Born in the 1970s, Ethernet technology has continually evolved in order to meet the never-ending requirement for faster rates of data transmission. Data carrying techniques have also evolved quickly to meet the demand for faster application speeds. As such, copper and fiber transmission standards have progressed, providing greater bandwidth for transporting data over Ethernet architectures with reduced cost and complexity. This paper provides a brief introduction to the 10 Gigabit Ethernet cabling.
An increasing number of applications require considerable bandwidth to support the transfer and streaming of large data, video and audio files. As bandwidth-intensive applications and latency sensitive traffic types become ubiquitous, so does the need to support and transport them. In addition, many companies are seeking to “future proof” their network to ensure they can support emerging technologies and preserve their initial investments. 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GE, or 10GbE) provides the very best assurance for being able to support forthcoming technologies and delivers utmost investment protection.
To implement 10 gigabit Ethernet, companies must consider the data carrying techniques to facilitate the bandwidth. For them, there are mainly two options, copper cabling and fiber cabling, which are the preeminent technologies for data transmission and provide their own unique benefits and drawbacks.
Copper cabling is popular for transmitting data between devices due to its low cost, easy installation and flexibility. Copper is best when utilized in short lengths, typically 100 meters or less. When employed over long distances, electromagnetic signal characteristics hinder performance. In addition, bundling copper cabling can cause interference, making it difficult to employ as a comprehensive backbone. For these reasons, copper cabling has become the principal data carrying technique for communication among PCs and LANs, but long-distance transmission.
Fiber cabling is typically used for remote campus connectivity, crowded wiring closets, long-distance communications and environments that need protection from interference, such as manufacturing areas. Since it is very reliable and less susceptible to attenuation, it is optimum for sending data beyond 100 meters. However, fiber is more costly than copper. The picture below shows copper cable and fiber optic cable.
Other than cabling systems, devices to connect the cabling to the network also need to be considered. Transceivers provide the interface between the equipment sending and receiving data and the cabling transporting it. 10GbE has four defined transceiver types. The four types are:
- XENPAK, the first 10GbE pluggable transceivers on the market to support the 802.3ae standard transmission optics. They are hot pluggable, large, bulky and used mainly in LAN switches.
- X2, the smaller brother of the XENPAK pluggable transceivers, is about 2/3 the size of the XENPAK. X2 supports all the 10GbE standards (including copper), and allows for more port density on switches. Cisco branded X2 transceivers, like Cisco X2-10GB-SR, X2-10GB-ER and X2-10GB-ZR, are widely used, which provides customers with a strong sense of assurance that this technology is a good choice for today.
- XFP is the newest pluggable transceiver on the market. It allows switch vendors to increase port density in a smaller area for cost savings. But it cannot support the current 802.3ak copper or the 10GBASE-LX4 standards.
- SFP+, an extension of the SFP transceiver, is standardized for use with 10 Gigabit Ethernet. It has the same mechanical characteristics as the the SFP transceiver, just capable of supporting the higher speed. It has now become the predominant 10G Ethernet connector type, and branded by many famous companies, like HP, Cisco, Finisar, etc. There are various choices for you, such as Cisco SFP+, and FTLX8571D3BCL and FTLX1471D3BCL branded by Finisar.
Just as there are many manifestations of 10GbE standards to suit various networking environments, there are also many copper and fiber cabling technologies to support them. Companies must have a solid understanding of not only their environment and need, but also the different standards and cabling technologies available to them. Doing so will help them develop a sound migration and cabling strategy, enabling them to reap the benefits of 10GbE for years to come.