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10GBase-T SR PHY chips to push affordable 10G switches

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:10G switches? IEEE? data centres? cable and patch-panel makers? PHY?

The next generation of short reach 10Gbit/second Ethernet chips is set to make an impact, opening a path towards smaller, cheaper, lower power switches for data centres.

The so-called 10GBase-T SR (short reach) physical layer chips could cut power consumption from 4W to 1.5W per port. This change would open the door to 60W 10G top-of-rack switches for data centres, replacing 250W systems used today. The power reductions enable use of lower cost power supplies and other components so systems can be closer in size and cost to today's gigabit switches.

Today's data centres typically only need five meter links inside a rack and 30m to an aggregation switch. "The IEEE 10GBase-T standard really overshot [distance requirements] and a new 40G effort realised that is and may back off," said Dan Dove, a senior director of technology at Applied Micro Circuits Corp., speaking at the Linley Data Centre Conference.

The key change is the new physical-layer chips do not have to support the full 100m distance of the 10GBase-T standard. Instead they can automatically negotiate a connection, optionally supporting 100G or shorter distances.

Ethernet standards traditionally supported 100m, but "that last 20m for 10G became a problem," he said.

Dove made a short reach proposal to the IEEE 40GBase-T group now starting its work. It aimed to include the 10G generation, specifying optional lengths of 10 and 30m and giving vendors an option to not support 100m at all for low cost products.

The proposal drew vocal opposition from cable and patch-panel makers. "I didn't even put it to a votewe wouldn't make itso we will compete in the market," Dove said.

Vendors have done some work on ad hoc multi-source agreements defining the approach and may create a marketing alliance to promote it. The change can be made to existing chips in firmware, Dove said.

If the work moves forward, "PHY vendors will jump on it and create devices," said Kamal Dalmia, vice president of sales and marketing at Aquantia, a 10GBase-T vendor on a panel at the conference.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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