Design principles for building efficient network architectures


Written on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 by Gemini

Green networking = Efficient networking.

Efficient network design combines improvements in consumption and consolidation for increased manageability and lower lifecycle cost. Here you’d learn more about the specifics of efficient network design you can implement to keep your network green, as well as avoiding wastes of bandwidth, power and budget.

In recent years, the call for "green" has grown louder. We hear it in the news and see it on billboards and in magazines - and, unfortunately, feel it in our pocketbooks (it cost $65 to fill up today). Regardless of your political affiliation or environmental beliefs, it's impossible to deny this fact: The cost of energy is increasing. As consumers, we feel the results of our inefficiencies in our daily budgets. As individuals responsible for designing network architectures, our employers feel those inefficiencies in their operating costs.

Why is that important?
In the late 1990s, when the Internet bubble burst, the companies that survived were those that found a way to become efficient. These same businesses are now looking at ways to further increase their efficiencies without cutting their workforce -- and that includes every aspect of how they think and operate. In this article, I'm going to outline some elements contributing to this "green wave" as it relates to network design.

The "green" factor
What does it mean to be green?

It depends on who you ask! Efficiency is a broad term, especially in network architectures, but there are several key elements:

Each of these elements is related, and their synergies create the semblance of a "total system." The purpose is to show that there are in fact different shades of green, and though it may be possible to create a design that encompasses all of these factors, benefits can result from focusing on just one.
From a design perspective, there are really two elements that can be thought of as inputs to network design:
  • Consumption
  • Consolidation

"Consumption" is the broadest of terms used most often to describe the power and space usage of network elements such as servers, routers, switches, firewalls and SANs. There are, however, other points that can be related to this term, but they aren't as easy to differentiate.

Consolidation is a distinct design option that can mitigate your consumption issues and provide an avenue for increased manageability - and subsequently decrease your cost of support. Here are a couple of technologies that consolidate infrastructure:

  • Virtualization (includes server, firewall, SAN, routers, switches, desktops)
  • Chassis-based installation (FWSM, WSM, RSM, VPNSM, etc.)

The true trick to "getting green" is applying the principles without sacrificing these factors, or you risk losing the gains forged within the design itself.


Lower consumption through consolidation results in increased manageability and lower lifecycle cost - or a "green(er)" infrastructure! The desired result of instilling some of these principles into the minds of engineers is that organizations can start taking advantage of savings gained through efficiencies.

If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed