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Cisco Systems Inc. on Tuesday announced it is bringing its Catalyst LAN switches up to speed with IEEE 802.3af Power over Ethernet, thanks to a series of modules that support the new standard.

After building up an installed base of some 18 million pre-standard Power over Ethernet ports, Cisco chose to upgrade its Catalyst chassis switches, stackables and fixed configuration switches with new IEEE 802.3af standard compliant modules, the company said.

The new standard, ratified last summer, extends Ethernet support for inline power devices beyond IP phones and wireless LAN access points to connect power-hungry devices such as IP-powered video surveillance cameras, security systems and fire-protection or motion-detection devices, according to Steven Shalita, senior manager of worldwide product marketing at Cisco, in San Jose, Calif.

“Ethernet is very versatile, simple and flexible,” Shalita said. “Adding power capabilities to it extends that versatility to enable new uses for the network.”

But whether the market is ready yet for such devices is doubtful, said analyst Zeus Kerravala, vice president at Boston-based Yankee Group. “The market for Power over Ethernet is still limited to IP phones and access points. Eventually I expect to see a number of devices like cameras or small Internet tablets (exploit the standard), but that will probably be another 12 to 24 months away. There isn’t much of a market for that yet,” he said. Still, most enterprises are asking for such support for any new switch installations they are evaluating to future proof such purchases, he added.

The new offerings, which support the 802.3af standard for end devices drawing 15.4 watts of power, are backward-compatible with existing Cisco pre-standard end devices such as its IP phones, which only require between 6.3 and 7.3 watts of power. The new standards support also extends the systems beyond devices that employ Cisco’s proprietary device-discovery protocols.

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