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High performance cabling -- The cat's meow

According to a new study, data center managers are more willing than ever to adopt Category 6 and Category 6A cabling that can support 10 GBps, even with standards yet to be finalized.

According to a new study released by cabling vendor Systimax Solutions, data center pros are enthusiastic about deploying unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cabling that is able to support 10 Gigabytes per second (GBps) for their data center -- even though the standards for this type of cabling are still in development.

Richardson, Texas-based Systimax released its study, conducted among 2,165 IT professionals, last week. According to the company, the findings illustrate that high performance cabling is now widely recognized as a good investment for data centers.

Fifty-six percent of the study respondents said they would install Category 6 cabling, which has a maximum test frequency of 250 MHz -- more than twice the bandwidth of Category 5e cabling. And 16% would opt for the new Augmented Category 6 (Category 6A) cabling, even though a 6A standard isn't expected to be issued until next summer at the earliest.

Cat 6A cabling has the capacity to support 500 MHz, along with additional parameters designed to further reduce alien crosstalk, electromagnetic noise that can occur in a cable that runs alongside one or more other signal-carrying cables.

Carrie Higbie, global network applications market manager at The Siemon Company, is one cabling expert who isn't surprised IT managers would look past a lack of standards and toward the future -- with one caveat. Make sure your vendor is not only aware of the standards development process, but is proactive in it as well.

"You need to feel comfortable with your vendor," Higbie said. "If you deal with vendors on the standards committee, that makes a big difference."

According to Mike Barnick, senior solutions marketing manager for Systimax, the study suggests that IT managers are starting to realize just how critical strong cabling systems are for supporting increased bandwidth requirements.

"As we move to higher speeds, IT managers clearly now see the need for better cabling, and the need to install it as quickly as possible," Barnick said. "They are willing to adopt new cabling technology."

According to Systimax, the industry-wide view is that the migration to 10 GBps is likely to begin in the data center and move on to desktop connections. Forty-five percent of the respondents expect to have 10 Gigabit Ethernet in their server connections within two years. Ten percent have already implemented it in their backbone, or switch-to-switch, connections, with54% anticipating they will do so within two years.

"If you look at [cabling] from a speed-and-operations standpoint, downtime is very expensive," Higbie said. "Anytime you've got to put something in, you have to look at not only what you need today, but for 20 years down the road, which is how long people expect their data center to be used."

Barnick said he believes the upcoming Cat 6A standards are a big reason why data center professionals see 6A cabling as a necessary upgrade in the near future.

"Once a standard becomes firm, then you begin to see the masses adopt it … right now we're seeing the visionaries adopt it, but as the standard becomes rock solid, you will see more and more IT managers ask cabling questions … and begin to consider an upgrade to their cabling system," Barnick said.

For more information:

It's the cabling, stupid!

Charming the cable snake

The study also found that 78% are either using wireless networking presently or are intending to use it in new installations. Eighty-one percent see wireless technology as an overlay or extension to their cabling infrastructure, but just 14% see it as a replacement for a cabling infrastructure.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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