10GBASE-T is the standard technology that enables 10 Gigabit Ethernet operations over balanced twisted-pair copper, including Category 6A unshielded and shielded cabling. 10GBASE-T provides great flexibility in network design due to its 100-meter reach capability, and also provides the requisite backward compatibility that allows most end users to transparently upgrade from existing 100/1000-Mbps networks.
Cost and power dissipation of 10GBASE-T PHYs is significantly reduced with newer 40-nm PHY devices, and further reductions enabled by 28-nm devices are expected in 2013. Network equipment vendors can now capitalize on the fundamental advantages offered by 10GBASE-T technology.
New 10GBASE-T physical layers allow lower-cost and lower-power high-density designs. The latency of the 10GBASE-T PHY has also been improved and allows the building of 10GBASE-T networks to support most of today’s applications. 10GBASE-T equipment from multiple vendors is available in the marketplace. The equipment includes high-port-density switches, modular-chassis-based switches, network interface cards, network-attached storage arrays, networking appliances and cabling. 10GbE MAC layer controllers enabling 10GBASE-T LAN on motherboard (LOM) designs for networking appliances and higher-end desktops are also available, further aiding the adoption of 10GBASE-T.
The article is a review of progress in removing the technical and economic barriers that prevented broad 10GBASE-T deployment.
10GBASE-T is poised to become a compelling choice for 10GbE connectivity for servers as well as network appliances and storage systems. The technology is based on the familiar and well-understood RJ-45 cabling scheme and is fully backward compatible with 100 Megabit and 1 Gigabit Ethernet speeds, thus providing a cost-effective and transparent migration path to 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
“10GBASE-T sis expected to be a key driver of the next wave of overall 10 Gigabit Ethernet growth, driving much broader adoption, especially in the high-volume server and switch segments,” said Seamus Crehan, president of Crehan Research.
With Intel’s March 2012 launch of its Romley generation server platforms with 10GBASE-T LOM connectivity, the 10GBASE-T interconnect market is now seeing an explosive uptick. Intel's Romley platform is also driving the adoption of 10GbE LOMs as the I/O subsystem will need to catch up to the improved processors.
In fact, according to a recent Crehan Research report, the first full quarter of Romley-based server shipments, resulted in dramatic growth for 10GBASE-T, with 2Q12 ports exceeding all cumulative 10GBASE-T shipments up to this point (See Chart above).
As the 10 Gigabit Ethernet market expands into more general use cases beyond the data center, 10GBASE-T can be a cost-effective option even with its power envelope. As with any new standards-based technology, the speed and trajectory of adoption is dictated by the ecosystem support for that technology.
COST AND POWER
The cost of 10GBASE-T PHYs in terms of Gbps/port has been dramatically declining and is down approximately 70 percent since 2008, with further decline forecasts for the next year. The continuous decline of cost to end users will be one of the major factors making 10GBASE-T a desirable media for broad adoption. With 10 times the data rate capacity, 10GBASE-T provides end users with the next logical step of upgrade from 10/100/1000-Mbps Ethernet networks.
Some perceptions remain that the 10GBASE-T PHY transceiver consumes too much power and is too costly. This perception may have been correct for the first generation of 10GBASE-T PHY in 2006 and 2007, but PHYs are following Moore’s Law, and new processes have significantly decreased both cost and power use, and subsequent process improvements will continue to enhance these decreases.
The power consumption of 10GBASE-T has also declined significantly. In general, a 10GBASE-T PHY consumes 3.5W or less per port at full-reach capability. A 10GBASE-T PHY can consume approximately 60 percent less power when running in short-reach mode. Both full-reach and short-reach modes are defined in the 10GBASE-T standard. The full-reach mode is specified to support 10GBASE-T up to 100 meters, and the short-reach mode is defined to support 10GBASE-T up to 30 meters. With 40-nanometer (nm) or even future 28-nm semiconductor technology, the next generation of 10GBASE-T PHY is expected to reduce the power consumption and heat dissipation even further.
Note that 10GBASE-T consumes much less power than 1000BASE-T on a per-Gbps per-port basis, making 10GBASE-T more power efficient than 1000BASE-T. The power consumption and heat dissipation of 10GBASE-T PHYs together with the emergence of a new class of low-power 10GbE MAC-layer devices such as Tehuti TN4010, which consumes 1W per 10GbE port support the designs of high-port density 10GBASE-T switches and LOMs.
A range of products are available today that take advantage of this new technology, and the coming year promises to deliver additional offerings across the server, switch, adapter, and networking appliance, and storage vendor ecosystem. Therefore, vendors should start planning now to integrate 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 10GBASE-T into their next-generation designs.
According to Crehan, 10GBASE-T has gained strong traction as complete portfolios of products are rolled out. “The introduction of 10GBASE-T in various form-factors of adapter cards, LAN-on-motherboard solutions, high port-density switches, and storage appliances is helping this technology adoption to accelerate rapidly,” said Seamus Crehan, president of Crehan Research.
“We view 10GBASE-T to be the most flexible, economical, backward-compatible, and user-friendly connectivity option for customer migration to 10GbE. Arista’s 10GBASE-T switch products are designed for distances up to 100 meters, capable of covering this range with a single cable type, and continue to outpace the industry in terms of port-density, low latency, low jitter and power-efficiency, all in a compact footprint with built-in flash memory for specialized applications”, said Anshul Sadana, Sr. VP, Customer Engineering, at Arista Networks.
The 10GBASE-T ecosystem continues to grow and offer a robust number of options in the marketplace These options are from different leading vendors. It is certainly desirable to have more high-port-density 10GBASE-T fixed or chassis based modular switches available. Cost-effective 10GBASE-T LOM using very low power single-port 10GbE MAC controllers from vendors such as Tehuti Networks will be another important factor in promoting massive adoption on network appliances and workstations.
“Tehuti's TN4010 is the only solution available today to address the low cost and low power requirement for network appliance ODMs. Our Single port 10GBASE-T reference design enables seamless migration of existing Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) networking available on every workstation and network appliance to 10GBASE-T connectivity providing an order of magnitude boost in performance at very low power and cost levels,” said
Moshe Shahaf, Chairman and CEO, Tehuti Networks.
About the Author
Saqib Jang is the founder and a principal with Margalla Communications, Inc. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.