10GBASE-T Will Be the Best Option for 10GbE Data Center Cabling

Posted on by FS.COM

Over the last decade, large enterprises have been migrating data center infrastructures from 100MB Ethernet to 1/10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) to support high-bandwidth, mission critical applications. However, many mid-market companies found themselves restricted from this migration to 10GbE technology due to cost, low port density and high power consumption. For many of these companies, the explosive growth of technologies, data and applications is severely taxing existing 1GbE infrastructures and affecting performance. So it’s high time for them to upgrade the data center to 10GbE. With many 10GbE interfaces options such as CX4, SFP+ Fiber, SFP+ Direct Attach Copper (DAC), and 10GBASE-T offered, which one is your best option? This article will give you the answer.

Data Center Needs to Upgrade to 10GbE
With the increase in server consolidation through virtualization in the data center, the resulting data demand has exceeded traditional 1Gb/s throughput capabilities. Gigabit Ethernet connections can handle the bandwidth requirements of a single physical server, but they are inadequate to support virtualized server-consolidation scenarios, or multiple traffic types during peak periods. Today these virtualized servers are typically configured with multiple 1Gb/s ports in order to keep up with the I/O demands. Moving to 10GbE overcomes these 1Gb/s bandwidth limitations by providing more bandwidth and simplifies the network infrastructure by consolidating multiple gigabit ports into a single 10GbE connection.

10GbE data center

Shortcomings of SFP+ in 10GbE Data Center Cabling
SFP+ has been adopted on Ethernet adapters and switches and supports both copper and fiber optic cables makes it a better solution than CX4, which is the mainstream 10GbE adoption today. However, it has some limitations that will prevent this media from moving to every server. In terms of SFP+ DAC, it is a lower cost alternative to fiber but it can only reach 7 meters. SFP+ fiber can reach both short-range (300m) and long-range (10km), but it is relatively expensive. Besides above, the biggest problem with SFP+ is simply that it is not backward-compatible with the twisted-pair 1GbE broadly deployed throughout the data center. SFP+ connectors and their cabling were not compatible with the RJ-45 connectors used on 1GbE networks. Enterprise customers cannot just start adding SFP+ 10GbE to an existing RJ-45 1GbE infrastructure. New switches and new cables are required, which is a big chunk of change.

RJ-45 SFP+ connector

10GBASE-T Promotes the Data Center Migration from 1GbE to 10GbE
In 2006, IEEE 802.3an, which specified the use of 10GBASE-T over UTP cabling, which solves the cabling and backward compatibility problems. Because 10GBASE-T is backward-compatible with 1000BASE-T, it can be deployed in existing 1GbE switch infrastructures in the data centers that are cabled with CAT6, CAT6A or above cabling. Seen from the picture below, we can see that 1GbE is still widely used in data center. 10GBASE-T is backwards compatible with 1GbE and thus will greatly promote gradual transitioning from 1GbE deployment to 10GbE.

Enterprise data center with 10GbE backbone
Besides, the raw cost of the cable itself is far less than either optical fiber or SFP+DAC cables, and with its extended reach, can be used without the need for a Top-of-Rack switch. This flexibility and compatibility with existing equipment facilitates the transition from 1GbE to 10GbE and makes 10GbE affordable and effective for use across the data center.

The 10GbE standards are mature, reliable and well understood. 10GBASE-T breaks through important cost and cable installation barriers in 10GbE deployment as well as offering investment protection via backwards compatibility with 1GbE networks. Deployment of 10GBASE-T will simplify the networking transition by providing an easier path to migrate to 10GbE infrastructure in support of higher bandwidth needed for virtualized servers. In the future, 10GBASE-T will be the best option for 10GbE data center cabling!

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