry consortium that is dedicated to dramatically improving the energy efficiency of information and communications technology (ICT) networks and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of ICT devices, platforms and networks. 

As a national network that supports thousands of Department of Energy scientists, ESnet is in a leadership position to reduce its own carbon footprint. But it will take a collaborative effort from multiple perspectives—industry, academia, and research institutions— to achieve the kind of audacious innovation necessary to achieve breakthrough progress in energy efficiency.  ESnet is committing to reducing the power consumption of its network, and in the process, will be sharing its efforts with the greater community to fast-track the development of “green” technologies that will benefit all. ESnet also participates in industry conferences and events investigating new directions in energy efficiency. To propose "green" networking collaborations, ideas, or projects, contact Inder Monga,