Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Powering up in harsh environments: Five questions to ask before selecting the right industrial PoE switch


When it comes to cables, less is more. With power over ethernet (PoE), ethernet cables do double duty, carrying DC power as well as data. PoE saves the costs of power supplies, cables, and outlets for devices like access points, cameras, desk phones, digital signage, lighting systems, and now, increasingly desktops and laptops. PoE reduces OpEx by simplifying and centralizing low voltage management as well as reducing the effort needed for installation and powering of powered devices. It also helps conserve energy—for example, by automatically turning off lights when not needed. Evidence of its appeal: the global PoE market is projected to grow 13% annually from 2024-2032.

PoE brings even more benefits in industrial environments like factories, distribution centers, parking structures, roadways and intersections, and smart cities. Fewer high-voltage wires increase workplace safety. Reducing copper and steel usage is more sustainable. Supplying PoE through industrial switches reduces cooling costs. And PoE helps conserve energy for DC devices by avoiding AC-DC conversion losses that could be as high as 20%.

Selecting the right PoE switch for your environment

Cisco offers a variety of industrial networking equipment to suit use case requirements. All of them are built to withstand harsh conditions like extreme temperatures, moisture, dust, vibration, and even in extreme hazardous locations. Cisco Industrial Ethernet switches offer PoE designed to deliver power reliably in these conditions. But there are significant differences in the maximum power budget, number of PoE ports, port bandwidths, and other features, that each switch offers, and hence it is important that you carefully consider your options before selecting the right switch for you.

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To select the best PoE switch for your needs, ask yourself these questions.

  1. What are my power requirements? Industrial cameras and access points typically require more power than similar devices designed for enterprise environments. Devices that consume up to 15.4W can connect to PoE (IEEE 802.3af) ports. For up to 30W you’ll want PoE+ (802.3at). And for 60W or 90W—for LiDAR equipment, digital displays, smart lighting, or even computing devices on factory floors, for instance—look for a switch that supports PoE++, also called 4PPoE (802.3bt). Be aware that higher temperatures can reduce power delivery capacity, so factor that into your power budget. For a large PoE power budget consider the Cisco Catalyst IE9300 Rugged Series. Models in this series can deliver up to 720 watts of PoE from a single rack unit switch and can power up to 24 devices at the same time.

Figure 1: Examples of PoE powered devices at various power levels

  1. Am I connecting devices that need both high power and high bandwidth? Examples are Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e access points. If you are, we’ve got you covered. Ports on certain models of the Catalyst IE9300 can deliver up to 90 watts and multigigabit ethernet bandwidth (2.5Gbps)—an industry first.

Figure 2: Catalyst IE9320-16P8U4X offers mGig ports, 90W 4PPoE, and up to 720W power budget in 1RU form factor

  1. In case of partial power loss, do I want some devices to remain powered on? All our industrial switches can be equipped with dual power supplies. If one fails, the switch can continue to power devices you’ve prioritized. For example, lights placed on the tip of wind turbine blades for air traffic guidance need to be on all the time, or video cameras used for manufacturing quality monitoring are usually more critical than signs displaying the week’s schedule.
  1. Do I have critical devices that need power while the switch reboots? All switches need to be rebooted occasionally for firmware or software updates. If it’s important for connected devices to remain on during the reboot—as it might be for lights that need to be powered all the time but don’t need data connectivity or for compute systems that could corrupt data if power is suddenly interrupted—select a switch that supports Perpetual PoE or Fast PoE. When you turn on Fast PoE, power to devices is restored as soon as the switch itself receives power, without waiting for the operating system to load. With Perpetual PoE, power continues without interruption while the switch reboots.
  1. How will I manage a large scale PoE deployment? A detailed view of PoE usage in your environment helps you spot emerging equipment problems, conserve energy, and plan for growth. We show you all relevant data and charts in one place—the PoE Analytics dashboard in Cisco Catalyst Center (formerly Cisco DNA Center). Put it to work to identify and troubleshoot power delivery issues, monitor power allocation and usage, view available PoE ports to add new devices, detect gaps in Wi-Fi coverage because of power delivery issues to access points, and more.
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Cisco Catalyst Industrial Ethernet switches check all the boxes

Comprehensive support for PoE makes a very compelling reason to select Cisco Industrial Ethernet switches. But it is their ability to help minimize downtime of industrial operations with features that ensure supply of power to critical devices in harsh conditions that sets them apart. Cisco Catalyst Center, the intelligent network management application, can help not only design and deploy large-scale industrial networks but also serves to monitor, troubleshoot, and remediate potential PoE issues.

Learn more

For more details on PoE, including IEEE standards, its benefits in sustainability and safety, how industrial PoE differs from enterprise PoE, and to select the best Cisco industrial switch for your PoE needs, please consult PoE for Industrial Automation solution brief. To calculate power supply requirements for your PoE deployment, please use the Cisco Power Calculator. For more information and to have your questions answered, please schedule a free no-obligation consultation with one our industrial switching experts.

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