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Network Sep 01, 2023

A practical pathway to long-term network sustainability

By Sarwar Khan Head of Global Digital Sustainability

The sustainability debate is over, and the consensus now is that organisations must make big sustainability improvements as quickly as possible.

It’s not about ‘should we?’ anymore. Throughout the organisation – from the boardroom down to the operational floor – urgent discussions are focusing on the ‘how’ greater sustainability can be achieved at speed.

At the heart of the organisation, the network is the obvious place to start. But any network or device refresh must be carefully planned and based on solid evidence – because it makes no sense to invest if you can’t be certain that the changes will unlock sustainability gains.

Working in close partnership with Cisco, we’ve pooled our expertise and tools to create a supported pathway to a network refresh that boosts sustainability every step of the way.

Three critical steps to a low carbon network

Drawing on our broad experience of supporting sustainability improvements in the technology environment, our experts recommend following three simple (yet comprehensive) stages to boost your network’s sustainability.

1. Take an honest look at where you are

Good sustainability decisions need good data, so your starting point must be an accurate picture of your total energy consumption and carbon emissions across IT network devices, apps and workloads. This will form a baseline for monitoring and proving your progress.

2. Explore and evaluate potential changes

This is a key part of building a long-term sustainable network strategy, and will probably include different levels of investment – from replacing any end-of-life or old equipment with more energy efficient solutions, to scoping out a full network redesign. Your exploration should also consider the impacts of network change on other priorities such as security and risk, regulation, compliance, and the commercial and functional requirements of your organisation.

3. Build ongoing visibility into your operational environment

As your network evolves, you’ll need to know how the changes you make are affecting your emissions. And, increasingly, you’ll need hard, proven data to back up your sustainability position. A key part of uplifting your network should include implementing a reliable monitoring tool to highlight patterns and inefficiencies across your environment. This will help you optimise your networks for low power and carbon use, and pinpoint where you can make the biggest improvements.

This pathway should take you to the point where you can confidently measure the sustainability benefits of any changes to your network or devices. But how do you work out what changes would best suit your organisation and industry? Here’s a little bit of inspiration to drive your plans forward.

Sustainable network refresh results in action

The results of refreshing a network to boost sustainability will probably look different for each organisation, broadly depending upon their industry. So, what are the possibilities?

In manufacturing, refreshing the network to support edge computing has huge potential. Processing at the edge significantly reduces the volume of data travelling to the cloud, which enables data centre consolidation, reduced energy consumption and accelerated decarbonisation. It’s also fundamental to supporting AI-driven energy efficiency solutions that bring together real-time data from sensors and edge devices, machinery control settings, databases, external data and energy bills to identify the variables that impact energy consumption before providing real-time recommendations to keep energy consumption as low as possible.

In the natural resources sector, edge computing is also having an impact. In mining, it supports remote sensing technologies that improve environmental outcomes following the closure of a site. In the chemical industry, being able to optimise network performance, use scheduling tools and process control solutions streamlines production and cuts wastage throughout operations. And energy companies are finding that being able to support monitoring and optimisation tools improves their data use and can decrease freshwater usage, reduce methane leaks and streamline processes to minimise energy waste.

In banking, the focus is on refreshing the network to improve data centre efficiency and understanding their own emissions, as well as the carbon footprint of third-party suppliers. Adding proactive network monitoring to their refresh means they can identify faults early, fix these faults remotely to cut travel emissions, and move towards a circular economy that includes strategic asset planning and management. In financial services, alongside data centre rationalisation, a more effective network is supporting a reduction in travel through more real-time video consultations, and IoT sensors drive better building management that cuts energy use.

And if you look over at the retail sector, you’ll see widespread adoption of edge computing to support augmented reality solutions that allow remote auditing of suppliers, as well as AI and machine learning in the smart warehouse to optimise processes and reduce costs and waste. Here, the refreshed network is underpinning warehouse control systems that monitor and optimise timings, temperature, and lighting and can even recommend potential improvements.

Are you ready?

Sustainability improvements have to start right now, and your network is the ideal first step.

For more detailed guidance on what this could look like for your organisation, download the whitepaper we’ve co-produced with Cisco: ‘Maximise the sustainability potential of your networks’ , and learn more about our sustainable network refresh proposition.