Power over Ethernet receives ratification

IEEE approval could give PoE the credibility it requires to enter mainstream adoption. While some end users are already investigating the technology, others warn of the hidden costs.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  February 8, 2004

|~|Stan.jpg|~|3Com’s Stanislas de Boisset says IP telephony is driving PoE adoption in the Middle East.|~|The recently IEEE ratified Power over Ethernet (PoE) 802.3af specification is beginning to garner interest in the Middle East. Key to this growing enthusiasm is the technology’s ability to reduce the costs associated with wireless local area network (WLAN) installations, a factor frequently cited for holding back voice over IP (VoIP) implementations in the region. PoE enables a single ethernet cable to provide users with data connectivity and power, therefore making additional electrical wiring redundant. Although the idea of providing power in such a manner dates back to 1999, when several networking vendors had proprietary solutions, a lack of compatibility has resulted in limited interest. However, by creating an industry standard, the IEEE has helped ensure full interoperability between networking and power equipment, thus availing vendors and end users of its cost cutting benefits. “PoE is very important since it facilitates for a whole new range of products and solutions, ranging from VoIP phones to wireless networks,” says Martin van Schooten, marketing director, Extreme Networks, Europe Middle East & Africa. And, while the region often lags behind more mature markets such as Europe and the US in terms of infrastructure adoption, it appears as though local end user organisations are already buying into PoE. For example, UPS vendor APC notes that many new network installations are utilising the technology. “Most of the VoIP-enabled broadband networks in projects like Dubai Marina and Dubai Land have provisioning for PoE on existing power installations,” says Erik Vossebelt, business development manager, APC Middle East. “We are slowly seeing a higher adoption rate here [in the region.] This is being largely driven by IP telephony and wireless vendors, especially in newly deployed networks,” adds Stanislas de Boisset, network consultant at 3Com Middle East. However, while the benefits of the technology are readily identifiable and certain marquee projects within the region already slated to be using PoE, the recently-ratified technology is not without its issues. For instance, although most Cat 5 cables installed by businesses in the region should support POE with no modification, cost is still a big issue and the technology comes at a premium. “Although PoE is viable in situations where the power access points are mounted in more challenging places and the cost of wiring is high… if the cost of supporting these devices longer term is more than the cost of adding in wiring then the latter is the correct way to go,” says Nabil Sheikh, retail channel sales executive, US Robotics Middle East. “There is still a premium of at least 20% to 30% to pay for PoE-enabled switches and some vendors don’t ship backward compatible networking products,” adds de Boisset. A further hindrance to the adoption of PoE specified kit is the additional complexity it can bring to an end user organisation’s network infrastructure. Although the ability to run both power and data over the same cable should, theoretically, mean less physical management, this does not take into account legacy wiring. “Adding PoE devices into a network adds yet more equipment to be supported and stored for repairs,” says Sheikh. “The other issue to remember is that every device in the network adds to the possible failure modes. Therefore, although [the risks are] small, the reliability of the network reduces with each added device. So, if the network is expected to support a very high reliability system and this is a business requirement, then it may be that the provision of PoE is not the way forward,” he explains. Despite the warnings issued by Sheikh and de Boisset, Yarob Sakhnini, regional technical director at Foundry Networks, argues that the PoE cables themselves are not the issue, rather the implementation. Therefore, once vendors and system integrators have worked out a simple and effective way to deploy the solution, the interest it has garnered thus far can be turned into real world implementations. “In the long term, POE will become a very vital element in the deployment and development of network access, specifically in combination with other technologies like voice, video, wireless, and security,” adds Schooten.||**||

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