Sustainable Network Operations (SNO)

Contact the Chairs

The SNO SIG welcomes your engagement, ideas, and activities. The chairs, Alex Clemm and Carlos Pignataro, can be contacted here

Scope and Objectives

The United Nations through the World Commission on Environment and Development has defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The greatest challenge for sustainability lies in environmental and climate change. Humankind’s most important and urgent task to address these lies in reducing greenhouse gas emission and shifting to renewable energy. 

Communication networks can bring sustainability benefits as well as challenges. Invariably, they play a very important role in addressing sustainability: from resource and energy efficiency optimization opportunities, enablement of applications that reduce the need for physical travel including teleworking and remote operations, to smarter agriculture, more efficient factory floors, and shifting workloads to compute powered with renewable energy.

At the same time, while the networking industry has developed and deployed many resiliency and performance optimizations, sustainability goals are yet to become primary considerations. Thus far, energy efficiency improvements in networks are primarily the result of decades of unprecedented growth in speeds and users served. Outside of battery-powered networking, sustainability goals including higher energy efficiency without growth, end-to-end energy efficiency, or technologies to support the shift to renewable energies has not yet become a primary consideration for the networking industry. 

It is thus of growing importance to design, develop, and operate networks themselves that are “greener”, and devise solutions that allow communications networks to be operated in ways that make them more sustainable while continuing to meet changing traffic demands and service level requirements.

Many of today’s improvements are driven by general advances in computing hardware as well as in transmission technologies (both fixed and wireless). While it is critical to capitalize on this hardware and transmission driven opportunity, the complexity and interdependence of this problem calls for a holistic approach: it is important to extend questions of “greenness” to other layers in the networking stack, to different planes (data, control, and management), to routing and traffic forwarding, to the ways in which networks are organized and deployed. 

For example, can data planes be designed in ways that make them more energy-efficient? What protocol advances could enable greener networking solutions? How can networks be optimized not just for QoS or utilization but for minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and maximizing energy and power efficiency? What is the role of a sustainability orchestration system? What novel tools are needed to operate networks more sustainably? How can peak demand be flattened to minimize waste due to overprovisioning? How can operators take advantage of traffic seasonality? How can we even properly account for energy usage and other sustainability parameters to be optimized? In which ways can network programmability, fastercontrol loops, and AI- or intent-based networking help? Management technology that is used to operate networks stands at the front and center for many of those questions.

The Special Interest Group (SIG) on Sustainable Network Operations (SNO) aims to encourage and facilitate discussion, exchange of ideas, and development of solutions related to those questions. It aims to provide a cooperative and open forum for researchers, complementing other vendor-focused fora. 

Topics of Interest

The areas of interests include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Network optimization for sustainability and power consumption
  • Carbon-aware internet protocols
  • Network operations and orchestration for sustainability
  • Network instrumentation for energy consumption
  • Energy-efficient VNF placement and Service Function Chaining
  • Pollution-aware / energy-aware / power source-aware routing
  • AI/ML techniques for optimization of energy efficiency
  • Analytical models of network sustainability
  • Decentralized power source management
  • Virtual energy and sustainability in virtualized environments
  • Sleep-mode aware orchestration
  • Protocols for rapid resource commissioning/decommissioning
  • Carbon-based accounting for networking services
  • Solution benchmarking with respect for sustainability
  • Cloud-Edge Continuum from a sustainability viewpoint
  • Sustainable capacity planning to minimize overprovisioning
  • Holistic cost optimization, with energy cost as one factor
  • Computing as an element of end-to-end communications
  • Workload adaptivity in the presence of federated learning workloads

Proposed Activities

The SIG will aim to organize activities to foster the growth of a community of researchers interested in solutions to facilitate more sustainable operations of communication networks. To this end, it will aim to provide opportunities for peer-reviewed publications and discussion forum for ideas. 

Concrete activities may involve organization of a journal/magazine special feature issue around the topic of SNO. Possibilities include IEEE Communications Magazine, TNSM, JNSM, or IJNM. It may also involve technically sponsoring development of a tutorial on the topic of network sustainability, to be presented at various conferences (sponsored by CNOM e.g. NOMS/NetSoft/CNSM, Comsoc e.g. Globecom, ICC, Infocom, and beyond). Another possibility concerns the organization of related workshops, possibly in collaboration with othercommunities such as the IETF and their IAB series of workshops. (We propose to roll out these steps over time in order to grow the community first and avoid overstretching.) We would also like SNO to maintain a Web presence (possibly Wiki- or Github-based to facilitate maintenance by the community) and ideally a mailing list with public mail archive. 

In addition to providing a collaboration platform for joint publications and/or research proposals, a key activity of the SIG will be to organise several events including: (i) yearly conference/workshop, (ii) keynote speeches, panels and tutorials at conferences/workshops, and (iii) journal special issues.


Alexander Clemm, Futurewei, USA

Carlos Pignataro, NC State University, USA

Founding Members:

Alessio Sacco, Politecnico di Torino, Italy

Ali Rezaki, Nokia, Germany

Cedric Westphal, Futurewei, USA

Dirk Kutscher, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou), China

Eric Voit, Cisco, USA

Guido Marchetto, Politecnico di Torino, Italy

Jan Lindblad, Cisco, USA

Jérôme François, Inria Nancy Grand Est, France

Lars Eggert, Mozilla, Finland

Laurent Ciavaglia, Nokia, France

Laurent Metzger, Ostschweizer Fachhochschule, Switzerland

Luciano Paschoal Gaspary, UFRGS, Brazil

Luis Contreras, Telefonica, Spain

Michael Welzl, University of Oslo, Norway

Mouli Chandramouli, Chennai Mathematical Institute, India

Noura Limam, University of Waterloo, Canada

Romain Jacobs, ETH, Switzerland (* open publications only)

Toerless Eckert, Futurewei, USA

Yannis Viniotis, NC State University, USA