10GbE Interconnect Solutions Overview
New sophisticated networking services, coupled with the increase of Internet users push the Internet traffic to an even higher point, driving the need for increased bandwidth consequently. One Ethernet technology—10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is adequate for such bandwidth demand, and has become widely available due to the competitive price and performance, as well as its simplified cabling structure.
Several cable and interconnect solutions are available for 10GbE, the choice of which depends on the maximum interconnect distance, power budget and heat consumption, signal latency, network reliability, component adaptability to future requirements, cost. Here cost includes more than what we call the equipment interface and cable cost, but more often the labor cost. Thus, choosing a 10GbE interconnect solution requires careful evaluation of each option against the specific applications. This text aims to introduce two main 10GbE interconnect solutions: fiber optics and copper.
Fiber Optics Solution
Fiber optic cables include single-mode fiber (SMF) and multi-mode fiber (MMF). MMF is larger in diameter than that of single-mode, thus portions of the light beam follow different paths as they bounce back and forth between the walls of the fiber, leading to the possible distorted signal when reach the other end of the cable. The amount of distortion increases with the length of the cable. The light beam follows a single path through thinner single-mode cable, so the amount of distortion is much lower.
The typical 10GBASE port type that uses MMF is 10GBASE-SR which uses 850nm lasers. When used with OM3 MMF, 10GBASE-SR can support 300m-connection distances, and when with OM4 MMF, 400m link length is possible through 10GBASE-SR SFP+ transceiver.
10GBASE-LR (eg. E10GSFPLR), 10GBASE-ER and 10GBASE-ZR are all specified to work via SMF. SMF can carry signals up to 80km, so it is more often used in wide-area networks. But since SMF requires a more expensive laser light source than MMF does, SMF is replaced by MMF when the required connection distance is not so long.
10GBASE-CX4, SFP+ Direct Attach (DAC) and 10GBASE-T are all specified to operate through copper medium.
Being the first 10GbE copper solution standardized by the IEEE as 802.3ak in 2002, 10GBase-CX4 uses four cables, each carrying 2.5gigabits of data. It is specified to work up to a distance of 15m. Although 10GBase-CX4 provides an extremely cost-effective method to connect equipment within that 15m-distance, its bulky weight and big size of the CX4 connector prohibited higher switch densities required for large scale deployment. Besides, large diameter cables are purchased in fixed lengths, causing problems in managing cable slack. What’s more, the space isn’t sufficient enough to handle these large cables.
SFP+ Direct Attach Cable (DAC), or called 10GSFP+Cu, is a copper 10GBASE twin-axial cable, connected directly into an SFP+ housing. It comes in either an active or passive twin-axial cable assembly. This solution provides a low-cost and low energy-consuming interconnect with a flexible cabling length, typically 1 to 7m (passive versions) or up to 15m (active versions) in length. Below is the SFP+ to SFP+ passive copper cable assembly with 1m length, 487655-B21, a HP compatible 10GbE cabling product.
10GBASE-T, known as IEEE 802.3an-2006, utilizes twisted pair cables and RJ-45 connectors over distances up to 100m. Cat 6 and Cat 6a are recommended, with the former reaching the full length at 100m, and the latter at 55m. In a word, 10GBASE-T permits operations over 4-connector structured 4-pair twisted-pair copper cabling for all supported distances within 100m. Besides, 10GBASE-T cabling solution is backward-compatible with 1000BASE-T switch infrastructures, keeping costs down while offering an easy migration path from 1GbE to 10GbE.
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