The Conversation Continues: Where We Stand on 40G and 100G Cabling Systems

RMei_s Photo_Thumbnail Richard Mei July 2, 2013

As some of you may be aware, there is a debate taking place in the standards groups, such as IEEE, ISO and TIA, regarding what will be considered the best practice when migrating to a 40/100 gigabit network in data centers.

The need for higher speeds of 40/100G in the data center is certainly clear, but how to implement this in a cost-effective manner is not as straightforward.

To make sense of this, we look to the activities in the applications standards bodies to determine how best to plan for these higher speeds and how to leverage existing cabling infrastructure to minimize downtime during the upgrade.

On June 27, I had the distinct pleasure to take part in a webinar hosted by Cabling Installation & Maintenance on 40G and 100G cabling systems. In this webinar, I presented an overview of the IEEE 802.3 40G/100Gbps Ethernet standard currently under development and also touched base on INCITS T11.2 fiber channel standard and its migration path to the high-speed storage area network.

Some of the key background updates outlined in the webinar include:


  • An update on IEEE 802.3, which standardized the complete OM4 representation of data center applications.

  • Currently defined IEEE 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s: physical layer specifications.

  • The availability of extended reach 40G multimode transceiver. It makes the migration from 10G to 40G network seamless over the existing OM3/OM4 cabling in data center.


The next thing I covered was what the IEEE 802.3 currently has under development with relation to high-speed networking. This includes three task forces and one study group:

  • 802.3bj – 100Gb/s Backplane and Copper Cable Task Force

  • 802.3bm- 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s Fiber Optic Task Force

  • 802.3bq- 40GBASE-T Task Force

  • 400Gb/s Ethernet Study Group


The last thing I discussed in my presentation was the latest development effort in the T11.2 Fiber Channel and its roadmap to 128GFC and 64GFC. It is a lot of information to catch up on, so I encourage you to view a replay of the webinar by clicking this link: http://video.webcasts.com/events/penn001/46404

I understand if all this might be somewhat confusing but the most important aspect to know is that there is a proven method for organizations to upgrade to a 40G and 100G network by utilizing a cost-effective multimode option. With the extended reach transceivers, data center managers won’t get stuck with an expensive single-mode solution. A viable option to achieve a 40GBASE-T Ethernet can happen with the use of twisted-pair cabling.

In February 2013 my colleagues and I, here at CommScope, successfully demonstrated the technical feasibility of Category 8 cabling with the RJ45 connector to support 40Gbps transmission. Prior to the webinar, I took some time to do a video explaining how this important demonstration gives light to new solutions that will take advantage of the developing standard. If you are not familiar with everything taking place with the standards group, I urge you to listen to the webinar and watch the video. I believe this will help shed some light on the 40GBASE-T discussion.

If you have any questions regarding what I covered in the webinar and video, feel free to post them below and I will be happy to answer them and continue the discussion. This is a very exciting time for us as we witness new standards in development. It is best we try to understand all the challenges faced and ask as many questions as we can in the process.

About the Author

RMei_s Photo_Thumbnail

Richard Mei

Richard Mei is the VP of Engineering, Global Standards and Systems at CommScope, a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. Based in Richardson, Texas, Mr. Mei’s group is responsible for global standard participation as well as systems engineering for the Connectivity Solutions Division. This includes research in the areas of twisted-pair, fiber cabling, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), and LAN/SAN/Cabling standards support. Mr. Mei joined Bell Labs in 1997 as a member of the Technical Staff in Middletown, NJ.  He designed various custom test systems with computer-based hardware and software that were used to characterize the transmission property of cabling systems.  His team has the state of the arts Modal Decomposition Modeling, DMD (Differential Mode Delay) test bench and the copper/optical communication test gear that can be used to qualify any structured cabling solution for high-speed transmission. The latest projects in his group involve the development of 2.5G/5GBASE-T, 25G/40GBASE-T as well as the next generation fiber offers for 50/100/200/400 Gbps network.  All of these Ethernet applications has been or are currently being developed in IEEE 802.3. Mr. Mei received his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1995. He was a research assistant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee for a year. In 1997, he received his master’s in engineering in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University.