A Little Gem of a Spec

eLABorations: It isn't a killer app, but Power over Ethernet is a smart use of technology

Power over Ethernet, the 802.3af specification, is a little gem of a spec that will affect everything from IP telephony to wireless LANs. The 802.3af spec is was finalized late this summer and is moving toward final adoption at the end of this year. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding—and in this case, it is going to be tasty.

The reason is simple: Power over Ethernet provides a standard way for VoIP telephone handsets to emulate the second-most important feature of "real" telephones—the ability to function even during a power outage. That is, if the installers are conscientious about correctly installing uninterruptible power supplies and backup electric generators.

The other cool thing about power over Ethernet is that wireless access points no longer need proprietary products to provide energy when the access point is tacked up on a wall with no outlet close at hand. At NetWorld+Interop in Atlanta this week, we got to see a neat application of this standard in Symbol Technologies Mobius wireless system. First, Symbol separated the RF transceiver from the relatively simple brains of an 802.11a access point. Second, the company used the Power over Ethernet spec to create an easy-to-operate, simple-to-install, basically tamper-proof broadcast endpoint that doesnt need a separate power supply.

The Mobius system is expected to ship in November and eWEEK Labs will review the system as soon as possible. But from the first look we got on the N+I show floor, the Mobius system, which puts all the access point configuration and management in what is basically a wiring closet switch, is going to be a hot ticket.

Power over Ethernet isnt really rocket science, and its not the killer app that will lift the industry from its doldrums. But it is a smart use of technology and one that IT managers should keep an eye as they think about the bread-and-butter issue of squeezing productivity out of their existing network infrastructures.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at cameron_Sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.