Cat6 Ethernet reaches 10Gbit – viable fibre replacement?

Although not mainstream yet, the ISO standard behind the 10GBASE-T (and similar) is here and commercially available.. 10 Gbit today seems like a crazy speed to push over a single copper cat6 cab.. What could you possibly need that kind of speed for?

Traditionally, networking communications have been the bottleneck in computer communications ability.. however with effectively 10 times the current 1Gbit standard, 10Gbit Ethernet pushes the onus back onto the computer system architecture as the bottleneck. When you think about it, the SATA2 hard drive standard pushes 300Mbit/s data throughput.. The network can now run at over 30 times what the hard drive can deliver… Sure RAID technology and SAS/SCSI increases this substantially, but still doesn’t get close to the network ability.

So when would you use 10Gbit networking?

All this begs the question.. will my systems benefit from 10Gbit networking? Well it really depends on what you want to do.. at the moment 10Gbit technology is stupidly expensive so you really need a good reason to invest in this technology and prove return on investment. IMHO for most instances, 1Gbit when setup with well thought our design, redundancy and possible Link aggregation (multiple 1gbit connections treated as one multi-gbit connection with full redundancy) will suffice nicely.

In the near future 10Gbit networking will come into its own when you do some of the following services:

  1. Virtualisation solutions using multiple servers and iSCSI SAN solutions
  2. Backbone connection connections (under 100 meters distance) say between two buildings or floors of a building where riser space is limited.
  3. iSCSI based backup or data replication solutions between high end and high performance Storage Area Networks

The industry’s response

This kind of bandwidth is nothing to be sneezed at, we will always need and use more throughput and the industry is working hard to develop systems and server that can make use of this phenomenal speed. A good example is Intel’s new Xeon 5500 processors and supporting architecture. (http://communities.intel.com/community/openportit/server/blog/2009/04/03/need-to-get-the-most-out-of-10-gigabit-use-nehalem) . The next few years will see more and more systems that are capable of pushing these data links to the limits.

What should I do now?

In my humble opinion, for the moment steer clear of the 10Gbit capable switches, routers and network cards. It is terribly expensive for what it is (a single port network card will cost around $1000 AUD). You can generally get sufficient performance out of 1Gbit technology and link aggregation switching. Bear in mind that the standard still has the 100meter cable length limit and consider fibre for longer runs.

All that aside, 10Gbit is on its way and will be the norm in approx 4 or 5 years. We know what the requirements are for it, its here now and accessible. Cat6 cabling… If you are planning on doing any cable runs, avoid Cat5e unless you are on a strict budget.. the cost difference is barely worth considering given the future proofing that this cabling can give you
(not to mention numerous other benefits). Cary’s and Zenien have the IT experts and cabling specialists to discuss, plan and install all your Cat6 networking requirements.

Still want 10Gbit?

If you really do think you have a need for 10Gbit networking, no worries.. Give Cary’s Electrical Services or Zenien a call, we will meet with you to discuss your business requirements and assist you in planning your networking infrastructure requirements. We don’t just run the cable, we work with you to effectively deliver optimum results and system integration that exceed your expectations.

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