The True Power of Power over Ethernet (PoE)

FACT: Today, PoE ports represent one quarter of all enterprise Ethernet ports. As with any evolving technology, its true worth to business must be weighed as it ultimately determines its long term success. Not being a spring chicken myself, this is not unlike the days of Frame Relay. Though it was slow to be adopted, it became a big hit until newer technology offerings became available- like MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching). I digress.

PoE is very much the same thing, but with much farther reaching potential. In a nutshell, PoE is where low voltage DC power is pushed over a CAT5E or better Ethernet cable. As many of you know, pins 1, 2, 3, & 6 are used for Ethernet data transmission. Pins 4 & 5 are blank so as to not conflict with someone plugging in a legacy phone line RJ11 plug into an RJ45 jack and blowing up an expensive network switch. Power of PoE goes over pins 7 & 8, aka THE BROWN PAIR .This prevents you from having to run electrical outlets to every device, as the power comes over the Ethernet cable. The costs savings here can be quite substantial.

Understanding the standards and options is key here as you may already have some PoE switches, but they may be older. It is important to know their capability before buying equipment. Older switches simply cannot power the newer and higher demand PoE devices due to their lower wattage restriction.

802.3af is the original 2003 standard that supplies up to 15. Watts of DC power, though only about 12.5 watts is assured.

802.3at aka PoE+ is the current standard and takes it up to 30W (25 adjusted for power loss). With the greater power, many more applications are possible!

As with any Ethernet cable run, the standard 300 foot distance limitation applies here as well.

PoE Devices. Although the most common uses for PoE today are for IP phones and wireless access points, this this is a rapidly expanding field. There is significant growth in the areas of surveillance, which includes encompassing video up to HD standards and building access control. Rounding off some of the current PoE device offerings includes digital signage, IP paging, school clock systems, video phones and many others. New devices will emerge being able to utilize PoE power thus creating a more powerful and useful network. Simply put, this is where were headed. So, when looking to move and re-cable, you may want to rethink where to add cable drops as to ensure you don’t fall short and have to end up paying for expensive  piecemeal cabling to fill your needs.

PoE switches. A number of outfits make these switches, including the likes of Juniper, HP, Cisco and many others. Our favorite switch is Juniper’s EX3300 series for a number of reasons. First, the price point is attractive. Second, it has “virtual chassis technology”. What this means is that the virtual switch (made up of many physical switches) only uses one IP address and all switches within the virtual switch can be viewed in a single interface, greatly simplifying management. Another benefit here is that individually, these are all 1U (1.75”) units that will make it simple to swap out old switches and put in new switches without having to re-manage patch cables. Finally, we love the DAC cable because for $100, it gives you a sweet 10Gb interface to other switches that are close and to servers that adhere to the SFP DAC standard so you don’t have to use fiber to get 10Gb within the same room. It’s a win-win as the DAC cable saves cost and is less fragile than fiber.

In summary, if you’re changing out your data switches, consider popping for a few extra dollars to go for PoE to future-proof your dollars and being to save even more downstream.

 

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Christmas Tablet Technology Guide

With every passing year, the electronic gizmos are finding themselves under the tree more often. This year, we figured we would help you with the many tablet options. The tablet field is rapidly becoming a crowded one and we now we have sizes from 7 to 12 inches. I also think it’s important to understand that a relationship with buying a tablet is likely a two to three year relationship. One consistent finding is that smaller units typically support 720p and the larger units tend to support the 1080p standard, but we were surprised by two exceptions here.  It also makes practical sense but bear in mind you can take the ‘HDMI out’ to a larger screen and there is no upgrading a device from 720p to 1080p. There’s also what might fit in your wife’s purse (hint hint).

Apple iPad Mini
At 8”, it might hit a sweet spot as most are either larger or smaller. It supports 720p video on the display, yet supports 1080p video recording.  It is available in either black or white and prices range from $329 for a 16GB version up to $529 for a 64GB version. Important to note here is that it does not have the same Retina display as the regular iPad.

iPad
Retails  at $499 for 16GB to $699 for the 64GB version and is also available in black or white and the display supports 1080p video. Additionally, it’s a few more dollars for the 4G option as well.

Windows Surface
Microsoft recently introduced the 10.6” Surface, a new player to the field that is called ‘live tiles’. It is found in Windows 8 and this particular variant, called Windows 8 RT. In short, live tiles means that those items on the main menu desktop change content based on variables. This also marks the first time in my memory that Microsoft is selling direct to the public via web site. Windows is including the SkyDrive, which is similar to Apple’s iCloud. At $499 for a 32GB model, it has double the RAM of the iPad 3 that retails for the same price. Windows also has a neat touch cover for an extra $100 that integrates a keyboard for faster everything and comes in five different colors!  There is also a 64GB version, which only comes with a touch cover for $699, which is the same price as the Apple IPad 3 with 64GB of memory.  The Surface falls short on the display as for its size- it should support full 1080p. Then again, as they state that Windows 8 comes to Surface in Early 2013 starting at $899, they have now lost me as a Windows 8RT Surface buyer as the Windows 8 RT does not appear to be upgradeable to Windows 8 Pro though it appears it’s the only way you’ll ever see 1080p on the Surface.

Samsung Series 7 Slate
At 11.6”, it starts at $1,099 and goes to a whopping $1,349. It weighs in about two pounds, but will run Windows 8 Pro and comes with an Intel  i5 processor. This reminds me of the day when someone said PCs would cost less than $1,000; but I would not have imagined that tablets are getting both heavier and more expensive. I will be interested to see how this plays in the market but in my opinion, it’s a pretty high price point, especially if you consider it only supports 720p.That’s right, $1,349 and no 1080p!

Kindle Fire HD
If the full-blown tablets seem a bit pricey, Amazon’s feature-rich Kindle Fire HD and Barnes and Noble’s Nook HD are superb options. The Kindle Fire is available in four versions but for the sake of HD, we’ll stick to three of them. A  7” HD version for $199 that supports 720p and a 9” version for $299 that does the full 1080p. If you want 4G connectivity, it bumps up considerably to $499.

Nook HD
A 7” tablet that comes in either white or smoke colors and starts at $199 for an 8GB versions and bumps to $229 for the 16GB version and support 720p HD.

Nook HD+
This is a 9” tablet and is priced at $269 for the 16GB version and $299 for the 32GB version and supports 1080p full HD.

To reward you for bearing with me, here’s something FUN AND FREE at Christmas for all. What you ask? The Amtrak Holiday Express Train

It’s 450 tons of fun !

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