Improving the Power over Ethernet experience

April 17, 2018
Introducing the Ethernet Alliance PoE Certification Program

By John D’Ambrosia, Ethernet Alliance

Multi-vendor interoperability is the hallmark of Ethernet. Some may talk about Ethernet’s plug-and-play capability, or low cost, but the simple reality is that neither of these happens without multi-vendor interoperability. It is not enough to be able to merely plug in the same product from a single vendor and know it will work. Interoperability is what truly sets Ethernet as a standard above all other solutions. The IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group is known for its ability to develop a specification that multiple companies can read, interpret, and develop products independently of each other. The result? When you plug it all together—it works. It just doesn’t happen by magic. It is the result of hard work and due diligence that is invested in the development of a rock-solid standard.

PoE is truly more than a common marketing term. It is more than simply hooking up two devices, where one device, referred to as the power source equipment (PSE) provides power over the Ethernet cable to another device, known as the powered device (PD), which uses the provided power. These devices must be designed to talk to each other using the right power levels in order to interoperate. And when these devices aren’t designed to the same specification, interoperability issues occur and everyone pays the price. Users become frustrated, and the solution providers must spend time and resources troubleshooting the problem. Everyone loses. The use of the terminology “Power-over-Ethernet” or “PoE,” is simply insufficient to distinguish products based on the PoE specifications in the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard from proprietary (AKA “non-standard”) power delivery implementations.

How big of a problem is this? According to industry analyst Dell’Oro, over the next five years, 800 million PoE-enabled PSE switch ports will be deployed with hundreds of millions of powered PD devices being sold. In the past PoE was used for IP phones, cameras, and wireless access points. However, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), the potential applications for PoE are only limited by the imagination of the engineer. We are seeing lighting, digital signage, point of sale/card readers, whiteboards, smoke detection, and other types of sensors and controls as potential PoE applications. Given the myriad of applications and devices, as well as the current 4 different power classes available, it has become imperative for the Ethernet industry to provide end-users with a simple tool to distinguish PoE products based on the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard from those products that use proprietary power-delivery implementations.

The Ethernet Alliance, an organization committed to ensuring industry confidence in the interoperability of IEEE 802.3 Ethernet-based products, and its members have recognized the potential impact of this issue. In response, our members have been developing the Ethernet Alliance PoE Certification Program. At the heart of this program is an industry-defined test plan, based on the IEEE Std 802.3-2015 PoE specifications. Products that are tested and meet the Ethernet Alliance PoE Certification Test Plan will be eligible to be certified by the Ethernet Alliance, and are listed on our public registry. End users will be able to easily identify these IEEE Std 802.3-2015 standard based products visually from the Ethernet Alliance PoE Certification trademarked PSE and PD logos, as well as identify which PSE and PD products will work with each other.

On May 1 at 10:00am PDT, we would like to invite the industry to a webinar to introduce the Ethernet Alliance PoE Certification Program. You can register for the webinar here.

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