10GBASE-T – Is 2012 the Year for Wide Adoption?
I was recently handed the latest copy of Cabling Installation and Maintenance and read an article titled “10GBase-T equipment availability and the future of copper media” by Ron Cates of PLX Technology and Valerie Maguire of Siemon, and was really drawn to what the authors were saying regarding the availability and adoption of the 10GBase-T, or 10 Gigabit Ethernet, within the business network. I will work to highlight what is being said and couple that with the clues being shown from the market.
Right off the bat, the authors credit an advanced lithography process for chip technology which cuts down power use, board size and cost of the 10GBase-T bit stream (or PHY, which is Physical Layer Interface Chips) which look to drive the existence of over “20 new platforms” in 2012. In a nutshell, the 10GBase-T technology (which was first standardized in 2006 by the IEEE) has been slow to adopt due to the massive power dissipation (25W in per port in 2008, cutting down to a power dissipation of 10W per port in 2010) which proved costly to implement along with the necessary presence of CAT6 and higher cabling.
Because of today’s chip technology, the dissipation rates of the 40-nm devices are capable of 4W per port and the 28-nm devices are “anticipated in 2013 to dissipate less than 2.5W per port”. While the power dissipation is a very large piece of the adoption puzzle, 10GBASE-T can bring so much to an organization and it seems that the market is beginning to respond.
- Backwards compatibility (through auto negotiation switch technology)– In my eyes, this is one of the biggest benefits for organizations in that the 10GBASE-T technology can be backwards compatible with 1000BASE-T or even 100BASE-T – something that current SFP or SFP+ fiber 10G cannot do. This allows organizations to implement as needed (providing that the copper cabling is CAT6 or higher). For example, organizations can put servers (in which Dell has introduced options on their 12 generation PowerEdge servers with the Intel Ethernet Controller x540 allowing for 10GBASE-T as a LAN on Motherboard or LOM) on 10G networking equipment, while the desktops and 1GB or 100MB servers, connected to the network can still work together. Although some manufacturers have had 10GBASE-T NICS as an option for quite a bit of time.
- Power Needs – Not only has the chip technology brought down the power dissipation, but as the authors point out, the BASE-T technology allows for two other protocols to be taken advantage of which are the Wake-on-LAN and the Low Power Idle Mode – both furthering less power needs while equipment is not being used.
- Latency – There has been much debate over the latency issue of 10GBASE-T versus SFP and SFP+ design as well as other 10Gb/sec technology. However, some of today’s networking gear manufacturers are claiming latency in the low microsecond range. I expect this will be one debate for a while.
- Sharp rise in adoption –The article references a study done by the Linley Group that states there were 182,000 10GBASE-T Ethernet ports shipped in 2011 and are forecasting 2.7 million in 2012. Wikipedia furthers this rise reporting 10G Ethernet as a whole – “In 2007, one million 10GbE ports were shipped, in 2009 two million ports were shipped, and in 2010 over three million ports were shipped.“ It cites a Dell’Oro press release for its information.