R&M urges caution on 40GBASE-T adoption

Data centre hunger for speed, volume sparks interest in next-gen cabling standard
Jean-Pierre Labry, executive vice-president of R&M Middle East, Turkey and Africa.
Jean-Pierre Labry, executive vice-president of R&M Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

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Swiss structured cabling specialist Reichle & De-Massari (R&M) Middle East, Turkey and Africa, has urged Middle East organisations not to engage in hasty adoption of the 40GBASE-T data centre cabling standard, despite R&M's active contribution to the research and development of the standard.

Through involvement with international standardisation bodies and measuring equipment manufacturers, R&M has been participating in the industry-wide 40GBASE-T project for some time, but feels standards are not completely defined at present and appropriate components have yet to be fully developed.

"The data centre market is now a top priority for R&M because of the large investments that regional organisations are making in this segment," said Jean-Pierre Labry, executive vice-president of R&M Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

"In all data centre implementations, future-proofing is a key requisite and network managers are right to invest in technologies that will yield strong ROI. But they must also be wary of vendors who promise 'future solutions' [that] are out of line with industry standards. The longest service life for cabling will be attained with the best solutions currently available."

While 10GBASE-T was defined for general applications, 40GBASE-T is intended for use directly in data centres. R&M is convinced that in time the advantages 40GBASE-T offers in terms of speed and data volume will outclass the performance of previous copper cabling solutions and Labry believes it will be a standard that cannot be ignored by the industry.

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"Its economic potential is simply too significant, judging from current R&M market observations and experience with millions of installations for its own high-end Cat 6A and fibre-optic solutions," he said.

With a range of 30 metres, the future standard closes the gap between direct-attach cables 7 or 15 metres long for intra-rack cabling and structured fibre cabling with a range of up to 150 metres. An inexpensive copper alternative capable of carrying greater data volumes more quickly than before is therefore needed, R&M argues, for structured cabling over medium distances, for example, between cabinets in an aisle in a computer room.

"Many questions remain unanswered in the standardisation process," R&M said.

"Will S/FTP be the cable of choice? Which frequency range will be adopted? IEEE has not yet even specified many parameters such as Transverse Conversion Loss (TCL). TCL describes the ground symmetry loss of symmetrical wire pairs. It measures sensitivity to noise coupling."

R&M emphasised that the specification of TCL will greatly influence the design of cables for 40GBASE-T.

"[We are] leading the way within important standardisation bodies in the development of connectivity for 40GBASE-T, including IEC-TC46 (cables), IEC-TC48 (connectors) and ISO/IEC JTC1 SC25 (infrastructure)," R&M said.

"R&M supports the activities of these organisations with its own research and development work."

Work on the implementation of 40GBASE-T has only just begun. IEEE has set a goal of publishing the standard in 2016 because of the tremendous commercial interest involved - a goal regarded by R&M as ambitious.

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