Will Cat 8 Reduce Data Centres' Need for Extra Bandwidth?

Around the world, IT executives have been trying desperately to keep up with the never-ending demands being placed on their networks. The expectations of the modern organisation are high. Virtualisation of servers is becoming standard, so too is the use of the cloud for storage and data management. Theres only so much you can stuff down a network before it starts bottlenecking, slowing everything and everyone down. In order to ease the struggle somewhat, theres a faint whisper that category 8 cables are being heralded as server saviours.

Shaun Walsh the senior vice-president of marketing and corporate development at Emulex, when speaking about IT executives’ use of bandwidth said that some 40% have already deployed 10GB Ethernet and, in another four years, the majority of those networks will be operating at 100GB to meet the increased need. Up until now, the only way to cope with the demand was to purchase more bandwidth. Will category 8s faster transfer satisfy increased network requirements, reducing data centres need for extra bandwidth?

What Category 8 cables promise

Sterling Vaden, chair of the Telecommunications Industry Associations (TIA) subcommittee on copper cabling commented on the benefits to data centres; saying it will let them transport data four times faster on essentially the same type of cable they now use. Not only will it increase the speed of data transfer, but will be able to achieve it using the same, if not less, power per port. This increase in speed is akin to allowing cars to increase their speed on the motorway four-fold. There simply wont be a need for more bandwidth- its the equivalent of an additional lane.

Category 8 promises to be backwards compatible, communicating comfortably with previous category 6A and lower standards, making it viable to mix and match equipment. Appreciating that the service life of copper cabling is some 20 years, those that have lower category cabling can rest assured that upgrading wont mean having to shell out for a whole new cabling plan.

Making use of the 40GBASE-T equipment, category 8 cabling will be able to automatically determine the appropriate speed to use. If data demands are such that it needs to operate at full throttle, it can deliver at 40GB. However when transmission needs are reduced, based on the equipment plugged in at the other end, it will be capable of adjusting accordingly. This makes for a smarter solution to data management. No bulk buying additional bandwidth, you can allow the attached equipment to negotiate, making full use of available data rates.

Length limitations

As with any technological developments, copper cabling does have potential limitations. With a restricted range of only 30 metres, there was need to investigate whether this would be an acceptable length for the average data centre.

Vaden offers assurances that the studies carried out reveal the reach needs are within the typical data centre, and the surveys indicate that the majority of the applications within the data centre can be serviced. If, however, your data centre has needs exceeding that of the average, you may find you still have to opt for additional bandwidth.

While the cable is fully capable of high speeds, any insertion loss and it might be right back to a bottle-neck scenario, with service being reduced to a sluggish crawl. The solution to limit the impact of insertion loss would have been to increase the size of the cable. As its predecessors the 6A and 7A, design requirements compel it to maintain the 22 AWG diameter, any larger and in Vadens opinion the gauges would be too bulky.

Once again promises have been made. Hawk-eyes over the manufacturing process Vaden reassures, will roll out cables that have been precisely controlled to maintain performance and compliance expectations consistently. Extra attention no doubt will need to be paid when transfers meet the higher frequencies.

Its only once the cables have been introduced to data centres that IT executives will appreciate whether increased speed satisfies the network servers increased needs. If category 8 cabling can deliver all that Vaden and the various studies promise, then the costly increase of bandwidth may soon be a thing of the past.

Image: tsakshaug