Three Ways SD-WAN and Networking-as-a-Service Benefit Sustainability and ESG

By: Gabriel Gomane, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Environment, social, and governance, or ESG, has become a hot topic in corporate strategy as a key component to driving shareholder value and interest. Sustainability, in particular, is often considered the main focus to attain ESG goals due to growing climate change concerns. That strategy, however, must look beyond traditional methods and expand to encompass IT and corporate computing practices, which in turn can drive a significant chunk of an organization’s carbon footprint through its vast energy needs.

In a recent Gartner survey, CEOs considered environmental sustainability as a key differentiator and placed environmental sustainability in the top 10 strategic business priorities. Additionally, 74% of CEOs agreed that increasing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts attract investors toward their companies[1].

Driving the ESG trend are a number of factors that are having a major effect on the strategy of enterprise organizations:

  • Regulatory: With the 2015 Paris Agreement, governments across the globe agreed to reach carbon neutrality or net-zero by 2050[2] to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F). To achieve these goals, individual governments must create more stringent requirements to reduce carbon emissions. To get there, governments are now instituting carbon pricing, such as carbon tax or Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). They are also created new regulations, such as the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities, a framework that clarifies which investments are actually sustainable.
  • Market forces: Younger generations, especially Millennials and Generation Z, are making a point to only purchase from organizations engaging in verified sustainable practices.
  • Corporate valuations: Organizations with good ESG practices are perceived by investors to be safer and more stable investments. What is more, organizations can create win-win scenarios through ESG, such as improving resource efficiency and costs, potentially increasing operating profits by up to 60 percent, according to a McKinsey Study[3].
  • Improving talent: Workers want to ensure the organizations they work for are doing their part to help the environment. Organizations that effectively demonstrate sustainability are more likely to attract and retain top talent.

Improving Sustainability Across the Organization

There are multiple ways enterprises can deliver more sustainable products and services, such as reducing energy consumption and then switching to renewable energy supply as much as possible. Other factors include reducing waste, improving recycling practices, and choosing suppliers and vendors that also have effective ESG programs.

Beyond the most common reasons organizations embark on digital transformation, including creating new customer experiences, mobile apps, or improving processes and business capabilities, they can also take advantage of digital transformation to be more environmentally friendly. Those sustainable steps may include migrating applications to the cloud, where computing energy is typically used more efficiently and/or created more sustainability than the traditional corporate datacenter, going paperless, and then implementing new business processes that minimize travel needs and expenses, including improving remote work functionality.

To get there, organizations often need to modernize legacy IT and network infrastructure, not only to support sustainability efforts but also to reduce the proliferation of IT equipment accumulated over the years.

Companies must therefore rethink networking strategy with an eye toward sustainable methods to implement and operate modern network solutions, including SD-WAN or NaaS (Network-as-a-Service):

  1. Consolidating Branch WAN edge Infrastructure Through SD-WAN

Advanced SD-WAN solutions today integrate key networking and security functions, such as intelligent routing, WAN optimization, and next-generation firewall (NGFW) capabilities within a single platform. They may also offer advanced security features such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), IDS/IPS, DDoS protection, and network micro-segmentation. This integration enables organizations to replace legacy firewalls, routers, and WAN optimization devices with a single appliance, greatly reducing hardware footprint and power consumption.

By consolidating WAN edge infrastructure under a single SD-WAN platform, organizations can reduce power consumption costs by up to three times. Multiplying that switch across a large enterprise can create game-changing reductions in energy and electricity costs. Going further, organizations may also install advanced SD-WAN as a virtual appliance, reducing energy costs even more.

In fact, SD-WAN provides organizations with increased flexibility to manage respective networks. With SD-WAN, network links such as MPLS, broadband internet, and 5G can be combined to optimize network communication from branches to headquarters or to the cloud. Advanced SD-WAN solutions include network optimization techniques such as path conditioning to reduce the effect of jitter and packet loss that can plague the broadband internet experience. WAN optimization can also overcome the effects of network latency due to long distances with protocol acceleration techniques and compression algorithms.

Network administrators can markedly improve IT efficiency by centrally orchestrating network configurations and security policies across the entire fabric. The result is a reduction in errors paired with a more streamlined operation. That central orchestration also provides a clearer view of the entire network to quickly identify and resolve incidents.

  1. Cloud-First Organizations Can Leverage SD-WAN For More Sustainable Operations

Migrating business applications to the cloud helps organizations to be more sustainable in addition to affording greater operational flexibility. Cloud computing enables organizations to reduce power consumption by right-sizing and sharing resources through hardware virtualization and multitenant architectures instead of using dedicated data centers that consume a large amount of energy and electronic equipment.

Advanced SD-WAN fully supports the transition to the cloud by intelligently steering application traffic. Trusted applications such as Microsoft 365 or RingCentral are directly sent to the cloud while untrusted traffic is sent to cloud security services (Security Service Edge – SSE) for further inspection. Therefore, traffic is not backhauled to the data center, which translates into greater efficiency and a reduction in power consumption. Virtual SD-WAN appliances can also be directly deployed in cloud service providers such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and AWS, to accelerate the SaaS traffic and improve security.

  1. NaaS Was Built with Sustainability in Mind

Networking-as-a-Service (NaaS) enables organizations to implement a network configuration that matches exactly what a business needs in that moment, with the flexibility to adjust as the business grows and evolves. NaaS can be quickly deployed, and conversely, scaled-down—reducing network complexity while optimizing network resources. Additionally, NaaS deployments can be centrally monitored using advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to optimize the network and make changes only when required.

With NaaS, the carbon footprint is further reduced as it relies on datacenters that globally optimize energy consumption and are often powered largely by renewable energy. Additionally, many NaaS vendors have implemented refurbishing programs to give hardware devices a second life. Or, vendors may recycle them responsibly to ensure rare Earth materials can be reused, and then potentially toxic materials are handled appropriately and not left in a landfill.

HPE has recently reaffirmed its promise to become a net-zero enterprise across its entire value chain, accelerating its target date by 10 years from 2050 to 2040.

To achieve that goal and to help customers and partners along the way, HPE GreenLake is an edge-to-cloud platform that helps meet the sustainability goals of digital organizations. It provides multiple services including compute, storage, data protection, and networking (NaaS). Customers transitioning to HPE GreenLake from traditional CapEx models can achieve a greater than 30 percent reduction in energy costs and total cost of ownership.

Additionally, the HPE Asset Upcycling Services (AUS) program enables organizations to safely retire and recycle IT equipment. It also includes a HPE Circular Economy Report with a summary of items upcycled and the impact and savings achieved.

The Aruba EdgeConnect platform, part of HPE GreenLake, is a secure SD-WAN solution that helps organizations accelerate its sustainability efforts while modernizing the network. It includes advanced SD-WAN capabilities coupled with NGFW features allowing organizations to retire legacy firewalls and routers, reduce the hardware footprint, and save energy. The solution fully supports multi-cloud architectures that align with the environmental goals of modern, digital enterprises. Available as-a-service, the solution is flexible and highly scalable to match every business need.

To learn more about Aruba EdgeConnect SD-WAN, please visit Aruba EdgeConnect Enterprise SD-WAN.

Other resources:

Four reasons to replace your branch firewall with a secure SD-WAN

HPE GreenLake Sustainability web page

Aruba and sustainability in a circular economy

HPE GreenLake for Aruba solution overview

[1] Source: Gartner Survey Reveals Significant Shifts in CEO Thinking on Sustainability, Workforce Issues and Inflation in 2022

[2] Source: Paris Agreement, Wikipedia

[3] Source: How the E in ESG creates business value, McKinsey, 2020

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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