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  • Writer's pictureChris Reed

E-Waste and Plain Old Waste - Manufacturers Can and Should Do Better

In addition to wireless, I do a decent amount of wired networking in support of my wireless love. Every time I do i'm blown away at the amount of waste that is produced from a single switch install, and the amount of E-waste produced with subscription licensing models tied to hardware. For organizations that tout their green initiatives, they do a piss poor job actually doing green things.

Plain Old Waste

I'm going to pick on Extreme Networks, but they are only an example and certainly not the only one doing this. I'll look at the Extreme X460-G2 since it's a very common switch offering in a lot of orders.

The Extreme X460-G2 is a modular switch, meaning you can get front or rear facing power supplies and fan modules, as well as an expansion module in the back that can support stacking, or 40G QSFP, or Timing modules for SyncE or 1588PTP. Because of this the fan module, the 2x power supplies the expansion module are all seperately specced and shipped.

  • First you've got the switch, coming in a box with foam and a plastic bag protecting the switch, with a box containing the console cable, 4 post rack rails, ears, screws etc.

  • Then you've the the 2x power supplies, in separate boxes, with foam and a plastic bag protecting the power supply.

  • Then you've got a fan module, in a box with folded cardboard protecting the module, and a bag protecting the module

  • Then you've got an expansion card, in a box with foam and cardboard and a bag

  • Then you've got the SFP+ modules, where even if you are buying hundreds they ship individually in tiny little boxes, each module with a bag and foam and cardboard, then organized into 10 packs.

The result of all of this modularity is a massive pile of foam, plastic, and cardboard at the end of unboxing a single switch, all but the cardboard going into the garbage. The easiest way to correct all of the waste is to allow for 5 packs or 10 packs for modules, fans, and SFPs to reduce the amount of overall packaging. Most people aren't buying a single SFP, or a single power supply, use it to your advantage.


Now I get to pick on Meraki, but they're just the one I've been personally burned by, others are at fault as well. Everyone has their licensing woes but few are as widespread or impactful as Meraki. For those that don't know the licensing model for Meraki is to buy the hardware upfront, then buy a subscription for it. When the subscription runs out and you don't renew it, the hardware stops forwarding traffic and you get a lovely little email telling you about it

Now I don't have a problem with the subscription going away, I do have an issue with the fact that I've got some great hardware that's now sitting in my basement that I cannot do anything with, it's a paperweight. It wont switch, it wont route, it won't beacon, and there is no alternative firmware available that would let me administer the device locally. Every single un-renewed subscription for Meraki will end up in an electronics recycling center, or just straight into the garbage because there is no other viable use for it. Other devices can be donated to a non-profit, or end up in your lab, or feed your entertainment center, but not these.

So manufacturers, the next time you are boasting about all of the recycling you do, or your new LEED certified office space, or your reduction in energy consumption for your latest green initiative, maybe you should take a look at your products. They make you look dirty.

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