What sustainable networking (and technology) really means

Sustainable networking is the smart, future-proof way to build infrastructure and receive value that compounds with time.

Jun 8th, 2021

We talk a lot about sustainable networking. The idea is simple: extending the value of your assets, whether already existing, newly acquired, or future investments. Doing so will reduce the inevitable impact on the environment, your cost projections, and ROI calculations -- making it sustainable in every way.

Sounds great in theory, but many still have a hard time with the real-world benefits and scale of sustainable technology when it comes to application. Unsurprising, since we're living in an ever-changing world where we seem to be constantly moving forward. On the consumer side, we change our tech every few years, from smartphones to laptops. On the corporate side, you may be pressured to go to the cloud, to the edge, and perhaps to "the beyond." (That's what's next, and we're taking credit for coining the term!)

Some of the urgency to upgrade is valid: your hardware simply gives out, or security lapses require updates to our tech, for example. Sometimes the benefit of investing in the new justifies the cost. But sometimes, it's just an arbitrary cycle set by a technology vendor, like in the case of decommissioning perfectly serviceable pieces of hardware because the appliance vendor said so.

Talking about 'sustainable technology' in 'the beyond'...

Space exploration is often the tale of sustainable technology, conquering the "beyond." And if you think the "beyond" of space has little to nothing to do with network management, we have one word for you: Starlink.

Want to see sustainable technology? Space exploration equipment is made to be sustainable; more often than not, the technology has to survive more time than the average smartphone's lifespan before it even begins its mission. And sustainability has a tendency to overperform. For example, the Curiosity rover on Mars has outdone its original mission parameters by 800% when it roamed the Red Planet for eight years instead of just one. (And we're talking Martian years, which are almost two Earth years!)

Solar System Interactive
NASA’s Solar System Interactive (also known as the Orrery) is a live look at the solar system, its planets, moons, comets, and asteroids, as well as the real-time locations of dozens of NASA missions.

But what's perhaps the ultimate example of sustainable technology dates back to much earlier than Curiosity, to 1977. Since that summer, the Voyager spacecrafts have been working tirelessly and reliably. And they're still out there, after 43 years, in interstellar space 22 billion kilometers away. And they're still transmitting data back that scientists still use to learn about the universe and beyond. Show a piece of technology that can say the same just in terms of lifespan, let alone operating conditions.

The Voyagers launched years before DNS was developed, let alone the modern internet and our everyday connected gadgets. Just look at this photo from the Voyager control room:

This was taken three years after the spacecrafts were launched, and a lot can (and usually does) happen in just three years.

Impressive, right? But what does it have to do with you (or us) in 2021?

From NASA in space to your company on Earth

Comparing space exploration to the everyday operations of an enterprise network isn't fair, of course. But you know what else has been around almost as long as the Voyagers? DNS.

The Voyager spacecrafts and the Curiosity rover haven't changed since they've been hurled into the unknown on top of a couple of tons of explosives. DNS has changed, but very little compared to almost any other technology out there. DNS is a technology that's also genuinely sustainable.

Sustainability is a mindset that, while maybe not carrying your company into interstellar space or helping it open an office on Mars, yields benefits for your business that far exceed the investment required. Sustainability means not being locked into arbitrary hardware upgrades or forced migrations. It means freedom of movement for data and resources. It means improved ROI for budgetary bottomlines.

Sustainability means the future of your business starts with you.

Technology that wasn’t made to be sustainable, at best, becomes wasted resources. At worst, it becomes a liability, vulnerability, or actively damaging impact. Put it in space terms, non-sustainable technology is like space debris akin to the one hitting and damaging the International Space Station just recently. Maybe you’ll avoid it for years to come, but maybe it’ll hit you soon. Why take the chance?

Sustainable technology, and sustainable networking, creates value that compounds with time. Almost as if sustainability was following Newton’s first law, staying in motion while the effort needed to counter the unbalanced forces of shifting business priorities is lower than reinventing the proverbial wheel every time you change vendors.

Sustainability isn’t a pipe dream, nor a cost without returns. If anything, it’s the smart, future-proof way to build the infrastructure that supports your business – beyond what you thought possible.