Cabling and silicon vendors demonstrate 10GBase-T capability

In separate sets of testing, silicon vendor Solarflare Communications (www.solarflare.com) teamed up with cabling system manufacturers Siemon...

In separate sets of testing, silicon vendor Solarflare Communications (www.solarflare.com) teamed up with cabling-system manufacturers Siemon (www.siemon.com) and CommScope (www.commscope.com; www.systimax.com), demonstrating that several twisted-pair copper cabling systems can support the 10GBase-T performance parameters established by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Siemon’s 10G 6A UTP, 10G 6A F/UTP, and Category 7/Class F TERA copper cabling systems meet or exceed the 10GBase-T requirements.

The three separate cabling systems were individually tested at Solarflare’s test facility in Irvine, CA. Using Solarflare’s compliant IEEE 802.3an-2006 10GBase-T 10Xpress PHY products, all tests were performed on 100-meter channel lengths, based on worst-case six-around-one alien crosstalk configuration. The 10GBase-T standard requires that all PHY products claiming compliance with the standard perform on this 100-meter worst-case channel. The six-around-one configuration simulated a worst-case alien crosstalk environment, with six disturber cables bundled tightly around a seventh, victim cable. Full line rate 10-Gbit/sec bidirectional Ethernet traffic was launched on each channel. A total of 14 Solarflare 10GBase-T-compliant PHY cards were required to simulate such a fully stressed environment.

Under these conditions, all three Siemon systems satisfied the 802.3an standard’s bit error rate (BER) requirements for 10-Gbit/sec performance. Siemon reported the TERA system exhibited an average signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) performance of 30.2 dB.

“Siemon’s extensive research and design capabilities were highlighted by Solarflare’s results,” says Daniel Mullin, director of Siemon Labs, the company’s research-and-development arm. “In addition to our 10G 6A UTP solution, the verification of the 10G 6A F/UTP and TERA systems confirms the market practicality of screened and shielded systems.”

“The successful testing of Siemon’s three copper cabling products paves the way for many enterprise data centers and networks to cost-effectively move to high-performance 10-Gigabit Ethernet,” says Bruce Tolley, Solarflare’s vice president of marketing. “It’s another important step toward market adoption of this key technology.”

In the future, the companies plan to conduct 10GBase-T testing on Category 6 UTP at 55 meters.

Solarflare says it is the first company to publicly demonstrate 100-meter, standards-compliant 10GBase-T products, and the first company to deliver samples to customers.

From CommScope, it was the Systimax GigaSpeed X10D solution that went through and passed testing with Solarflare’s PHY, also at the Irvine, CA facilities. That system was also tested in a worst-case, six-around-one setup.

A release issued by CommScope describing the testing explained that the 10GBase-T signals were launched through a generator at the standard XAUI interface to the PHY evaluation boards. The signals from the receive packets, or frames, at the far-end transceiver were compared to those from the send frames. 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet traffic was carried simultaneously on all six disturbing channels, simulating the worst-case environment. CommScope reported no errors were detected during the certification demonstrations on channel lengths up to 100 meters.

“Solarflare has been committed to solving the technical problem of supporting Ethernet standards and the building and cabling specifications that demand 100 meters,” says Solarflare’s Tolley. “We have also heard the requirement from customers for 100-meter-reach 10GBase-T products. The combination of our PHY with the GigaSpeed X10D 100-meter, four-connector channel provided an impressive 26-dB SNR.

“Our solution is robust. This testing validates that the next generation of standards-based Ethernet products for copper cabling is here,” Tolley adds. “IT professionals can begin planning the cost-effective and easy move to higher-speed connectivity for their data centers and networks that 10GBase-T makes possible. We have found that 10GBase-T provides error-free transmission exceeding the 10-12 error rate requirement in the IEEE 802.3 10GBase-T standard.”

“The ability to operate 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet over UTP copper cabling marks the advent of next-generation Ethernet technology,” says Luc Adriaenssens, CommScope’s senior vice president of research-and-development and technology for the enterprise.

“This ability provides a much-needed forward migration path for enterprise network infrastructure,” he continues. “These results demonstrate that 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet over UTP cabling is fast becoming a reality. We look forward to working more closely with Solarflare in the next round of joint assurance testing in a real-world, mixed-protocol environment, as well as jointly educating the market on cost-effective networking using UTP cabling.

“Now that the 10GBase-T standard is ratified, we expect the market for 10-Gbit/sec-enabled twisted-pair cabling to move quickly from early adopters to mass market. The cost-reduction and power-consumption curves are very steep for network electronics. As enterprises look back on how their bandwidth needs have grown and changed over time, they should look closely at what they expect their bandwidth needs to be in the future with respect to investing in 10Gbit/sec-enabled twisted-pair cabling. We believe they should be evaluating Category 6A cabling and 10GBase-T products now.”

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