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Cisco Manages Power, Reduces Costs

Energy management is coming under scrutiny as companies try to cut costs. Power and cooling can add up to substantial sums over time, particularly if you are running under-utilized machines that do little more than eat electricity. Data center managers have long understood the economics of energy savings, but the effects are making themselves knows in building facilities as organizations launch employee programs to turn out the lights and conserve energy. Cisco announced enhancements to its Connected Buildings product suite that allows companies to better monitor and manage energy consumption.

The Network Building Mediator Manager 6300 is a new product that offers a centralized view and reporting of energy usage by integrating with building facilities that monitor electrical and HVAC systems. It's a manager of managers for the facilities department. The Mediator Manager reports on how much power is being used and by what devices, tracks demand over time and sets off alarms. Administrators can drill into buildings or zones to see energy usage in specific locations.

The Building Media Manager manages multiple Network Building Mediators, which are the components that actually collect and aggregate data from end points like outlets, HVAC and other devices that use automation protocols such as BACnet and Modbus. In fact, Marthin DeBeer from Cisco made it a point that the Building Mediators will support all automation protocols, including proprietary ones. The Building Mediators come in two models: the 2400 supports from 250 to 1,000 end points, while the larger 4800 manages from 2,000 to 5,000 end points. The Building Mediator 3.1 software enhances the Building Mediators with more building automation protocol support as well as integration with Cisco's Energywise API and EnergyWise SNMP.

"We saved approximately 30 percent of direct and deferred -- what we would have spent -- money by managing our power consumption," says Dave Shroyer, senior controls engineer with Cisco partner NetApp. He says NetApp has also integrated with its utility provider, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to manage power in its buildings based on demand and response. As demand rose in PG&E's grid and notified NetApp's servers, NetApp automatically reduced power consumption, such as switching off unnecessary lights and raising temperature set points to reduce consumption. When a power reduction took place, NetApp's system would notify end users via email that an energy event was taking place so employees knew what was happening. Demand and response not only drew down NetApp's consumption by 1.1 megawatts: these power management strategies resulted in approximately two million dollars in annual energy costs, Shroyer says.

Cisco announced a consumer model, the Home Energy Controller (CGH-100) that is similar to the Network Building Monitor. The Home Energy Controllers, which will be available later this year, can talk to home automation protocols ZigBee, W-Fi and encoder=receiver technology. The goal is to integrate with smart meters from the utilities and home automation systems such as programmable thermostats and smart plugs to monitor and manage power consumption at home.