By eWEEK Labs  |  Posted 2008-05-14 Print this article Print

Keeping the Link Lights On

Companies are relying on their IP networks for more duties than ever before. At many sites, wireless access points, VOIP (voice over IP) phones and security cameras are offering companies new convergence options, alongside the opportunity to run fewer phone lines and, through the magic of POE (power over Ethernet), fewer power lines.

However, unlike the staid and well-established phone and power lines that Ethernet cabling is bidding increasingly to displace, the standards and products upon which POE schemes are based are in nearly as much flux as are the devices that these networks must serve. As a result, enterprises may be in store for a raft of issues solved long ago in "legacy" wiring schemes.

For one thing, as wireless access points move into the 802.11n era, these devices are becoming markedly more power-hungry, due in part to 802.11n's 3x3 transmit and receive capabilities. For security cameras, support for panning also requires more juice from these devices' POE lifelines.

While there's work going on around making these devices do more without requiring more power, some of these solutions will present their own problems. For instance, some 802.11n access points are designed to fall back to lower-power (and lower-performance) modes.

The primary industry solution to the growing power needs of these devices is a new POE standard, 802.3AT. As the industry moves to 802.3AT, you may find that your existing 802.3AF POE investments won't provide enough power to run some of your devices. Make sure that your vendors provide you with detailed information on the way their products interact with POE.

Considering the relatively high rate of change in the wireless networking, POE and VOIP spaces, however, the best advice moving forward with these technologies is to move forward slowly and to demand forward-compatible road maps from your vendors. --JB 


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