HP Networking Deploys New Energy Efficient Ethernet Switches

HP is improving both the performance and energy efficiency of its networking switches with ten new switch module releases for the HP E8200 zl and E5400 zl platforms.

In the new modules, HP is taking advantage of the recently ratified IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet standard, which has the potential to reduce Ethernet port power consumption by as much as 50 percent. HP is also going above and beyond what is in the standard with updated software that can help to further control and reduce network switch power consumption.

“What Energy Efficient Ethernet does is, based on the utilization of the network, it can actually turn down the power in different components in the network,” Sreeram Krishnamachari, global product manager at HP Networking told InternetNews.com. “For example, if you have a switch where a particular port isn’t passing any traffic, it can tell other components in the switch to go into a low power or sleep state.”

Krishnamachari noted that the ports can then be woken up quickly when needed, reducing the overall power consumption of a switch. HP isn’t the first networking vendor to announce support for IEEE 802.3az. Networking silicon vendor Broadcom also has solutions to help networking vendors take advantage of the new standard.

HP uses Broadcom’s PHY (a component inside a switch) to realize IEEE 802.3az benefits. However it also has its own network node chip that does packet processing. The actual benefit from 802.3az is realized through the Broadcom PHY. However, HP also has power saving innovations in the Network node chip or ASIC.

“We have our own ASICs and it gives us the flexibility we need to add new capabilities into the platform,” Krishnamachari said. “It also gives us a cost advantage versus our competitors who use third party chips.”

With the new ASICs, Krishnamachari noted that HP designed them from the ground up to reduce power consumption. There are a number of new power saving features in the ASICs including the ability to turn off different portions of the chip when they’re not required for operations. The new ASICs also enables HP to increase the port density for their switching platforms.

“Today a 12-slot chassis can support up to 48 ports of 10 gigabit Ethernet (GbE),” Krishnamachari said. “We are now introducing a new eight-port 10 GbE module that helps us to get to 96 ports of 10 GbE.”

Thanks in part to support for IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet, the new HP modules can reduce power by up to 56 percent, per 10 GbE port over the previous generation of HP modules.

From a management perspective, Krishnamachari noted that HP has software that can set policies for device management. That said, he noted that at this stage, HP’s platform doesn’t have the capability to get real-time power utilization reports from individual devices.

“The hardware itself has the ability to report that out, so the new modules can actually report information about how power they are consuming on a real time basis,” Krishnamachari. “Once we are able to take advantage of that in the management suite we will be able to fully report on that type of information.”

The market for device power management and reporting is a competitive one. HP’s rival Cisco has an effort called EnergyWise which aims to provide energy management capabilities for network attached devices.

From a software perspective, HP is also digging deep to help switch users maximize their power savings. Krishnamachari noted that switch administrators have the ability to turn off power to any slot on a switch chassis. Additionally, administrators have the ability to turn off the LED indicator lights on a switch to further reduce power.

While reducing power is a goal for many enterprise data centers, the Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) capabilities of the HP switches are controllable, for cases where administrators choose not to use the feature.

“Customers can be ultra-sensitive to latency and they might decide to choose to turn off EEE to ensure that they get minimal latency,” Krishnamachari said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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