Can a VoIP Solution be Green?
It is extraordinary to me that everything has gone green over the past year.
In the early 90s there was a craze for “clear” products as people rejected artificial coloring. In many cases, it made a lot of sense. Pepsi Clear had the same taste, but no carmel coloring. Personal products followed suit and shampoo lost the coloring too. People realized that the color wasn’t adding value and dropped it. But clear got carried away, and the marketers on Park Ave. started dreaming up clear products that weren’t natural. Clear beer as an example – the effort (intervention) required to get the beer clear was completely against the original notion of a more natural product.
Then came the backlash, consumers didn’t want to be fooled and the marketers dropped the clear thing. Sodas, shampoos, and other items went back to their artificial colors. Clear was dead.
Are we on the same path with “green”? At first, all the natural green products went green – solar energy, recycled products, etc. But now just about everything is going green. Even petroleum based products (Icynene insulation) and Chevy Suburbans (Hybrid models to save gas). The latest which caught my eye is now Mitel is marketing their 3300 VoIP platform as a green product. Polycom is positioning their IP products as green.
Let’s take a look at Mitel’s points:
TDM to IP uses 90% less rack space. Well saving rack space can be green since rack space is usually associated with controlled HVAC. Reducing air conditioning needs is certainly green, but old TDM technology really didn’t generate much heat. Unfortunately Mitel doesn’t claim less heat. Assuming less computer rack space is needed, it could keep the overall space and room more contained, but overall it is a weak argument.
Draw .14 watts per user with the Mitel 3300 MXE. This is a highly nebulous statistic that is very difficult to quantify. The core of the problem is the spirit of the comparison is comparing the 3300 VoIP solution to TDM solutions such as the Mitel 2000. This is a bit apples to oranges as the nature of a TDM solution is to provide power to the telephone. The Mitel 3300 MXE does not provide power to the telephones. Therefore, its claim is highly misleading as the solution still requires additional power typically from POE switches or power bricks at the desktop. Can it be claimed the Mitel 3300 MXE uses less power than other VoIP alternatives – perhaps. But that isn’t their claim here (that claim is below).
Switch from 80 Watt PCs to 4 watt Sun Rays: I like this one though a bit apples to oranges. This is really a discussion point for thin clients vs PCs where the typical argument is Total Cost of Ownership. Logically, with green being in, the TCO argument will now include power points. The Mitel angle here is that they have a very slick solution around Sun Ray thin clients – where the phone itself can be the sun ray client (plug monitor, mouse, and keyboard into the phone). It is a very elegant solution for those thin client fans that like Sun Rays. And If the shoe fits, you may as well don a green hat. However, just a guess here – this scenario applies to less than 1% of the Mitel 3300 installed base.
Can a Phone System be Green?
It is certainly easy to poke at Mitel’s attempt, but are we selling clear beer or can a VoIP solution really improve the quality of life on our planet? Oddly, I find that I do think a VoIP solution can fit in with “Green”. Yes, technology can be good.
Basically, all of Mitel’s points above focus on power consumption. Yes, we need to reduce power consumption with more efficient uses. Mitel may offer some competitive benefits over Cisco, but they really aren’t claiming that.
I am not a hardware engineer, but I assume the phones could be more green with either recycled plastics or plastics easy to recycle. Same for the electronics.
Any type of electronic conferencing (3 way calling, conference bridges, video conferencing,…) offer impacts. Mitel (and others) all offer solutions here that can can be argued as green.