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The Ethernet Alliance has introduced a new technical brief that examines the various BASE-T segments and niches, and explains how they fill out the “Spaces of BASE-T.” It looks at the evolution of twisted pair, or BASE-T Ethernet, once considered a one-size-fits-all solution for in-building mass-market Ethernet data transfer. The brief also details use cases for various BASE-T speeds and standards efforts that are seeing multiple new speeds of BASE-T being offered into the marketplace.
First is a look at what’s transpired up until now; where general-purpose wired Ethernet progressed regularly as the preferred port in data-center, enterprise, home, and even industrial applications with a single PHY used in all segments—from 10 to 100 to 1000BASE-T.
In all use cases, 100-meter reach in category cabling was the norm, and each next speed that was introduced fit neatly into the use cases and applications of the last. Because of this, it was only a matter of time before cost and power moved to the point where port speed increased in all use cases. As a result, new speeds were introduced one at a time in a steady progression across in-building Ethernet networks.
Today, standards development is pointing toward multiple new speeds of BASE-T Ethernet. While 10GBASE-T is slowly being adopted in the market, it coexists with a continually growing 1000BASE-T, new offerings at 2.5 Gb/s and 5 Gb/s, as well as new standards developments for 25G and 40GBASE-T. These only include the variants that use structured 4-pair copper cabling. There are also the BASE-T1 (single-pair) 100-Mb/s and 1000-Mb/s BASE-T Ethernet variants that have more obvious differentiated applications (e.g., automotive).
Dealing with Diversity
When considering 4-pair BASE-Ts, it’s clear that each has its own application space and use model, which can roughly be divided into two major segments: Enterprise Floor and Data Center. In addition, each major segment has several performance niches diversifying the BASE-T Ethernet PHY universe beyond its traditional one-size-fits-all approach. This diversity represents a healthy segmentation of the market into two primary applications, each with its own needs.
One of the key BASE-T findings is that it best serves these two primary market segments by moving beyond the conventional wisdom of 10X exponential speed steps in favor of incremental speed steps. This approach better fits the demands of end stations, maturing legacy infrastructure, and bandwidth needs of access networking.
Some other findings show that BASE-T technologies will continue to adapt and evolve to fill diverse spaces as Ethernet continues to add new markets. On the enterprise floor, where 100-m reach is required, the use of 1000BASE-T continues to grow. However, it’s now augmented by 2.5G, 5G and 10GBASE-T on cabling categories from 5e up to 6a.
Data centers are moving to a rack- or row-based architecture up to 30 meters that uses newer cabling categories from 6a to 8. This topology supports BASE-T speeds from 10 to 25 Gb/s and 40Gb/s in development now, with the possibility of 50G in the near future.
A more detailed overview and exploration of the BASE-T Ethernet market segments and associated technological advances can be found by downloading the Ethernet Alliance technical brief: The Spaces of BASE-T.
David Chalupsky is a Principal Engineer in Intel’s Data Center Group, focusing on Ethernet product, IP, and standards development. Since joining Intel in 1988, Dave has held a variety of hardware development and engineering management roles, which began with single-board industrial computer design. An active contributor to the advancement of the Ethernet ecosystem, Dave currently chairs two BASE-T-related standards development projects in IEEE 802.3 as well as the BASE-T subcommittee of the Ethernet Alliance, and is a Director of the NBASE-T Alliance. Dave holds a BS in computer engineering from California State University, Chico, a Masters in EE/CE from Portland State University, and eight U.S. patents.
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