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19Mar/12Off

10GbaseT making a comeback ?

Say it's true... I've been a fan of 10GbaseT for a while now. Though it hasn't really caught on in the industry, off the top of my head I can only think of Arista and Extreme who have embraced the standard from a switching perspective, with everyone else going with SFP+, or XFP or something else. Both Arista and Extreme obviously have SFP+ products as well, maybe XFP too, though I haven't looked into why someone would use XFP over SFP+ or vise versa.

From what I know, the biggest thing that has held back adoption of 10GbaseT has been power usage. Also I think other industry organizations had given up waiting for 10GbaseT to materialize. Also cost was somewhat of a factor too, I recall at least with Extreme their 24-port 10GbaseT switch was about $10k more than their SFP+ switch (without any SFP+ adapters or cables), so it was priced similarly to an optical switch that was fairly fully populated with modules, making entry level pricing if you only needed say 10 ports initially quite a bit higher.

But I have read two different things (and heard a third)  recently, which I'm sure are related which hopefully points to a turning point in 10GbaseT adoption.

The first was a banner on Arista's website.

The second  is this blog post talking about a new 10GbaseT chip from Intel.

Then the third thing I probably can't talk about, so I won't :)

I would love to have 10GbaseT over the passive copper cabling that most folks use now, that stuff is a pain to work with. While there are at least two switching companies that have 10GbaseT (I recall a Dell blade switch that had 10GbaseT support too), the number of NICs out there that support it is just about as sparse.

Not only that but I do like to color code my cables, and while CAT6 cables are obviously easy to get in many colors, it's less common and harder to get those passive 10GbE cables in multiple colors, seems most everyone just has black.

Also, cable lengths are quite a bit more precise with CAT6 than with passive copper. For example from Extreme at least (I know I could go 3rd party if I wanted), their short cables are 1 meter and 3 meters. There's a massive amount of distance between those two. CAT6 can be easily customized to any length and pre-made cables(I don't make my own), can be fairly easily found to be in 1 foot (or even half a foot) increments.

SFP Passive copper 10GbE cable

I wonder if there are (or will there be) 10GbaseT SFP+ GBICs (so existing switches could support 10GbaseT without wholesale replacement) ? I know there are 1GbE SFP+ GBICs.

 

TechOps Guy: Nate

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  1. Panduit has active and passive DAC cables in 0.5m increments and multiple colors (only blue, black, and white – but it helps).

    The biggest pain I’m seeing with DAC cables is having to look at support matrices for every host/switch connection, e.g. QLogic supports active and passive DACs for their CNA, but IBM only supports the card with an active DAC from IBM or Molex, Cisco only supports the IBM cable, and the IBM cable only comes in 1/3/5m sizes. Will the Panduit cable work? Almost certainly; but I have to look at keeping an IBM and Cisco cable around for troubleshooting if anything goes wrong.

    10GbaseT would be nice, but nobody I’ve seen is willing to support FCoE over it due to the bit error rate.

    My wish would be for some standardization and wider availability for ultra short reach optics for host-to-switch and switch-to-switch connectivity.

  2. Someone told me today about a firmware bug in the Qlogic 10GbE cards that I have where the link may flap every few seconds, fortunately it doesn’t affect me, but apparently it is related to certain DAC cables, and is hit or miss depending on the cable and the card(even different cards of the same type could behave differently). The only workaround for the affected cards at this point is to use optical cable instead. Firmware fix is still in development.

    The first horizontal cable managers I got (from Rittal) were a couple inches too short to support the 10G copper cables, my 2nd trip to atlanta I replaced them with I think Pandiut ones, that were an inch or two deeper, though I had to take a saw to one of them on the side since it was blocking some power cables being so deep. But it worked (barely), I can’t imagine wiring up a “Standard size” rack with a bunch of 10GbE copper cabling. My racks are very wide and deep, which makes cabling life so much easier, and since power is often the constraint regardless I’d rather take up more cage space with big racks then let the space sit empty.

    thanks for the comment!

  3. Regarding 10GBASE-T SFP+ transceivers: they don’t exist now because the 10GBASE-T PHY chips require more power than is available to an SFP+ module. IIRC the SFP+ power budget is 1.5 watts and the most power efficient 10GBASE-T PHYs consume >=2.5 watts per port. It seems like such transceivers should be possible in the future if/when PHY chips that use less power become available.

  4. That makes absolutely perfect sense, thanks for pointing that out and thanks for the post!!