Understanding the Role of the Network in Sustainability

Extreme Networks is embracing a multi-pronged sustainability strategy to achieve its environmental objectives for the company itself and its networking solutions.

Sustainability has become a significant consideration in decision-making for companies worldwide. Many are prioritizing reducing their environmental impact, not just out of goodwill but due to emerging regulations. Especially in the European Union (EU), there is a shift towards requiring companies to report non-financial data, encompassing aspects such as water use, waste, recycling, environmental impact, and electricity consumption.

Multiple factors have played a role in this shift. In 2015, the Paris Agreement set a goal to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, highlighting the situation’s urgency. Economic factors, such as growing gas prices, prompted companies to consider sustainable alternatives to reduce costs. Additionally, the influx of a younger, more environmentally conscious workforce has influenced companies to adopt sustainable practices.

Extreme Networks is among the companies taking steps to reduce their environmental impact, focusing on the well-being of employees, customers, and partners. I recently chatted with Kurt Semba, principal architect at the Office of the CTO, about Extreme’s sustainability goals and what the company is doing to achieve its environmental objectives. Highlights of the ZKast interview are below:  

  • Extreme Networks has outlined specific sustainability goals for product management and resource consumption. Established in 2019, a primary product management goal is to enhance the power efficiency of new products by 20 percent by the end of this year. Extreme aims to achieve this goal by utilizing more efficient power supplies and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) in its switches and access points (APs).

  • Regarding resource consumption, Extreme ensures a sustainable lifecycle from product design to recycling. The goal is to cut the carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2030. This encompasses scopes 1, 2, and 3—the metrics used to measure emissions. Extreme is part of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), and while it’s not at net zero currently, the company is continuously working to reduce emissions.

  • Extreme has integrated more recycled components into its products. It also offers customers the choice to return products after their lifespan, ensuring that parts are recycled. Moreover, Extreme is instituting an environmental management system as part of the ISO 14001 certification. The system monitors its environmental impact as a company and helps encourage suppliers to adopt similar practices.

  • A network refresh contributes significantly to sustainability goals. For instance, Extreme’s latest products utilize power supplies with the highest efficiency ratings, which can be as efficient as 90 percent or more. This leads to substantial energy savings. Extreme’s APs are also manufactured with more recyclable materials than older models. Beyond the hardware, advancements in software also play a role. Modern switches now utilize Power over Ethernet (PoE) with varying classes, which presents further sustainability opportunities and potential energy savings.

  • Regarding ASICs, there are significant power efficiency differences from just a few generations ago. The current efficiency gains for ASICs are estimated to be 10 to 20 percent. Given the vast number of switches that Extreme deploys with customers, even a 10 percent improvement in efficiency translates to a significant global impact.

  • As for contemporary APs, they function more like integrated service delivery platforms. They not only provide Wi-Fi but also offer Bluetooth, radio frequency (RF) security scanning, and serve as Internet of Things (IoT) gateways. A single piece of hardware requires only one power source and cable for multiple functionalities. These advancements in AP technology aid in reducing carbon emissions, as one device now incorporates what might have required several devices in previous generations.

  • The IT/OT integration represents the next phase of convergence, following voice, video, and power integration. Utilizing PoE for as many functions as possible centralizes power and data control. PoE allows devices to receive power directly from the network switch, simplifying deployment. Many customers leverage this by using PoE to integrate smart light-emitting diodes (LEDs), IP cameras, voice-over IP (VoIP) phones, and APs.

  • In the near future, networks will likely use artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize their operations based on sustainability metrics. Users could instruct their systems to prioritize sustainability, and the AI would analyze the network context–from switches to APs—and configure it for maximum sustainability.

  • The cloud will play a significant role in managing functionalities. Cloud systems, built on modern hyper-scaler technology, are advanced and energy efficient. They allow centralized management. These systems can also sense location data from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, providing insights into room and floor usage. This data can automatically control lights and HVAC systems, resulting in energy savings, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and improved sustainability overall.

See the full interview here:


Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research.

Read his other Network Computing articles here.

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About the Author(s)

Zeus Kerravala, Founder and Principal Analyst with ZK Research

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual press coverage metrics.

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