Solarflare demonstrates 100-meter 10GBase-T physical layer system

Nov. 1, 2006
At the BICSI Fall Conference in late September, Solarflare Communications ( demonstrated a 10GBase-T physical layer (PHY)...

At the BICSI Fall Conference in late September, Solarflare Communications ( demonstrated a 10GBase-T physical layer (PHY) chip reaching 100 meters over an IEEE 802.3an standard-compliant Category 6A link.

The demonstration, also shown to development partners and customers at Solarflare’s Irvine, CA office before its display at the BICSI Conference, was made over a 100-meter, four-connector system under what the company described as “worst-case conditions.” The company also announced that it had delivered early evaluation units of the 10Xpress 10GBase-T PHY to customers, and that the industry could be just a few months away from 10GBase-T networking equipment.

“10GBase-T will dramatically expand the 10-Gbit market by lowering costs,” says CEO Russell Stern. “The Solfarflare 10Xpress PHY solution lowers operational costs by supporting RJ-45 plug-and-play connectivity, and lowers capital expenditure costs by enabling switch and server vendors to lower per-port cost of 10-Gbit Ethernet. Customers are now designing with our parts for products to be introduced in 2007.”

“This is a significant milestone,” says Jag Bolaria, senior analyst with the Linley Group. “By demonstrating 100 meters on a standards-compliant channel, Solarflare shows that it is on track to deliver robust solutions to its customers.”

“This announcement is very timely,” adds David Passmore, research director for the Burton Group. “We have been getting many questions about 10GBase-T and cabling options that support this flavor of 10-Gbit Ethernet on copper cabling. Solarflare’s demonstration shows not only that standards-based 10GBase-T reaches 100 meters on worst-case links, but also that now is the time for IT managers to prepare their copper cabling infrastructure for 10-Gbit communications.”

Solarflare’s release announcing this demonstration also included commentary on 10-Gbit networking media. It read in part, “10 Gigabit Ethernet links using optical transceivers are already in use in large enterprise data centers hosting such IT equipment as switches, servers, and data-storage platforms. But optical transceivers are relatively expensive and 10-Gbit optical switch ports cost over $2,600 according to third-party market research. Now that switch and server manufacturers can design in Solarflare’s 10GBase-T silicon, 10-Gbit Ethernet on copper will more than halve the cost of 10-Gbit links by enabling higher port density as well as transceivers that can follow a Moore’s Law Curve of cost reduction.”

Shortly after the demonstrations, Belden ( issued a release describing the test setup and noting that the cabling-system manufacturer’s 10GX cables were used in Solarflare’s demonstrations at its offices and at the BICSI Conference. Belden’s statement noted:

“The validation trials were performed on a 100-meter Belden IBDN System 10GX channel in a worst-case, four-connector channel configuration, as specified in the TIA Augmented Category 6 draft standard, which is currently under development in the TIA TR-42.7 subcommittee. A seven-cable, six-around-one configuration was used, with the Belden 10GX cables bundled every eight inches.”

The 10GBase-T signals were generated using a traffic generator at the XAUI interface to the PHY evaluation boards, Belden further explained. The signal was looped back at the far-end transceiver and the receiver frames compared to the sending frames. Live 10GBase-T traffic was transmitted simultaneously on all six neighboring channels, simulating a worst-case alien crosstalk environment.

No errors were detected for the duration of the testing, which was several hours in duration. The signal-to-noise ratio monitored during the testing exceeded 25 dB, providing margin over the standard specifications.

“This truly marks the first real-life test to demonstrate the performance capability of 10GBase-T, using Solarflare’s 10GBase-T product over Belden’s 10GX Augmented Category 6 cabling,” Belden stated in its release. “A real-life example of what this means would be the difference between transmitting high-resolution 600 dpi pictures at a rate of 20 per minute over 1-Gbit/sec Ethernet, or 20 per minute over 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet.”

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