Debate rages at Bahrain’s BICSI cabling conference

The ratification debate surrounding 10Gigabit Ethernet (10GBE) over copper, dominated the recent Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) conference, which took place on June 5-6 at the Bahrain Conference Centre, Crowne Plaza Bahrain.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  June 29, 2004

|~|tug-of-war_m.jpg|~||~|The ratification debate surrounding 10Gigabit Ethernet (10GBE) over copper, dominated the recent Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) conference, which took place on June 5-6 at the Bahrain Conference Centre, Crowne Plaza Bahrain. The international networking & telecommunications cabling conference featured speakers from a variety of vendors in the networking space, such as APC, Corning, Fluke Networks, Fumo Communications, HCS — HES Cabling Systems, Infratec, Naizak, NeST, NORDX, Ortronics and R&M. The main talking point was whether or not Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cabling for 10GB Ethernet over copper will be ratified along with shielded cabling, which is expected to be standardised by 2006. “With UTP it is difficult to run 10GBE over copper over 100 meters [which is necessary for it to become standardised],” says Ufuk Yilmaz, assistant general manager, HCS-HES Cabling Systems. “The IEEE P802.3an task force is working on it. With shielded cabling it is much easier to go further, so the future is likely to see more shielded cabling.” Clouding the matter though is that UTP holds significant advantages over shielded cabling in other areas. For instance, UTP installations are less time consuming and less prone to error than shielded installations. With this incentive in mind, interested parties are working to standardise 10GBE over copper on UTP cabling. This is of particular relevance to the Middle East, where 95% of applications run on UTP cabling at present, according to HCS-HES. The commission will produce the first draft of the standard this summer, with the full standard expected to be finalised by 2006. 10GBE is a point of interest at the moment as many vendors see it as a low-cost alternative to fibre. Many vendors believe that fibre transceiver prices aren’t falling fast enough. Transceivers for 10GBE over copper could be less than half the price of their fibre counterparts. The requirements that the standard has to meet are steep as the demands that 10GBE places on copper cabling are heavy. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) task force has challenged vendors to come up with solutions supporting 10GBE over 100 metres, with support for four connector channels and guaranteed performance out to 625MHz. As well as the issue of shielded or unshielded the category of cabling is a critical consideration in the testing of 10GBE over copper. Cat6 cabling can only transmit at 10GB over very short distances (up to 55m), which can be acceptable for servers in the data centre environment, but is not considered long enough for desktops. Cat7 is considered by some vendors to offer the best solution for businesses interested in future proofing their networks in anticipation of using 10GBE over copper when it is standardised. Often, products come out before the standard is ratified but commentators think this is less likely with 10GBE, as the standard poses more difficulties than usually encountered. “There is a lot to be decided,” says Werner Heeren, regional sales manager, Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa, Fluke Networks. “Cat6 is not enough for 10GBE, Cat7 has too much bandwidth, is more expensive and requires changes. For example, the same connectors are not supported. An in between solution, such as Cat 6e, could be promising.”||**||

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