Vativ offers beta alternative for 10 GigE transmission

Vativ Technologies unveiled a new 10 Gigabit Ethernet network offering for the data center backbone. While it won't fall under IEEE's 10GBASE-T standard, it may help data centers run 10 Gigabit Ethernet on existing infrastructure.

This week, San Diego-based Vativ Technologies Inc. unveiled a beta version of a new 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) connection. The fabless semiconductor company hopes its new V10LAN, a single-chip 10 GigE transceiver for CAT5e or CAT6 data cables, can provide an alternative to expensive and unwieldy data transmission networks.

For networking in the data center, 10 GigE is the buzzword. It's a telecommunication technology that offers data speeds up to 10 billion bps. Built on the Ethernet technology used in many LANs, 10 GigE offers an efficient approach to moving data between networks.

Existing technologies that provide 10 GigE transmission include optical fiber and 10GBASE-CX4. But the current technologies face drawbacks.

Many experts agree that optical fiber is cost prohibitive compared to traditional cabling. And most sites have legacy network infrastructure -- CAT5e and CAT6 copper unshielded twisted pair (UTP) -- that data center managers don't want to replace.

Recently, data centers have been able to run 10 GigE over copper using 10GBASE-CX4. But according to Sreen Raghavan, CEO of Vativ, CX4 can be cost prohibitive as well, and has problems with weight and bend radius. Also, CX4 has a short reach, limited to 15 meters.

"In a lot of data centers, 15 meters won't even get you rack to rack," said Carrie Higbie, global network applications market manager for the Siemon Co., in Watertown, Conn.

Currently, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is developing a standard for 10GBASE-T network connections. According to Higbie, who sits on the IEEE standard board for 10GBASE-T, this standard will extend copper cabling to 55 meters on CAT6.

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Higbie said it's important to note that the Vativ offering will work with CAT5e cabling, which could be perceived as a proprietary system -- since CAT5e is not included in the 10GBASE-T standard.

But Higbie suggested that this launch is market-driven rather than a technology-standards issue, which may be able to solve 10 GigE problems for data center managers in CAT5e environments.

"There is probably more CAT5e installed than CAT6. It definitely has an impact on the data center market, as data centers are the target for this technology," Higbie said.

Vativ is currently working with early adopters. Targeted customers for the new transceiver are OEMs and system vendors developing high-speed Ethernet switches and servers for the enterprise data center market.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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