10G Ethernet: can copper cut the mustard?

Copper's coming, but fibre's here already.

If 10Gigabit Ethernet has a problem, it's multiple personalities. 10G over fibre is well established as a network backbone technology, but in past generations it's been Ethernet over copper - and especially telephone-style twisted pair cabling - that has brought the big upsurge in usage and sales.

While it's true that 10G over twisted pair is getting cheaper and less power-hungry, will it ever be cheap enough? And even if it is, how long it will take before it makes sense for server manufacturers to build it in?

"Most [10G] shipments to date have been optical fibre," says Jag Bolaria, senior analyst at the Linley Group. "We think in 2007 the market was about 700,000 switch ports, and this year will be something in the order of 1.2 to 1.3 million. To put that in perspective though, Gigabit is over 100 million ports and Fast Ethernet is over 200 million."

The problem is that fibre is too pricey to replace Gigabit to the server or desk. 10G over copper could fill the latter role, but is still maturing - with the exception of CX4, which is a short range (up to 15m) technology using relatively bulky cables.

The great hope among networking suppliers has been 10GBase-T, the standard for 10G over shielded or unshielded twisted-pair (STP/UTP) copper. It allows 10G to run up to 100 metres - or further, in some cases - over Cat6 cabling.

Initial versions of 10GBase-T were costly and power-hungry, with server NICs costing over $500 and only just fitting within the 25W per slot specification for PCI Express (PCIe) expansion cards.

Fresh chips

However, new chips on the way will make a big difference by halving its cost and power consumption, argues Kamal Dalmia, VP of marketing at Teranetics. His company recently began sampling a dual-port 10GBase-T PHY (or transceiver chip) that it claims needs just 6W per port.

Other developers have also announced lower-power PHYs for delivery later this year or next, including Aquantia, Broadcom and Solarflare. All will be backwards-compatible with slower versions of Ethernet, so 10G switches and NICs can be used within existing networks.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Bryan Betts

Techworld.com
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?