As a further indication of the acceptance of power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technology, Cisco has launched a range of Catalyst switches incorporating the recently ratified IEEE 802.3af standard.

According to Dean Smith, product marketing manager for Cisco UK, the company already included PoE capabilities within some of its switches but the new launches would support the standard, although he stressed that the new switches would also support the existing Cisco implementation of PoE “even though the two technologies are completely different”.

Cisco is introducing PoE for the Catalyst 3750, 6500 and 4500 ranges and a new standalone PoE switch family, the Catalyst 3560. Smith said there would a small price premium for the new switches, but it was “a single-digit percentage”.

The new products would be very attractive for organisations, Smith said, who were looking to roll out applications such as TV monitoring or door-entry systems, although much of the existing take-up for PoE technology had been in IP phone implementations. He said that there had been particular interest from the public sector, aware of the cost savings that could be made. “By powering devices using existing Cat 5 cable, organisations have no need to use a qualified electrician.”

Analysts haven’t been slow to offer their support. "With the ratification of the IEEE 802.3af standard, the potential uses for powered Ethernet ports go way beyond just phones and WLAN access points," said Dave Passmore, research director for the Burton Group.

"With a number of Ethernet powered products already on the market including Bluetooth access points, GSM picocells, web-based security cameras, data collection control terminals, lighting controllers, and print servers, users will see clear benefits from integrating a diverse range of network-attached devices into a single, common network."

The falling cost of PoE is just another reason why the standard has taken hold so quickly.