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Exposing 10GBase-T myths

Posted: 19 Jun 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:10GBase-T? copper balanced twisted-pair? PHY?

The most economical choice for 10-Gbit/sec transmissions is 10GBase-T network equipment in conjunction with Category 6A UTP, Category 6A F/UTP, or Category 7A S/FTP balanced copper twisted-pair cabling. The same conclusion is reached when this analysis is repeated for channels and their corresponding port connections that represent the types and lengths of media commonly deployed in horizontal LAN cabling. It is this cost advantage that will drive the rapid adoption of 10GBase-T in 2012.

10 Gbit/sec over copper balanced twisted-pair
The most significant confirmation that Base-T Ethernet applications have a strong future is the growing interest in "next-generation" cabling. This media will be targeted to support the copper balanced twisted-pair application that comes after 10GBase-T. Because Ethernet applications in the LAN backbone and data center core have always preceded Ethernet specifications for the LAN horizontal and data center edge, it is a good bet that the next Ethernet over balanced twisted-pair speed will be 40 Gbit/sec to supplement IEEE 802.3ba-compliant 40-Gbit/sec Ethernet computer backplanes and optical-fiber network gear. At this time, the biggest driver demonstrating the great industry commitment to, interest in and investment in the future of copper-based Ethernet is the work being done by the ISO/IEC and TIA to develop next-generation cabling specifications to support such an application.

ISO/IEC recently initiated a project to develop a new standard tentatively titled "ISO/IEC 11801-99-x Guidance for balanced cabling in support of at least 40 GBit/s data transmission." This proposed two-part standard will address capabilities of both existing ISO/IEC 11801-compliant channels and channels with extended and/or enhanced performance characteristics. TIA is currently working on a project called "Specifications for 100Ω Next Generation Cabling," expected to be published as Addendum 1 to ANSI/TIA-568-C.2. These massive project initiatives reaffirm the strength and popularity of Base-T applications and balanced copper twisted-pair cabling media.

While 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet-ready copper balanced twisted-pair cabling has been available for some time, it has been a long and anxious wait for 10GBase-T equipment to reach the broad market. That wait is over. 10GBase-T network equipment offers greater reach and flexibility than any other 10-Gbit/sec copper solution and is a very attractive alternative to 10-Gbit/sec optical fiber solutions when deployed channel lengths are less than 100m. Data center and LAN IT managers who had the foresight to install 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet-ready copper balanced twisted-pair cabling in their network are poised to capitalize on the negotiation and power-reduction features of 10GBase-T and begin incremental server and switch upgrades to relieve network congestion and increase capacity this year. The rest have a little catching up to do.

References
[1] IEEE 802.3at, "IEEE Standard for Information technology!Telecommunications and information exchange between systems!Local and metropolitan area networks!Specific requirements Part 3: Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) Access Method and Physical Layer Specifications Amendment 1: Physical Layer and Management Parameters for 10 Gb/s Operation, Type 10GBASE-T", September 2006
[2] The Linley Group, "A Guide Ethernet Switch and PHY Chips", December 2011.
[3] IEEE 802.3az, "IEEE Standard for Information technology!Telecommunications and information exchange between systems!Local and metropolitan area networks!Part 3: Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) Access Method and Physical Layer Specifications Amendment 5: Media Access Control Parameters, Physical Layers, and Management Parameters for Energy Efficient Ethernet", October 2010.
[4] IEEE 802.3ba, "IEEE Standard for Information technology!Telecommunications and information exchange between systems!Local and metropolitan area networks!Part 3: Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) Access Method and Physical Layer Specifications Amendment 4: Media Access Control Parameters, Physical Layers, and Management Parameters for 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s Operation", June 2010.

About the authors
Ron Cates is vice president of marketing, networking products, at PLX Technology. Prior to PLX, he was senior vice president and general manager of Wide Area Networking Products at Mindspeed Technologies. He has over 30 years of experience in the semiconductor industry and holds BSEE and MSEE degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles and an MBA from San Diego State University.

Valerie Maguire, BSEE, holds the position of global sales engineer at Siemon, a manufacturer of copper and optical fiber cabling systems. She holds various leadership positions with the TIA TR-42 Telecommunications Cabling Systems Engineering Committee and IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group. In addition, She has authored over 45 technical articles and engineering papers, holds one U.S. patent, and received the 2008 Harry J. Pfister Award for Excellence in Telecommunications.

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