Power over Ethernet: State of the Technology


Three years since its introduction, Power over Ethernet (PoE) has maintained steady growth in the marketplace, according to a study by Natick, Mass.-based VDC. The ever-growing penetration for PoE in Ethernet switches is allowing enterprises and small businesses to easily deploy more and more installations.

VDC's recently published report, “PoE: Global Market Opportunity Analysis,” estimates that the PoE switch market will grow at a four-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32%. Similarly, applications for telephony, WLAN and security are predicted to witness a 36% four-year CAGR.

As part of the study, VDC conducted interviews and surveys with PoE end users to determine their current and future PoE solution requirements and preferences. The exhibit below ranks the leading reasons end users selected to implement a PoE system.

Reasons for Purchasing PoE-enabled Solutions

(0-Not Important, 5-Very Important)

(Average Respondent Rankings)

Power Management Control & Security: 2.2

Improved Reliability: 3.2

Cost Saving: 3.2

Compatibility with Legacy: 3.6

Increased Flexibility: 4

Today, various implementations for in-line power exist. While some vendors offer both proprietary and standards-based solutions, the underlying concepts for each of the technologies generally stays the same. To better understand how legacy implementations for Power over Ethernet have withstood, VDC probed users and vendors to analyze today's market and industry preferences.

Currently most PoE products comply with the 802.3af specification. Approximately 6% of respondents indicated that their products did not, while 11% did not know. This penetration was impressive since the technology has only been publicly available for 3 years.

Some 55% of PoE users noted that standards compliance was not a major concern, contradicting the strong vendor and OEM beliefs for incorporating standards based solutions. Nevertheless, the varying opinions were most likely a result of unique market perspectives. PoE vendors and OEMs rely heavily on standards compliance so that customers can be more flexible and incorporate multi-vendor solutions into their architectures, while end users are more interested in implementing a working solution rather than learning on how that solution works at the core.

The enterprise communities suggested a stronger awareness for compliance than did the industrial ones. Enterprises are more likely to incorporate an assortment of PoE flavors into their solutions, while industrial environments typically use silo architectures that encompass a one-to-one relationship between the vendor and their solution.

"PoE is still a growing technology that appears to be satisfying both the technical expectations set by end users and growth expectations set by the industry," says Spyros Photopoulos, analyst with VDC's telecom practice. "Adoption for PoE will only increase as the new higher-powered PoE Plus standard proposes to enable a broader range of supported applications."

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