Why data management is ‘key’ to green network strategies

Alex Depper, head of energy optimisation at Virgin Media O2 (centre), shares his thoughts in Windsor, flanked by VMware's Stephen Spellicy (right).

Alex Depper, head of energy optimisation at Virgin Media O2 (centre), shares his thoughts in Windsor, flanked by VMware's Stephen Spellicy (right).

  • Network energy efficiency is a hot topic in the telco community
  • That’s why DSP Leaders World Forum 2023 was extended to include The Green Network sessions
  • Virgin Media O2’s Alex Depper identified data management as key to achieving energy-efficiency goals

WINDSOR, UK – THE GREEN NETWORK – If telecom players are to reduce their energy consumption and cut their carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint, they need to be able to efficiently and accurately gather and analyse data from their networks, according to Alex Depper, head of energy optimisation at Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) (pictured above, centre).

Depper was speaking during the first of three Green Network sessions that made up the second half of day two at the DSP Leaders World Forum 2023, where he was joined on stage by executives from Intel, Red Hat and VMware. 

Data is the key to success, noted the VMO2 executive during the ‘Optimising energy and power usage within networks’ session. “We can’t optimise what we don’t really know is there. There’s a lot of assumptions at the moment, so making data accessible, making it available, making it interoperable with operations support systems [OSS], element management systems [EMS], business support systems [BSS] so that we can bring it into one place rather than having to fish around – that will speed up our workflow and our decision-making massively,” he said.

As the industry is on a journey to try to standardise “energy impacts on key performance metrics”, regardless of whether this is measured in terms of kilowatt hours (kWh) per terabit of data or some other metric(s), operators need to “have that really clear vision: Here’s your roadmap and here’s what that means from an efficiency perspective,” Depper explained in reference to the ways vendors can assist telcos on their sustainability path.

“At the moment, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the energy impact is, and I think there’s probably a better way for us to work with our vendors to know that impact upfront, without having to do sort of ‘the magic maths’ in between,” he said. 

Adding perspective from the vendor side, Red Hat’s global telecommunications solutions manager, Hanen Garcia, concurred, saying that the first priority is “building the knowledge [and] understanding [of] how we can measure things.” He added that Red Hat has been working towards that from two angles: “We have been working on the open-source community, so we have been part of Kubernetes and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) on energy and efficiency, trying to understand the platform and [with] projects like Kepler, where we actually bring the capability of measuring how much a software is consuming on a cloud-native infrastructure.” 

Another effort includes working with the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) on telemetry and measurements to assess the sustainability of a network.

Stephen Spellicy, head of marketing at VMware’s service provider and edge business unit, noted that telecom players need “good instrumentation, but also analytics to understand the impact of the power consumption and footprint in their datacentre.” VMware has tools that enable telcos see what effect workloads are having on power usage. “Understanding how you’re behaving, getting a good strong baseline for performance, but also for consumption” is vital, he said.

Intel’s director of the network and telecommunications group, Robert Prince, acknowledged that there’s more the industry could be doing to help network operators. “For example, reducing the carbon footprint of reference designs,” and  “working with the software community and our partners very significantly to take advantage of the underlying platforms, if you will, that are available today.”

And later in the day, Anita Döhler, CEO of the NGMN Alliance, highlighted that the concept of green networks is “not only about network energy efficiency, it’s also about other measures to reduce the carbon footprint.”

She added: “When it comes to innovation – yes, we need to accelerate it, but we also have a lot of other options already now in the networks by optimising processes, by introducing algorithms to steer the network dimensioning to match the actual demand at any moment in time.”

You can catch up with all of the Green Network sessions, as well as the DSP leaders World Forum sessions, on demand here.  

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV