I am again coming to you live from the Mandalay Bay convention center in Las Vegas at the Interop exposition. One clear theme is that 10 GB Ethernet is upon us. One demonstration that caught my eye in particular was related to crosstalk when using 10 GB Ethernet on copper cabling. In particular, alien crosstalk from other copper cables in the same bundle or run can cause severe noise interference depending on the cabling media selected.

At the show, I had an opportunity to see a demonstration from CommScope with their new GigaSPEED X10D (pronounced extend) cabling. In this demonstration, it was pretty clear that the cabling did make a difference in throughput over the line. One of the visible differences with the GigaSPEED X10D cabling was a small increase in space within the housing cable. The additional room makes a large difference in the amount of crosstalk, and more importantly, the effect of that crosstalk on other lines. In the demonstration, the GigaSPEEDX10D cable was compared against other CAT 6 and 6A for a 90-meter run for performance and crosstalk on the line. This was the network performance test performed to show the performance results:

Using copper cabling for 10 GB Ethernet will be a tempting topic to the network administrator. Expanding the copper infrastructure that may be in place to include 10 GB Ethernet performance is attractive from many perspectives. This includes cable management, patch panels, termination tools, cost, and ease of installation — all making 10 GB Ethernet an attractive migration.

What kind of planning is needed?

We are only going to go to 10 GB Ethernet because we need the speed. Therefore, it would be a good idea to ensure that the best performance is met with your selected media. In the demonstration I was shown, the alien crosstalk was significant when compared to the other cabling that underwent the same test. But what does that feel like in overall network speed or overall functionality?

To plan your implementation, I would recommend a test that would have a number (at least six) of your candidate cable bundled together in the same fashion that you would run them up to your maximum length. Then run a series of repeatable network traffic performance tests that can give you a benchmark for the performance of that media. Then, repeat the test with as many other candidate cables as would be required to identify a clear winner.