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PoE Promises Simplified Infrastructure

Deploying 802.3af PoE on a small scale can be as simple as dropping in a new line card or fixed form-factor switch. Most equipment vendors are planning to ship PoE-enabled line cards and fixed LAN switches, if they haven't done so already. But to deploy PoE enterprisewide you must upgrade your network infrastructure, and you may have to change your physical power infrastructure.

What 802.3af PoE Does

802.3af defines two main elements, the PSE (power sourcing equipment) and the PD (powered device). PSEs, such as Ethernet LAN switches and midspan power injectors, contribute power to the network. PDs, on the other hand, which include wireless access points and video cameras, receive power from it. PDs aren't just networking devices: Any appliance with an RJ-45 connector could conceivably draw power from the network, including a cell phone or a PDA.

Today's 802.3af-based devices offer interoperability and can draw up to 15 watts of power from the network. They have built-in safety mechanisms to protect nonpowered devices like PCs, laptops and printers from stray voltage from an inline power injector.

An 802.3af-compliant PSE typically puts 48 volts on the line. Some of that voltage gets lost along the way because of the resistance of the thin copper wires in your Ethernet cabling plant, resulting in 13.95 watts of usable power at the end device.

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