10G BASE-T – Now Available in Mainstream

I’ve spoken at length about Ethernet and its fundamental cost advantages as a networking interconnect over years.  Tons of competition, standard products, broad hardware support, ubiquitous software and ecosystem plumbing, etc.  Ethernet has it all.  Additionally, the performance and capabilities continue to march forward as time goes by, either through 10x performance increases, or power management capabilities like Energy Efficient Ethernet.  Steady progress in performance, support, and cost continues unabated.

As 10 Gigabit has made its way into the forefront of Server interconnect world, many have been wondering when the support for mainstream copper interconnect would become available (Cat-5/6 cabling).  Until recently, Fiber 10G adapters were common, as well as more niche interconnect types like Twin-AX and CX-4 which are based on copper, but have no legacy support and only provide distances under 15m.

In the past few months several ecosystem developments and announcements have been made which cumulatively bring me to proclaim that 10G BASE-T (10 Gigabit over Cat 6a cabling) is here, and it’s here to stay.

In no particular order:

  1. Cisco recently announced 10GBT interface modules for their Catalyst 6500 series switches and Catalyst 4900M switches.

  2. Both Arista and Extreme networks have launched their 10G BASE-T switches.

  3. Panduit has introduced an innovative CAT-6a cable design that reduces cable size resulting in a smaller and more flexible cabling that supports 10G BASE-T transmissions.

  4. Intel has announced new dual-port 10G BASE-T adapter, the Intel® Ethernet Server Adapter X520-T2 at Cisco’s networking show in Barcelona. It’s a third generation 10G BASE-T product with two 10GBT ports for redundancy or link aggregation and is based on the Intel 82599 10 Gigabit Ethernet Controller, which means support for iSCSI acceleration, SR-IOV, and FCoE.

  5. Price points for 10G BASE-T adapters are now <$500 / port (the aforementioned Intel card is sub $400/port)

  6. There have also been some pretty cool and useful presentations and announcements that I’ve highlighted at the end of the blog.

  7. Finally, given the ramp in volumes of 10G BASE-T, it is my belief that in the coming round of servers in 2011, you will begin to see cost and power envelopes making 10G BASE-T LAN on Motherboard (LOM) solutions a reality.  This will further drive cost and power curves downward.

Combined, all of these developments in the 10GBASE-T ecosystem paint a compelling picture of the coming promise of 10G BASE-T in mainstream applications and make the transition to 10G look ready to kick it in to high gear.  The final piece for the transition is in place!


Ben Hacker

Additional Links:

Cisco, Panduit, Intel 3-way demo at Cisco Networkers – And demo brief

Intel® Ethernet Server Adapter X520-T2 -- Product Brief