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Net industry accelerates 10GbE implementation

Posted: 01 Jul 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Stephen Las Marias? 10GbE? IEEE 802.3an? In-Stat? Systimax Solutions?

The adoption of 10GbE is expected to gain momentum with the scheduled ratification of the 802.3an 10GBase-T standards by the IEEE this month. The IEEE 802.3an standards specify 10Gbps data transmission over four-pair unshielded twisted pair (UTP) copper cablingspecifically 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.

With its approval, the 802.3an standard is also expected to boost the networking equipment makers' shift to 10GbE applications. In-Stat reports that 10GbE switches are on a strong growth track and will continue to be in demand until 2010. Pamela Tufegdzic, analyst for In-Stat, said this growth is driven by increased network activity and continuously growing demand for streaming video, VoIP, high-end multimedia, medical imaging and other bandwidth-intensive applications. In-Stat adds that 10GbE switching has grown exponentially since 2004.

Consequently, new products are flooding the market. Broadcom Corp. recently launched a 20-port 10GbE chip for stackable switches. Start-up NetXen Inc. followed suit with the release of its dual-port 10Gbit server cards. Meanwhile, IBM Corp. launched its BladeCenter Hsaid to be the first blade server system to use 10GbE backplane signaling.

These new offerings can spell strong growth for the technology. According to Randall Crenshaw, CommScope's executive VP and general manager for enterprise solutions, when these chipsets start shipping in Q3 2006, people will be 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 extended capability in the 10Gbit space. It's a fairly small premium to pay to have this very, very large data highway installed. I think it's going to pick up a lot of speed in time," Crenshaw said.

"Anyone who's making an investment decision on an infrastructure perspective needs to think ahead and look at three or five years at least," says Ispran Kandasamy, VP and managing director for Systimax Solutions, Asia Pacific. "Chipsets will shortly be available. Therefore, all companies who have the capability for long-term planning will tend to go for the 10Gbit technology from an infrastructure perspective right now. [Compared to] electronics, it's much more difficult to add the 10Gbit infrastructure in the later stage," he explains.

Cabling considerations
Cables enable the transmission of mission-critical information across all geographieslinking businesses, people and processes. Given more demanding operating systems, user environments and multimedia-centric applications such as real-time video conferencing, instant messaging, large file transfers and email, the information highway (i.e. the cabling infrastructure) must have the right configuration to support data communication.

In line with IEEE 802.3an, the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronics Industry Association (TIA/EIA) and International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) have been working to draft cabling standards for the 10GBase-T. For TIA/EIA, the standard is TIA/EIA-586-B.2-10. ISO/IEC, on the other hand, is pushing for ISO11801. The two standards are expected to differ in cabling system specifications and parameters.

However, even before the ratification of the new standards, some companies have already released products that comply with 10GbE standards.

"We take part in the standards committee and we know the electrical specifications for the standardization. Only after the electrical specs have been tested do we decide to make our 10Gbit solution," says Kandasamy.

In late 2004, Systimax Solutions released the GigaSPEED X10D, a UTP product that complies with the IEEE 802.3an task force guidelines for 10GBASE-T. This product is touted to have improved Power Sum Alien Near-end Crosstalk performance, channel performance of up to 500MHz, and is capable of operating to distances of up to 100m. According to Systimax, the performance of the product has been tested and qualified in what is known as the '6-around-1' cable configurationthe worst-case installation channel test configurations.

Traditionally, cabling has been considered a business expense. However, as bandwidth demand continues to grow, the vital role of connectivity within the network is increasingly being recognized. As gigabit connections continue to be used in the "horizontal" as well as the "backbone" cabling infrastructure of enterprises, high-performance cabling is now viewed as an essential investment for the network infrastructure rather than just a necessary cost.

- Stephen Las Marias
Electronic Components

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