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Networking industry accelerates 10GbE implementation

Posted: 29 May 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IEEE802.3an? 10GBase-T? Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers? IEEE? 10GbE?

Crenshaw: In mission critical solutions, the economics are clear to go ahead and put in an extend capability in the 10Gb space. It's a fairly small premium to pay to have this very, very large data highway installed.

With the scheduled ratification of the IEEE802.3an 10GBase-T standards by the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) this July, the 10GbE adoption is expected to gain acceleration. The IEEE802.3an standards specify 10Gbps data transmission over four-pair UTP copper cabling!specifically, with distances of 100m for four-pair Class F balanced copper cabling and within 50m to 100m on four-pair Class E (Cat 6) balanced copper cabling.

Originally, the 10GbE was based on fiber optics in 2002. The IEEE802.3ae task force created a new form of much faster Ethernet based on the previous Ethernet standards. The 10GBASE-E, 10GBASE-L and 10GBASE-S and 10GBASE-LX4 were defined for single-mode and multimode optical fiber operations, in distances ranging from 300m to 10km.

However, the high costs of implementing fiber optics have limited most public networks to run only in copper cabling. With this, the IEEE 802.3ak Task Force created the IEEE 802.3ak standard or 10GBASE-CX4, which specifies 10Gbps data transmission over copper in distances of only up to 15m. Ratified in 2004, the 10GBASE-CX4 transmits over four-pair twin axial wire, and is terminated by a standard IBX4 connector. Designed primarily for server clustering and high-speed switch-to switch links, the 10GBASE-CX4, which is the only standard for 10Gbps over copper at the moment, uses InfiniBand cabling. With the approval of the IEEE802.3an, 10Gbps data transfers will be available over conventional UTP copper cabling.

Standards ratification to boost product development
Along with the expected approval of the IEEE802.3an, the standard is also expected to boost the networking equipment manufacturers' manufacturing shift to 10GbE applications. For instance, In-Stat reports that 10GbE switches are on a strong growth track and will continue to be in hot demand through 2010. According to In-Stat analyst Pamela Tufegdzic, the growth is driven by the swelling network activity in terms of volume and capacity and continually increasing demand for streaming video, VoIP, high-end multimedia, medical imaging, and other bandwidth-intensive applications. In-Stat adds that while Gigabit Ethernet is now a mainstream switching technology, 10GbE switching grew exponentially since 2004.

A ripple of new product releases is already being experienced across the networking equipment industry as makers gear up their manufacturing to offer products supporting 10GbE. In particular, Broadcom Corp. recently launched a 20-port 10GbE chip for stackable switches.

Start-up NetXen Inc. followed this release with a dual-port 10Gb server cards. IBM Corp., on the other hand, launched its BladeCenter H!said to be the first blade server system to utilize 10GbE backplane signaling.

These new product releases indicate an uptick ahead for the technology in the data center. According to Randall Crenshaw, CommScope's executive vice president and general manager, Enterprise Solutions, when these chipsets started shipping, which will probably occur in Q3 of 2006, people are going to be really hard-pressed to put in a Cat 5 solution [in their infrastructure]. "In mission critical solutions, the economics are clear to go ahead and put in an extend capability in the 10Gb space. It's a fairly small premium to pay to have this very, very large data highway installed. I think it's going to pickup a lot of speed in time," adds Crenshaw.

"Anyone who's making an investment decision on an infrastructure perspective needs to be thinking ahead, needs to be looking at three or five years at least," says Dr. Ispran Kandasamy, vice president and managing director for SYSTIMAX Solutions, Asia Pacific. "Chipsets will shortly be available. Therefore, all the companies who got the capabilities to long term planning will tend to go for the 10G technology from an infrastructure perspective right now. [Compared to] the electronics, it's much more difficult to add the 10G infrastructure in the later stage," adds Kandasamy.

Cabling considerations
One of the most important factors to consider with the emergence of this new standard is cabling. Cables enable the transmission of mission critical information across all geographies linking businesses, people and processes. Today's computing environment, with more demand required to power operating systems, user environments and multimedia-centric applications such as real-time video conferencing, instant messaging, large file transfers, and email that reach out to millions, it is imperative that the information highway!the cabling infrastructure!is in the right configuration and structure to support data communication.

In line with the IEEE802.3an, the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronics Industry Association (TIA/EIA) and International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) have been working on the cabling standards for the 10GBase-T. For TIA/EIA, the standard is TIA/EIA-586-B.2-10, while the ISO/IEC pushes for ISO11801. The two standards are expected to have different cabling system specifications and parameters. For instance, ISO/IEC created two new categories for copper cabling: the Augmented Cat6 or Cat6A (specified to 500MHz) and the Cat7A (specified to 1GHz).

However, even before the ratification of the standards, a few companies have already released products capable to the 10GbE standards.

"We take part in the standards committee; and we actually know the electrical specifications for the standardization. Only after the electrical specs were tested we then decide to make our 10G solution," says Kandasamy. Late in 2004, SYSTIMAX Solution has released its GigaSPEED X10D Solution that fully complies with the IEEE 802.3an task force guidelines for 10GBASE-T. This product promises superior Power Sum Alien Near-end Crosstalk (PSNEXT) performance, guarantees channel performance up to 500MHz, and is capable to distances of up to 100m. The company claims that the performance of the GigaSPEED X10D Solution has been tested and qualified in what is known as the '6-around-1' cable configuration!the worst-case installation channel test configurations.

Traditionally, cabling has been seen as a cost to the business. However, as bandwidth demand continues to go up, the key role of connectivity within the network is increasingly recognized. And as gigabit connections continue to be widely employed in the "horizontal" as well as the "backbone" of enterprises, high-performance cabling is now viewed as an excellent investment for the network infrastructure rather than just a necessary cost.

- Stephen Las Marias
Electronic Components

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