Survey of data center managers shows preferences for shielded cabling

May 10, 2006 - Results of the survey, conducted by The Siemon Co., emphasizes the importance of media choices.

The Siemon Company (www.siemon.com) recently reported that a survey of 300 data center managers indicated strong support for 10-Gbit/sec or better copper cabling systems. When asked what cabling medium they would specify for a new data center, 81 percent of respondents selected 10-Gbit/sec-capable copper products, versus 3.1 percent, 6.3 percent, and 9.4 percent for fiber-optic, Category 5e, and Category 6, respectively.

Underlining a growing trend toward the adoption of shielded copper systems in markets that historically have chosen unshielded twisted pair, 50 percent of all respondents stated they would specify Category 7/Class F shielded copper cabling, compared to 31 percent choosing Augmented Category 6 UTP.

The shift toward shielded solutions is based on a number of factors, The Siemon Co. explains. Based on a separate question within the same survey, 93 percent of respondents expected their data centers to last more than 10 years, with 46 percent of the total planning for 20 years. These extended data center lifecycles and attending total cost of ownership figures drive the importance of futureproof cabling.

Additionally, the inclusion of strict alien crosstalk performance parameters in pending 10GBase-T standards presented difficulty for UTP cable. To overcome alien crosstalk, pending standards allow increase UTP cable diameters of up to 9 mm (0.354 inches). While this large-diameter cable controls crosstalk, it is not without drawbacks such as decreased pathway cable counts. Solutions such as Siemon's TERA system, by virtue of shielded construction, exhibit excellent alien crosstalk performance and can reclaim pathway space with cable diameters of 8.38 mm (0.33 inches), Siemon says.

The TERA product family is well-suited to the current and future needs of the data center, its manufacturer notes. The fully shielded, Class F solution is the highest-performing copper cabling system recognized by ISO/IEC. This performance translates into longer functional lifecycles and thereby better total cost of ownership, Siemon says.

Data center managers are also weighing media options in terms of installation, the company adds. Traditionally easier and quicker to terminate the shielded cabling, UTP solutions are a favorite in many markets. Growing familiarity with shielded installation practices as well as time-saving termination features place them on par with Augmented Category 6 UTP cabling in terms of installation ease. These developments, coupled with the increased noise immunity and decreased emissions, contribute to their popularity.

While screen and fully shielded copper cabling systems are gaining market share, Augmented Category 6 UTP solutions still represent a significant percentage of future data center projects. It is important that users are provided a choice of cabling systems and understand the strengths of each, Siemon concludes.

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