NetWorld + Interop Atlanta September 13-17 1999 - Page 3

 By Al Gallant
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Part 3:  Gigabit Ethernet over Copper

Gigabit Ethernet over Copper

Gigabit Ethernet over copper was a highlight at the show. I found two vendors that are presently shipping products that support it. Hewlett Packard is shipping copper gigabit Ethernet modules, the J4842A and the J4115A, as components of their HP ProCurve Switch. HP was the first vendor that I spoke with who is pushing for even higher speeds. They are forming the 10 Gigabit (10,000baseT) standards committee and are petitioning network vendors for participation.

SysKonnect (WWW.SysKonnect.Com) has two shipping copper gigabit Ethernet adapters, the SK-9821 and the SK-9822. The SK-9821 adapter is a single port adapter and the SK-9822 is a dual port adapter. The dual port adapter is designed for servers that would require two separate gigabit connections for such issues as redundancy, spanning two different networks or shared high-speed bandwidth. It has three MAC addresses, two physical and one virtual. The links can connect to different backbone switches to provide redundancy. The price is very impressive as well. The SK-9821 single port retails at $729 and the SSK-9822 retails at $1595. Street prices will be significantly lower. SysKonnect is an OEM for NIC products with over 15 years of experience

I went to the GEA (Gigabit Ethernet Alliance WWW.Gigabit-Ethernet.Org) booth to seek out vendors who might have 802.3ab products. All GEA steering committee members were present at the show. The vendors at the GEA booth all said they had copper gigabit Ethernet components and were planning to ship first quarter of 2000. My recommendation to Network managers is to start your "AFTER Christmas shopping list" now. Copper gigabit Ethernet (IEEE 802.3ab) will be the big item for the year 2000.

At Intel's booth I saw their copper gigabit Ethernet adapter. They had a 100-meter roll of Cat 5 cable between two systems with a sniffer and cable analyzer attached. They demonstrated that it really works at bandwidth speeds. Intel is not planning to release the Gigabit NIC card until Q1 2000.

The InteropNet Labs had a working demo of Gigabit Ethernet (1000base-T IEEE 802.3ab) over unshielded twisted pair. They used ordinary barbed wire as their unshielded twisted pair. Honest!!! Now I have read some comical urban legend stories about the country network engineer using barbed wire to run his network. But the InteropNet Labs really had a section of barbed wire over which they were running 1000base-T.

Now although the barbed wire demo was cute, the technology behind the demo is the real story. Most folks think that 1000base-T is just a way of taking 100base-T devices and making them go faster. If that was the case then I don't believe that this barbed wire demo would ever work. The effects of link induced interference caused by echo and crosstalk would cause it to fail. The point here is that Gigabit Ethernet is a new technology with a new standard (IEEE 802.3AB). 1000base-T uses a symbol rate of 125 Mbaud (the same as 100base-T) however it uses four pairs for the link instead of two pair as 100base-T uses and it has a five level coding scheme where 100base-T uses a three level coding scheme. Copper 1000base-T is not some future technology that is still a few years out. It is here and it is ready for the network industry.

This article was originally published on Sep 24, 1999
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