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40GBASE-T movement starting to take hold

Speakers at BICSI Winter Conference outline plans for a new Ethernet application

March 1, 2010  

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Projections from server vendors reveal that 40 Gbps over twisted pair copper cabling will become a “significant” part of the market by 2017, says Todd Harpel, director of marketing at Berk-Tek, a Nexans Company.

Harpel made the prediction during a joint presentation with Valerie Maguire, global sales engineer for The Siemon Company, at the recent 2010 BICSI Winter Conference in Orlando.

He added that copper cabling performance increases follow the same timeframe that Ethernet speeds have been developed.

To that end, Harpel said there is certainly a future for copper beyond 10GBASE-T now that the existing Category 7A cabling is ready to support next-generation Ethernet.

“Cat 7A is a four-pair cable where each individual pair is shielded,” he said. “As a result of all this shielding, it is capable of transmission frequencies that are much higher than previous generations.”

According to Berk-Tek, as computing and storage rates explode, data centres, server clusters and even LANs will benefit from Ethernet transmission speeds in excess of 10G sooner than anticipated: “The logical next step in Ethernet speed is 40G supported by copper twisted-pair cabling. In order to be able to provide a future solution, copper cabling and LAN equipment experts will begin project development.”

In her presentation Maguire referenced a workshop she attended last summer at Penn State University that examined the need to go beyond the 10GBASE-T limit.

Sponsored by the Nexans Data Communications Competence Centre and the university’s Centre for Information and Communication Technology Research, the “Greater than 10G” event included vendors from the cable, connector and semiconductor industries

Organizers pointed out that existing 10GBASE-T limits major applications such as search engine reach, medical interactive networking and secure communication networking including banking, credit cards, insurance, government and military installations.

At the BICSI Winter Conference, Maguire said data centres and server clusters are both growth areas for the IT sector, particularly the latter.

She referenced a report released last year by AFCOM, an association that caters to data centre professionals, which contained some alarming findings:

– More than half of all data centres will have to relocate to new facilities or outsource some applications;

– Over the next five years, power failures and limits on power availability will halt data centre operations at least once at more than 90% of all companies;

– Within the same timeframe, one out of every four data centres will experience a business disruption serious enough to affect a company’s ability to continue business as usual.

“The needs of the data centre are more immediate,” Maguire said. “Companies will need 40 Gbps Ethernet throughput over the next three to five years. There are three common ones: lower power consumption, focus on latency and focus on energy efficiency.

“The performance of the cabling plant can affect the main issues that we are trying to control. It can affect line driver power, latency and complexity. We are starting to see that we have some choices to make during this exploratory phase.”