Who's Going to Save the Polar Bears? Environmentalists, Politicians, or Engineers?

To celebrate Earth Day 2022, I thought I would write this blog, the first in a series of “green” blogs about the enterprise networking industry and how we can be more intelligent with energy consumption via technology innovation.

By now, we should all be aware that we are consuming our planet’s resources at an unsustainable rate. We are digging up coal, oil, and natural gas at an ever-increasing rate. Burning those resources releases the carbon dioxide (CO2) bound within. These carbon emissions put dangerous stress levels on the climate and natural life-support systems. It’s easy to forget how quickly we have consumed the world’s resources. Today we see news headlines about polar bears, but this is only the beginning. To tackle this global threat, various groups of people are working in tandem: environmental groups, politicians, and engineers, as depicted in Figure 1.

Stakeholders for saving environment

Figure 1 - Stakeholders

Environmentalists are by far the most passionate group of people. They bring awareness and a clear sense of urgency to the most pressing environmental issues. Without them, these topics might not get enough attention which is needed for everyone to take action. Scientists and Researchers often discover those challenges in the first place, making predictions on their long-term effects and, where possible, giving recommendations. Without them, we might not even be aware of some of those challenges and might end up in situations where it is too late to provide a sustainable solution.

Politicians and other Decision Makers need to consolidate the input they receive from all other participants, weigh the pros and cons of all potential solutions, and then decide how to move forward. Without them, we would not be taking coordinated actions. There would be no policy changes or actions to help save the polar bears without politicians and decision-makers. That being said, we should all be informed about why the government needs to be involved. After all, both the general public and the polar bears will suffer from the consequences of any bad policies.

Have you ever asked a technical engineer how green energy technologies work, for example, wind turbines? The odds are that you probably haven't, and if you have, I'm sure they told you something like "aerodynamics." Saving polar bears doesn't seem like the domain of engineers. Instead, this problem seems like it should be left up to politicians, environmentalists, and others who want to preserve our environment. However, the Engineers are responsible for creating the technology and designs necessary to make all environmental efforts feasible. In other words, without their help and everything they've done to improve upon those designs over time, a lot of great ideas we have wouldn't get us very far.

So, let’s look at how engineers have built and continually enhanced solutions that harvest the power of the wind and thus contributing to lowering our reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source.

At least 5000 years ago, people were propelling their boats along the Nile River with wind energy. By 200 B.C., the Chinese had water pumps powered by wind. Around the same time, the Persians had windmills with woven-reed blades grinding grain. Merchants brought wind technology to Europe. And when Europeans made their way to North America, settlers used windmills for various purposes. Over the millennia, engineers have gradually tinkered with techniques and materials and incorporated the latest research findings to construct more efficient and applicable solutions. Yet even modern-day wind turbines come with their challenges, so engineers are already working on a future generation of wind turbines called solid-state turbines.

However, the most efficient solution is not always the best answer. And the application of the solution may face challenges based on the deployment context. Take wind turbines as an example; some people have protested the construction of turbines close to their homes. They feel disturbed by the turbine’s noise when the wind pushes the rotors to full speed. Turbines can be placed far away from population areas, but efficiently transporting that energy to where it is consumed can be challenging.

So, every engineering team must keep these requirements in mind when building solutions:

  • User experience - make any solution easy to implement and use; ideally without requiring much training upfront
  • User acceptance - no need to be perfect, but it must be acceptable for both the target audience but also for those who encounter any solution
  • Think evolution, not revolution - most people don’t like big changes, so take an evolutionary approach when improving a solution. Familiarity often trumps cutting edge novelty

These engineering requirements also hold true as we think about possible green energy improvements as they apply to the enterprise networking industry.

So, what can we conclude? Sure, when people first think of saving the polar bears, words like 'environmentalist' or 'politician' often come to mind. However, a key group of people is incredibly good at reducing environmental impact regardless of the economic climate, political situation, or social pressure — that group is engineers. As previously stated, wind power was deployed and enhanced by engineers over thousands of years. And now it's up to today's engineers to tackle climate change—and save the polar bears—with innovative design.

At Extreme Networks, we are making our impact on the environment a top-level priority, as outlined in our latest Corporate Social Responsibility Report by our Chief Administrator & Sustainability Officer, Katy Motiey. We are already working with our supply chain partners to measure our greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that our products and solutions are compliant with the Restriction of Hazardous Substance (ROHS) and Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives.

Regarding our products and solutions, we intend to help our customers with energy consumption savings in the years moving forward.

To achieve this goal, we will have to understand which factors significantly impact energy consumption. Initial areas our engineers are researching:

  • Latest hardware chipsets: more packets for your Watts
  • Energy-Efficient Ethernet (EEE) to allow interfaces to get some rest and thus use less energy
  • Perpetual and Fast PoE to build a more condensed and energy-efficient switching network
  • Wi-Fi and radio frequency (RF) optimization
  • Network design options
  • Disabling Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports during off hours: Can this be implemented in production environments without impacting user experience?

I already see big question marks in your eyes; how will you measure the impact of these factors in real production networks to get a valuable and realistic result? And the easy answer is that the most critical resource will be, of course, Extreme Networks customers!

Some of our most supportive customers have agreed to help us on this journey by allowing us to collect a vast array of metrics, so we get a baseline for understanding and improving our products and solution designs. Our engineers are currently building a metrics collector and will soon be launching it with those customers. We invite you to come with us on this journey over the next few months to learn from our results.

Have you ever heard of Golang, Docker, TimescaleDB, Loki, or Grafana? Later in the blog series, I will write about some of these cool technologies and machine learning algorithms that we utilize to collect, store, analyse, and present data for energy consumption savings with enterprise networking solutions.

About the Author
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Cammy Perry
Content Marketing Specialist

Cammy is a Content Marketing Specialist at Extreme Networks, leveraging her expertise to craft thought leadership and engaging content.

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