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Category 8 Cabling for the Data Center

The TIA announced the creation of a new standard made available that could handle the increased speeds called Category 8 cabling or CAT8. CAT8 will most likely have a positive impact on the current and future data centers worldwide.

There is no point in having high-end dedicated servers and excellent bandwidth providers if the basic cabling within the data center is not up to the task of handling all the data flowing between servers, switches, routers and etc. Having the speediest equipment available will not be used to it full potential if the cabling is not adequate and up to the task. More and more data is being transmitted between dedicated servers and networking hardware so it is, of course, vital that the basic cabling is keeping pace with this.

All data centers are well aware of the current copper cabling available and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). The TIA is a volunteer group responsible for developing cable standards that work with IEEE Ethernet specifications.

The Similarities

CAT8 is the new standard using copper cabling from the TIA. The purpose of the CAT8 cabling was to support the 40GBASE-T Ethernet specifications that have been developed by the IEEE. (CAT6 supports 10GBASE-T specifications.) Since the CAT8 builds on the CAT6 standard, the newer cables will be using the current RJ45 connector which makes it compatible with current hardware and can also downgrade to CAT6 10GBASE-T speeds.

The Differences

The two main differences between CAT6 and CAT8 copper cabling is the speed increase and physical length of the cables. The new range of transmissions is to be just 30 meters (98 feet) instead of the CAT6’s distance of 100 meters (328 feet). The TIA says that the majority of distances in a data center are about 30 meters hence the 30-meter length. This shorter distance helps cut down on power usage at a data center by not having to “push” that much power all the time. The extra power was required for CAT6 cables in order to prevent frequency and speed loss. However, CAT8 is also able to transmit 10GBASE-T over 100 meters if need be preventing data centers from having to upgrade electronics right away.

Compatibility

Once CAT8 becomes more popular, older data centers who have been around for a number of years will be able to switch out older CAT6 cables with newer cabling when needed. Backwards compatibility is something the TIA kept in mind when designing the new cable standard. Since many data centers replace and repair equipment if need be, this will be important. Those dedicated server providers using BASE-T technology and RJ45 connectors with their cables will find swapping out components much easier and not have to worry about the added expense of having to support a brand new non-backward compatible standard.

Of course, the other type of cable making its way into data centers is fiber. Copper cables are nearly the same price now as fiber making the decision to switch to fiber more attractive each year. Making the decision to stay with a tried and true copper type of cabling or the newer fiber type, will be the decision dedicated server providers will have to make on their own and factor incompatibility and cost for this upgrade. Each provider will have to determine which solution is best for them.

SOURCE: Eprocessor® January 24, 2014 Vol. 36 Iss. 2

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