While it may be true that good things come to those who wait, too much waiting can lead to uncertainty. Take 10GBase-T networking products, for example. The 10GBase-T standard published almost six years ago and the long wait for network gear has provided fodder for the digital rumor mill to churn. This has led to the misperception that 10GBase-T is the end of the line for copper balanced twisted-pair media and network equipment. The fact is that the extended time to market can be explained by the recent economic recession and the desire to integrate significant power-efficiency enhancements into this new technology. These challenges have been overcome and all indicators are that adoption of 10GBase-T solutions is poised to take off in 2012.
Equipment is available and deployment rates are up
Although initially hampered by power-hungry implementations, today’s chip technology that delivers the 10GBase-T bit stream (also called a “PHY”) capitalizes on an advanced 40-nm lithography manufacturing process, which cuts power use, board size and cost. As a result, significant adoption of 10GBase-T technology is expected to begin in 2012. During this year, at least 20 new platforms (e.g. switches, servers and network interface cards [NICs]) using 10GBase-T PHY devices are expected to have broad market availability. In addition, a new market research report issued by The Linley Group forecasts more than 2.7 million ports of 10GBase-T PHYs to ship in 2012—a sharp rise from the 182,000 ports counted as shipped in 2011.
The trend lines shown in Figure 1 depict The Linley Group’s forecast for several different types of 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet applications over the next few years. Note that 10GBase-T is expected to achieve a dominant market position in 2014. The adoption rates forecasted by The Linley Group are consistent with the historical Ethernet adoption profile, whereby optical networking interfaces precede copper interfaces but copper port counts greatly outnumber optical port counts soon thereafter.
Figure 1: Forecasted adoption rate of 10 Gb/s Ethernet Applications (source: The Linley Group)
10GBase-T and copper balanced twisted-pair offer benefits over other solutions
With cost and power dissipation significantly reduced with the newer 40-nm PHY devices, and further reductions enabled by 28-nm devices expected in 2013, data center managers can now capitalize on the fundamental advantages offered by 10GBase-T technology, which include the following:
- The ability to interoperate with legacy slower-speed Ethernet technologies through the function of auto-negotiation
- The ease of deploying a copper balanced twisted-pair cabling system and the use of familiar cabling and connector interfaces
- The flexibility of 100-meter, 4-connector structured cabling topologies to support additions, moves, and changes in local area network (LAN) and data center environments
- The ability to deliver Power over Ethernet (PoE and PoE Plus)
Interoperability with legacy Ethernet equipment via auto-negotiation is of particular significance as it enables data center expansions and expenditures to occur incrementally. Rather than demanding a wholesale upgrade of all servers and switches to 10-Gbit/sec capability, which is necessary for non-negotiating Ethernet systems transmitting over optical-fiber media or direct-attach assemblies such as SFP+, 10GBase-T network equipment supports 10-Gbit/sec transmission to new servers and can also auto-negotiate down to 1-Gbit/sec (or slower) speeds to support legacy servers. In this way, data centers can deploy future-ready switching architectures. A 10GBase-T switch can communicate effectively with legacy 1-Gbit/sec and 100-Mbit/sec servers today and allow 10-Gbit/sec servers to be introduced when required and supported by expense allocations tomorrow.