In 2008 and 2009, green networking was a hot topic in the storage and enterprise space. It was impossible to attend an exhibition or conference without seeing a raft of roundtables, presentations and general hype about the topic. There were even some dedicated green networking shows. Although I have to confess that the only thing memorable about these events was the non-green nature of my carbon footprint to attend.

In 2010, green networking appears to have lost some of its buzz. One need only review the agendas for some of the larger enterprise-focused shows to see this. Take IP Expo or 360IT as examples. Green has clearly been replaced by cloud. And while I agree that cloud computing certainly includes elements of green networking, I cannot help feel a little concerned that green networking appears to have disappeared as a critical topic of discussion.

In an earlier blog post, I discussed the alarming growth of data being generated and transported across the world’s networks: How much data is too much data. In 2010, it is estimated that the digital universe will reach 1.2 zettabytes. This represents a 68% increase over 2008. Over 70% of this data is user generated and is frequently shared on sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Fickr. One can only imagine how much energy is required to store and transport this amount of data.

However, it’s encouraging to see the work being carried out by some of the monoliths of the IT industry to address this data growth in a sustainable fashion. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are currently building server farms along the Columbia River in Oregon, USA, in an effort to use greener and ultimately cheaper hydro-generated electricity. This comes at a time when the EPA estimates that data centre power will have doubled by 2011, generating a bill of $7.4 billion in electricity costs.

Yet while some companies are addressing the need to use greener renewable fuels to power their networking, the big question remains as to what the manufacturers of networking equipment are doing to ensure that their technology is less power hungry. Only when these two items are married together will we start to see some real impact.

Reassuringly, there appears to be some movement here and a number of innovative new projects have been announced that will pave the way for other manufactures to follow suit. Most recently was the launch of the EU-funded Colourless and Coolerless Components for Low-Power Optical Networks project. Thankfully abbreviated to the C-3PO project, this scheme aims to address power consumption in optical systems, exploring methods to reduce power while at the same time retaining the necessary data throughput.

For an in-depth overview of this topic, please review Roy Rubsenstein’s article on Gazettabyte.

Still, this is only one project and more needs to be done.

I intend to revisit this topic after visiting some of the exhibitions and conferences later in the year. Until then, I’d be interested to hear your views on green networking and what’s being done to lower power consumption. I wonder if Al Gore would care to comment…

Read more on the C-3PO project here.