The Rising Need for 5G Test Lab Power Conservation Solutions

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Test lab power conservation solutions leveraging next-generation automation best practices and technologies also deliver broader benefits and efficiencies which relate to test team productivity, time to market, and a broad scope of Opex and Capex costs.

In my last blog on this topic, I covered the growing need for test lab power conservation solutions and outlined essential prerequisites to achieve that goal. While the challenge of power conservation is generally acknowledged as a pressing requirement, the exact scope of addressing that need might be a matter of debate.

The perceptions within different levels of management can influence the responsiveness to that challenge. On the frontlines, a number of lab directors and managers may be focused more on maintaining the status quo while striving to sustain efficiencies within a traditional, albeit comparatively constrained, perspective of the testing framework.

Some of these stakeholders may see comprehensive modernization efforts could impact their resource count through reductions, and departmental budget, and hence might be instinctively resistant to considering large-scale change in their labs and feel addressing the challenge with short-term DIY (do-it-yourself) solutions addresses the problem.

The C-level executives in the same organization, however, can no longer view this as a sunk cost and understand that this trend is expected to only get worse if this is not addressed. They’re very likely interested in optimizing labs to reduce costs of powering and cooling the labs, to improve their bottom line in the short and long term.

Since 5G equipment requires 2-3 times more energy than 4G, it's inevitable that if 5G test labs haven’t been modernized to accommodate power conservation goals, along with other automation testing objectives, that it’s getting late in the game.

Without optimization and modernization, the state of many 5G test labs is they have:

  • No reliable visibility of the equipment inventory power usage and utilization

  • Unused equipment which stays powered on and consumes costly power for no reason

  • No way available to remotely power off/on individual devices as they are needed

  • Unpredictable and constantly rising cost of power which will increase for the foreseeable future

These factors affect the overall cost of energy used by labs, but also underscore the critical inefficiencies which relate to test team productivity and the wider scope of Opex and Capex costs.

Simply put: 5G test lab modernization is table stakes for success in the future.

Lab Power blog graphic 1

Typical profile of test lab before modernization

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

  • 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

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

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

The bigger picture of test lab modernization benefits

Beyond power reduction benefits, an organization also gains optimized productivity of their test team which is released from the painstaking obligation of configuring the test lab manually. This maximizes lab gear usage, as well as substantial test team time requirements, leaving them available for developing test cases or other high-value workflows related to testing. These newly realized efficiencies shed light on expanded benefits in Opex savings – created by increased test team productivity – and Capex savings – delivered by lab optimization and the potential of consolidation for larger organizations which can support significant reductions in the hardware footprint of test labs.

The key to success is choosing the right solution from the start. A number of lab managers look at power distribution units (PDU) units as the answer to this challenge. These DIY approaches are available in two types: basic or intelligent (monitored PDU). While the intention may be correct, the specifics of lab test gear often require nuanced considerations. It’s not the same as turning on and off a light. Many of the test devices may require software shutdown steps and phases that must be considered. Graceful and non-impactful shutdown is key.

From lab management perspective, having visibility into who’s using specific equipment, and during what time periods, is prerequisite intelligence for controlling the access and usage through workflow automation, topology management, and resource reservation. This usage data through report analytics provides key intelligence for controlling the powering up and down at gear their required times. That capability also provides the ability to measure power usage of hardware in the test lab to assess the ROI for the lab modernization solution’s business value. This business value is extended by being able to identify which lab equipment is redundant and informs planning for budget requirements of future lab hardware acquisitions and reductions.

Lab Power blog graphic 2

Sample future state of test lab modernization

Potential solution efficiencies beyond power reduction

Innovations in the way an organization tests with automation can further drive power efficiencies. For example, one of Spirent’s customers originally required 6 months to conduct a particular testing campaign. With the adoption of an advanced test lab automation solution, that time was reduced to two days, offering the capability of wider improvements in productivity with other testing campaigns. Measuring the benefit of reducing power usage of lab equipment from 6 months to 2 days is straightforward. Changing the way testing is performed in this way will change the power demands and requirements. By testing more rapidly, the result is significant reduction in the utilization of test gear dramatically, thereby reducing the power consumption footprint in significant and measurable ways.

Comprehensive enablement of testing campaigns

Solution influences beyond test lab optimization deliver efficiencies in the lab that can contribute directly to the entire organization’s competitiveness in the marketplace by providing the foundation for continuous integration and continuous delivery/deployment (CI/CD) in testing campaigns. Because the continuous delivery process is based on automation and collaboration, an automated and collaborative lab environment is a requirement. Solutions of this nature foster DevOps and NetOps collaboration and facilitate a path to siloed to federation, full automation, and consolidation of test labs which can lead to wider business value.

The more efficient, collaborative, and visible the test lab is, the faster and more effective the innovation driving the process of continuous quality will be. An automated lab is the foundation for sustaining a continuous flow of product innovation and enhancement. Holistic automation of lab processes lays the foundations for a CI/CD innovation pipeline and is a prerequisite for continuous testing (CT) an ultimate goal of many organizations, where Spirent has fostered the acceleration of test time to market by 300x.

Learn more, read the white paper (which includes a sustainability case study): 5G Test Lab Power Conservation Strategies and Spirent’s solution brief: Lab Power Conservation Solution.




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.