It’s called the ‘PD64012’ ASIC chip, and its announcement by PowerDsine has boosted the chances of Power over Ethernet (PoE) becoming a standard part of the networking landscape by next year.

Developed in partnership with Motorola, the new 802.3af-compliant chip drastically cuts the number of components required to build a PoE-enabled switch. PowerDsine claims this will slash direct manufacturing costs by at least 25 percent, which should feed through into lower prices for PoE switches in the new year.

“To do PoE in a 48-port switch you require 1,500 components. This will do it in 200,” said PowerDsine founder and CEO Igal Rotem on the London leg of a gruelling world tour to promote the new design.

This matters. Power over Ethernet switches are currently sold at a significant premium, a fact that has limited their use to customers of niche applications such as VoIP phone systems.

Rotem said that with the new chip PoE had now matured in terms of cost and design, and predicted it would become a standard part of every switch within the next two years.

The trick will be convincing customers – and resellers – to go on buying the current generation of products when a new design is in the offing.

“By the end of 2004 you’ll be able to get a PoE switch at the same price as a non-PoE switch today,” he said. “The roadmap will see more software and other features. But you won’t see further integration.”

The chip features integrated power management, and comes with power connections for multiples of 12 ports. Shipment is pencilled in for early 2004 so expect products to arrive next Spring.

For those of you who've missed all the fuss, the Power over Ethernet standard, ratified by the IEEE last June, allows devices to be powered direct from an Ethernet cable without the need for a separate power cord. Apart from making it easier to roll out fiddly technologies, such as VoIP and network video surveillance, it also promises to introduce power management into the switch rack.