By: Gary Audin
Look up the definition of simple. It means “easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.” Other words come to mind, including straightforward, uncomplicated, uninvolved, effortless, painless, and manageable.
If I were improving my network infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT), I would want it to be simple. Simple will lower the VAR and MSP risks and increase project profitability.
Power over Ethernet for IoT
Endpoint devices require data and electrical connections. The data connection allows communication with the network while the electrical connection powers the IoT device. Separately installing both connections is costly and can be unnecessarily complicated, especially when considering the large number and location of the IoT devices located around the organization.
Traditionally, Power over Ethernet (PoE) provides both connections using category 5 or better four-pair cable, which is limited to about 330 feet (100 meters). Many organizations have installed analog telephone cables that are underutilized or abandoned that can be reused for IoT endpoints. However, what if you don’t have the necessary cables installed or you want to exceed the cable length limit to reach as far as 3,000 feet? You could avoid the cabling problem by employing Wi-Fi, but then you will need a separate electrical power connection for the IoT device, defeating the simple installation. PoE can be supported using the existing analog phone cables.
Goals when improving the network infrastructure
Many VARs and MSPs will install a PoE switch fabric for their customers when modernizing from older, analog voice and security systems, or when deploying a new system. The infrastructure designers are looking for:
- Lower infrastructure costs
- Fast and simple deployment
- Improved LAN design
- Reduced staff involvement
- Lower risk
Another lesser known but very practical goal is to recycle the existing analog telephone cabling, leveraging its reuse for PoE IoT connections.
Reducing Infrastructure Cost
Companies can save millions of budget dollars in network implementation costs while avoiding the unknown challenges that surface with an enterprise-wide network overhaul for IoT endpoints. The cost reductions using existing cables can be realized through significantly reduced labor, cabling, and construction costs. These cost reductions can be applied to acquiring devices and applications that improve the return on investment.
The extended reach (over existing cables) LAN capabilities also reduce IDF closet requirements, including space, power, cooling, and backup power. Using existing cables will reduce network complexity and simplify network management.
Fast and Simple Deployment
PoE deployments will be quick and easy when leveraging network infrastructure (existing cables) that is already in the building. This is simplified by installing the PoE switch in the existing MDF closet, thereby avoiding new IDF installations. This can be a plug and play implementation, connecting to existing network cabling and connecting the device at the IoT endpoint location as far as 3,000 feet from the switch.
Improved LAN Design
LAN designers have the freedom to establish/maintain a physically separate PoE network for IoT devices, independent of the LAN connections for workstations, servers, and IP phones. This allows for separate traffic flows and reduced traffic congestion. The improved LAN design applies to cloud and on premise solutions and bolsters network security and performance. Quality of service (QoS) and network management is simplified. IT network staff can continue to manage the core business network while IoT teams can handle their separate networks.
Reduced Staff Involvement
Staff costs per person never seem to go down. The required expertise is forcing VARs and MSPs to make capital investment to make their staffs more productive. Hiring more staff is a short term answer that cannot sustain itself. Designing LANs that reduce the staff involvement in implementation and ongoing support is the goal.
Core business applications, employee computers, and Wi-Fi access points continually require more bandwidth. The network equipment will generally evolve every 3 to 5 years, producing a shorter useful life. Physically segmenting the PoE IoT network will make it easier to make changes to core business network without impacting or disrupting communications (data, voice, video), security, and other systems.
Low risk means fewer costs for labor, equipment reinstallation, and replacement cabling. The customer support center will experience fewer calls and produce fewer trouble tickets. There will be fewer truck rolls and investment in the support hardware and cabling supplies needed to supply the trucks. The lower the risk, the happier the customer and the greater their loyalty.
Repurposing existing cabling infrastructure and eliminating new IDF closet requirements can reduce the environmental impact of digital transformations. There is significantly reduced cabling and equipment e-waste, associated costs, and disposal penalties. NVT Phybridge PoE switches are built with PowerWISE technology to ensure low energy consumption, power redundancy, and hot-swappable power supplies.
You can keep your risks low and your projects rapidly successful if you select products that are vendor agnostic and IEEE compliant. Simple in this context translates to making digital transformation so simple that the only thing the customer need to think about is… what will you enable?