Ethernet Alliance Formalizes Power over Ethernet Efforts

Ethernet Alliance chairman John D'Ambrosia talks about the Ethernet Alliance's new PoE subcommittee and how Ethernet is connecting the future.

By Jude Chao | Posted Jan 28, 2014
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Though in its fortieth year of existence, Ethernet isn't about to cede the networking field to newer technologies. Instead, Ethernet evangelists continue their efforts to broaden the scope of Ethernet's applications in the field. The latest of those efforts is the formation of the Ethernet Alliance's Power over Ethernet (PoE) subcommittee, announced last week.

The PoE Subcommittee will work to grow the IEEE's PoE standards library and support the development of new PoE applications and devices. Its members will "work to promote the use of PoE standards-driven technologies through the demonstration of PoE-capable device interoperability and by highlighting emerging applications," according to an Ethernet Alliance statement.

Power over Ethernet: What can it do?

One of those applications is the ability to preserve connectivity in unusual situations, as John D'Ambrosia, Ethernet Alliance chairman and chief Ethernet evangelist at Dell, told me. "I'm a 49ers fan—remember when the lights went out at the Super Bowl last year? Networking didn't go out because of PoE. The wireless APs were PoE-enabled," he said. And while continuous connectivity at a sporting event may seem trivial, its value to the enterprise is not.

That value was one of the main drivers behind the formation of the PoE Subcommittee. There are, D'Ambrosia pointed out, "economics that you can leverage" when it comes to delivering power and data over a shared medium. Those economics need to be communicated, however. That's where the Ethernet Alliance comes in.

"I'm very proud of the work I do at the IEEE, but at the end of the day, it's a pile of papers," D'Ambrosia said. In contrast, the Ethernet Alliance serves a more practical function through the concrete demonstration of Ethernet technology's usability and interoperability across multiple vendors. The education the Ethernet Alliance provides also helps ensure awareness of Ethernet's ubiquity and utility. "There are so many applications out there and so many instances where it shows up in your life," he pointed out.

In general and for better or worse, Ethernet is often taken for granted, D'Ambrosia said, and the benefits of PoE can fly under the radar. Take the cloud, for example. "We talk about the cloud like it's this ethereal thing, but it's not. The cloud is primarily copper. And everything needs power, whether it's wireless, copper, servers, fiber optic data links, you're still delivering power. That's one of the great things about PoE," he said. To D'Ambrosia, the potential applications of the technology, from powering the cloud to powering vehicular Ethernet, and the impact those applications will have on the rest of the networking ecosystem, are vast and exciting.

"It's amazing how Ethernet enables all of this," D'Ambrosia said.

Ethernet: Connecting the future

In addition to his work at Dell and with the Ethernet Alliance, D'Ambrosia is active in the IEEE, for which he chairs the 400 GbE study group, among other projects. This gives him a "30,000-foot view" of the ecosystem, he said. From that perspective, Ethernet's upcoming forty-first birthday is an exciting one. Forty, D'Ambrosia said, has a number of symbolic associations, particularly around transition and change, and this has applied to Ethernet, too. "You look at everything going on right now, and it's moving so fast to all these different things," he said.

In addition to pushing for ever faster feeds and speeds—10 GbE and 40 GbE continue to experience a lot of activity, while 100 GbE and 400 GbE are "in a lot of development," he said—applications like vehicular Ethernet are gaining momentum. And as it takes off, vehicular Ethernet will create a ripple effect going all the way back to the data center, he pointed out, as will all the other new developments in connectivity.

"We truly live in a networked world," D'Ambrosia said. "When I reach the twilight of my career, I'm going to look back and say we provided a future. It's not just real technology for real deployment for today, but real technology for real deployment for tomorrow."

Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

ENP editor Jude ChaoJude Chao is executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.

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