Regardless of whether you think being green is the right way to live because of the environment or you think it makes sense to save money in a tough economy you should be keeping a close eye on Microsemi, the leader in the PoE midspan market allowing traditional networking equipment to be upgraded to PoE without a forklift.
In a recent conversation with Daniel Feldman, Telecom Marketing Director for the company we got to talking about the company's new high-power midspans the PD-9000G family.
Feldman pointed out that when the company first started producing PoE products they thought the midspan opportunity would be short-lived as all switches would eventually incorporate PoE natively meaning additional equipment would be unnecessary. As luck would have it MTBF times were reduced by half in equipment with powered Ethernet as heat dissipation became an issue.
Feldman equates a switch with integrated PoE to a TV with a built-in DVD player - if the DVD player fails you have to get a new TV making the combined product less desirable.
The even better news for the company is that PoE standards call for increasing wattage with the current 802.3at standard calling for 30W - up from 15W. The next stop is 60W and I have already heard of some vendors pushing higher wattage in specific PoE applications. As wattage increases, so does heat so you can expect the appetite for PoE in switches to decrease as MTBF times decrease in lockstep.
Regardless of how you achieve PoE, rest assured that there is tremendous potential to use the technology to save electricity as you can intelligently control the power to devices on your network when the power is being provided by an intelligent device. For example Feldman tells me his company came up with a way years back to turn off power to phones if a user was not in the office. He further went on to explain you can use PoE to determine machine failure and even determine if a computer has a virus if there is a power spike on a machine with no related change in user behavior (such as plugging in a USB-powered fan, etc).
The company is actually promoting a green PoE standard which they say is quite simple - efficiency is calculated by taking output PoE power and dividing by input power.
Obviously being able to intelligently control power through midspans and other methods can lead to tremendous power savings. One would expect all devices on networks of the future to be powered by PoE but the challenge today is with ubiquitous wireless connectivity, portable devices are proliferating more quickly than wired meaning less of a target market. Still, even if 10% of all computing devices get connected to intelligent PoE switching devices we can make a serious dent in computing power consumption and in the process Microsemi can only expect to grow much larger.