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Test Lab Power Conservation Strategies 101


Organizations across the telecom space have common areas of concern regarding controlling power and cooling costs in their test labs. Sustainability and minimizing impacts to the environment are also in focus. All require a comprehensive solution to address the rising challenge.

To varying degrees, we’ve seen our global customers grappling with a similar challenge. Telecommunication network carriers, services providers, equipment manufacturers, suppliers, and enterprise organizations have common areas of concern with controlling power and cooling costs in their test labs. In addition, sustainability and minimizing impacts to the environment are in focus.

Over the past two years, commercial energy prices increased an average of 13% in the US. Energy costs are surging beyond that rate in parts of the US and regions around the world. And for test labs, 5G equipment requires 2-3 times more energy than 4G if network equipment is not intelligently controlled. We’ve seen examples where that wasn’t the case.

While all labs are different, a case in point would include one Tier 1 carrier whose test equipment utilization policies were out-dated, and were impacting their bottom line. In the old days, all the test gear was kept running, even when not in use. Today, with the cost of energy, that’s a non-starter. The degree to which that gear is left on can be sobering.

In this example, 77% of the Tier 1’s test gear was left on 90% of the time. With that percentage of test gear running for that amount of time, it impacts operating costs in a significant measurable way. It’s a no brainer to lab managers seeking to lower engergy costs where to make prioritized improvements in their lab management strategy. Adopt a solution that effectively manages lab equipment utilization.

But, that’s only part of the picture.

A comprehensive strategy for energy conservation

As inflation trends significantly impact already high energy costs, we see leaders to searching for meaningful and holistic solutions to address this challenge, and more. ‘Holistic’ is the operative word here. To achieve that goal, decision makers need to recognize test hardware in labs is energy-intensive and too often lab utilization is inefficient, with unused equipment often left on in highly air-conditioned environments. As well, beyond rising cooling and power costs, Capex costs soar as redundant equipment drives up budget spend across teams in the same labs, or other global locations, precisely when budgets are getting tighter.

But it doesn’t end there.

Organizations looking at these measures traditionally turn to a lab optimization solution to address this but recognizing the opportunity to realize wider efficiencies when adopting a solution of this nature is key to maximizing budget spend on a solution of this nature. Why? Because Opex costs will continue to rise as long as manual test configuration is involved in any aspect of testing. This also leads to high labor costs, lower productivity, and slower time to market.

The capabilities of a forward-looking test lab optimization solution should include:

  • Lab consolidation reducing physical footprint, energy use and carbon emissions

  • Equipment utility reduction through shared equipment and automated test scheduling

  • Automated power down of unused gear for optimal power consumption management

  • Accurate equipment utilization reporting for data-driven equipment investments and planning

  • Global solutions addressing a range of regional challenges also take into account Net Zero and a variety of sustainability programs

That’s a tall order for many organizations to achieve on their own with a DIY approach, as well as for some test lab optimization partners. One of the key factors for success is a lab management and automation partner who has their own technology platform that interfaces seamlessly with all third-party test equipment in the lab.

Having their own platform means the platform evolves in alignment with customer needs. Too often third-party lab optimization platforms have their own roadmap plans that are not directly aligned with the customers of their system integrators. As new customer needs emerge, and new challenges and opportunities are identified, the platform roadmap may not be in sync with this evolution.

We’ve seen that happen and it’s been the source of unnecessary frustration, and in the long run, can be an expensive proposition. In some cases, the solution fails to grow with the customer, and a transition to a new solution is required. Success begins with making the right choice from the start, and that involves asking the right questions at the right time.

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Bob Dietrich

Global Head, Services Solutions Architect

Bob Dietrich is an accomplished telecom and cloud solutions architect with 30 years of experience. Focusing on OSS and network management, he has supported a wide range of solutions throughout their lifecycle, from vision, business case justification, design, test, deployment, and customer acceptance and satisfaction.