Power on Ethernet gives networks a voice

CeBIT: Foundry Networks' power-enabled switches allow voice on LANs, and more reliable networks, while a new router is aimed at service providers

Foundry Networks will deliver Power on Ethernet versions of all its LAN switches, making voice services on the LAN more reliable. The first two products -- which it claims are the first "family" of Power on Ethernet products to comply with the IEEE 802.3af standard -- will be launched at CeBIT on Wednesday.

Power on Ethernet (PoE) carries electrical power over the same network connection as the LAN data. This means that devices attached to the network do not need to also be near a power outlet. The idea has many benefits, including the ability to place wireless LAN access points more flexibly, and centralising power back-ups so that more equipment can be kept running during a power cut.

"PoE products from other vendors tend to implement it as a separate module," said Foundry spokesman Adam Stein. "This degrades performance and has no latency sensitivity." Combined switch-and-power units allow users to centralise power management in the wiring closet, he said.

Using a separate PoE module requires the network manager to decide which ports need power and redirect those through the PoE unit, said Stein: "Our switches can autodetect which ports need power, and deliver it without rewiring."

The FastIron 2402POE and 4802POE units each offer up to 480W of power, across 24 and 48 ports respectively. They are versions of existing FastIron switches. "All products for which PoE is appropriate will be available in a PoE version in time," said Stein. The PoE switches are available as Layer 2 or Layer 3 switches with S-Flow quality of service features, and 802.1x access control. The full Layer 3 versions cost $5,995 for the 2402POE, available in May, and $9,495 for the 4802POE, available in June.

A recent Tech Update Poll on Power on Ethernet suggests that PoE is still in its infancy, but has potential. Only 5 percent of respondents are already doing it, and nearly half were unsure about the concept. However, around 30 percent describe it as a "great idea".

Foundry will also announce a copper/fibre Gigabit switch, the FastIron Edge 12GCF, a 1 1/2 U high switch that allows any combination of copper and fibre Gigabit in its twelve Layer 3 ports. It's not the densest switch, conceded Stein, owing to the fact that fibre connectors are bigger than copper ones, but it is intended for Gigabit aggregation in situations where links may be upgraded to fibre. The full Layer 3 version will cost $9,990, available in April.

A final new product is the NetIron 4802, aimed at service providers and including IP version 6, which will appear in April for $15,000.

Foundry currently gets about 85 percent of its revenue from the enterprise, but the service provider market is starting to grow again, said Stein, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, where metropolitan area networks (MANs) based on Ethernet are taking off faster than in the rest of the world. "The NetIron 4802 is aimed at Asia Pacific," said Stein. "IPv6 has a large address space and security features which are becoming necessary."

Market research from the Dell'Oro Group gives Foundry market leadership in three areas: Layer 3 10-Gigabit Ethernet switching, Layer 3 Modular Gigabit Ethernet switching, and Layer 4 to 7 Web switching. Overall, Dell'Oro expects Ethernet switch sales to increase from $11.3bn in 2002 to $16.0bn in 2007, with those areas among the highest value segments.

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