Energy Efficiency of Cisco Products
The following is an excerpt from the 2019 CSR report.
Improving product energy efficiency is more than just a regulatory requirement for Cisco. It’s an opportunity for us to help customers save on energy costs, lower GHG emissions, and reduce global energy demand. It also makes our products more competitive.1 Recent literature from 2015 has seen GHG emissions from the ICT industry leveling off, with the total energy footprint stabilizing at around 3.6 percent of global electricity consumption.2 While it’s a good start that the ICT energy footprint is not growing, we believe success will ultimately be measured by a decreasing ICT energy footprint and decreasing global energy consumption. That’s why improving product energy efficiency and decreasing energy consumption are important factors in our product development.
We track how much total energy our products use as a Scope 3 Use of Sold Products GHG emission. To calculate this, we first created a manual database of our existing products and listed their typical power rate. When that was unknown, we identified the max power output on the products’ power supply and de-rated that value, providing an approximation of their power rate. We then calculated how many of each product we sold in the previous fiscal year and added that to our database. With those factors, we multiplied the typical power rate by the number of units shipped to determine the total energy consumed by our products sold in that fiscal year. To account for products sold in a previous year, we assumed an average life of five years. We scaled that number using past hardware revenue to determine total energy used by all of our products potentially in use. About 80 percent of emissions were calculated using primary data.
To better calculate this number, we’re exploring ways to create a database to track our products’ energy consumption. Our goal is to automate this process as much as possible to allow for easier energy calculations and more consistent data year over year. By the end of FY20, we plan to have our initial database ready to help calculate our GHG emissions from use of sold products.
Customers and regulators have rising expectations that our products minimize energy costs and GHG emissions. Every year, the number of inquiries related to environmental sustainability we receive from analysts, customers, shareholders, and nongovernmental organizations rises. We track applicable energy-use regulations and certification programs to review compliance needs as requested by our customers.
Improving product energy efficiency
Improving product energy efficiency addresses two key challenges for Cisco. First, to achieve the projected, and required, product performance specifications for the next five to 10 years, Cisco products need an architecture with “energy scalability.” This is one that can provide energy- efficient service for variable traffic types, traffic demands, customer usage, and installs. Second, product use is by far our largest GHG emissions source. To address these challenges, Cisco is investing in five primary product energy efficiency engineering initiatives. These initiatives were chosen as they allow us to have the largest impact on improving our products’ energy consumption.
- Power initiative. We are improving product efficiency of our products from plug to port and set a product power efficiency goal in early FY18. This goal is to improve large rack-mounted- equipment system power efficiency—as measured from the input power from the facility to the board-mounted ASICs, memory, and other chip devices—from 77 percent to 87 percent by FY22 (FY16 baseline). Read more about this goal in our goal announcement blog post. Such a goal drives Cisco to design new power systems that result in a net positive gain in overall product efficiency.
- Thermal initiative. We are exploring alternative methods of cooling (air flow, liquid, and refrigerant cooling) to reduce operating temperatures and facility cooling requirements. Forced air cooling systems in wide use today have limitations in cooling concentrated areas of high power from next-generation packet processing engines. To cool these higher-power components, we must deploy more efficient and effective systems. These advanced cooling systems, targeted towards 2023, will use multiphase cooling techniques to transfer expected thermal output of next- generation switches and routers.
- High-speed interconnects initiative. High- speed silicon-to-silicon or optics-to-silicon interconnects are an integral part of routing and switching systems. These interconnects consume a significant portion of the total system power. We are exploring ways to increase the interconnect speed, driving the gigabits per second per watt (Gbps/W) consumed metric as high as possible. This will increase performance and reduce energy use. By the end of 2020, increasing traffic bandwidth demand will require interconnect speed efficiency to be discussed in terms of Tbps/W of traffic transmitted or received. By 2022, ASIC packet processing technology will likely consume more than 1,000 watts in a 4-inch by 4-inch area, using hundreds of transmit and receive channels and thousands of power connections. This initiative drives optimization in the high-speed signaling interconnect to allow more physical space and effective methods of delivering power to the ASIC.
- Customer facilities initiative. We are working with customers to reduce the amount of energy required to operate IT facilities with power solutions that increase the efficiency of overhead power, avoid step-down transformers, and provide integrated cooling strategies. These end-to-end solutions reduce hardware requirements and energy consumption while providing a more integrated method for managing IT infrastructures. This initiative includes developing power supplies with wide-ranging AC and DC inputs, and Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Pulsed Power systems integrated into connected building applications that reduce the buildout of future electrical infrastructure.
- Power Supply Initiative. Power supplies play a critical role in managing product energy efficiencies, as they are the first step where energy is lost. To overcome this loss, we are working to offer more energy-efficient options for power supplies, giving customers the option of platinum or titanium 80+ rated power supplies whenever possible. This provides cost-sensitive customers the option of selecting lower-rated power supplies, such as gold or silver, while allowing customers concerned about reducing their total energy use to select the higher-rated supplies. For external power supplies, we ship products that are DOE6 compliant, aligning with the latest U.S. energy efficiency standards.
When we evaluate product energy efficiency, we consider the power performance of the entire system. We measure the percent efficiency as electricity passes through each component or function. This can include, for example, the external power supply units (PSU), intermediate bus converter (IBC), point of load (POL), and ASIC, memory, or other chips.
Reducing product energy consumption
Increasing energy efficiency is key to Cisco’s strategy for managing the total amount of energy used by our products, but it is only one part. Cisco produces a wide variety of products ranging in size from access points (APs) to LNE. This means we must take a multifaceted approach to managing energy consumption. Our products fall into three categories in which we report revenue: Infrastructure Platforms, Applications, and Security. Each product segment requires a different approach.
Infrastructure platforms make up the backbone of the network and consume the most energy. The total energy footprint of each of our products is determined mainly by which components we use. As components, such as the ASICs, CPUs, PHYs, and DIMMs, continue to consume more energy, our products will, too. To offset this energy increase, we continue to push the bps/W ratio of our products higher to get superior performance for the additional energy they use.
Our wireless portfolio, which includes APs, also falls under this segment. These products are primarily powered through PoE, making energy consumption a high priority. Each product must fit into the desired PoE standard, ranging from the 802.3af standard of max power at 15.4 W to the 802.3bt max power rating of 90 W. Due to the use case of these products, we design them to minimize their energy consumption during low use periods, such as overnight. Our latest products support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard power-saving feature called Target Wake Time (TWT). TWT allows the AP and client to schedule target wake-up times to exchange data.
Our collaboration portfolio is made up primarily of our IP Phones and telepresence products. Like APs, IP Phones can spend an even greater amount of their lifetime not in use. It’s critical for these products to be designed to efficiently power up for use, then switch into a standby mode to minimize their energy footprint. It is also a priority for our IP Phones to be designed to meet ENERGY STAR standards.
Telepresence products help customers reduce their GHG emissions from business air travel and commuting. When designing these products, we prioritize efficient switching between product use and standby modes. Whenever possible, we design our telepresence line of products to support three modes to minimize energy consumption: off, standby, and networked standby. Products can then be set to transition to either of the two standby modes if no input signals are detected for a predetermined time.
1Use-phase emissions generally account for more than 80 percent of product life-cycle emissions. They account for more than 90 percent of life-cycle emissions for larger routers and switches, because power is higher relative to weight.
2“The Energy and Carbon Footprint of the Global ICT and E&M Sectors 2010–2015” by Malmodin, Jens and Lunden, Dag, pg. 28