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Ethernet Goes Green

One way to save on rising energy costs is to shift to a slower Ethernet speed dynamically.

The most noteworthy participant in the EEE standard-development process is Broadcom, one of the largest makers of chipsets for switches. Other participants include Cisco Systems and Solarflare--a sign that key players are serious.

A standard is not expected to be ratified until late 2009. And there are a number of hurdles to overcome. The energy improvements will be incremental, but if the initiative catches on, the savings could be significant. Considering the players involved and the pro-EEE wording in the draft of the 2009 Energy Star requirements for computers, it's worth watching.

On July 20, new EPA specifications for computers come online; the agency estimates that if U.S. businesses purchased only Energy Star-compliant systems next year, they could save $1.2 billion over the lifetimes of their new computers.

And the effort isn't stopping there. The IEEE's Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) group is studying how to cut Ethernet's power requirements through a technology called RPS, or Rapid PHY Selection. The EEE says its effort could save $450 million per year in electricity costs.

Anyone who's watched the energy tab for Ethernet switches, routers, desktops and servers rise should welcome the opportunity to buy more efficient systems. It's a little too early to tell, however, if the news is all good.

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