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Ethernet Cables in Data Centers

How does Cat8 Ethernet Compare to 40G Fiber Optic Solutions?

Enterprise networking is in an exciting place right now. Cat8 Ethernet cabling is finally becoming widely available. With that availability comes a drop in price and a viable alternative to fiber optics for 40G networking. This means that enterprise servers and networking systems have substantially widened options for all manner of applications. With that excitement comes the need for careful review. Today, we’re going to compare Cat8 and fiber optics in 40G networks to help you determine which is best for your own foray into 40G.

Cat8 Ethernet

Before we look into Cat8 as a means of cabling 40G applications, it’s important to overview the basics. It’s a fairly new addition to the copper family, and it’s made specifically for high-speed service. Cat8 utilizes the same two-pair concept as other copper cables. The secret to the extremely high-performance speeds lies in the transmission frequency. Cat8 operates at 2 GHz. This enables a much larger stream of data through the cable each second, but it requires substantially more shielding to combat interference and cross-talk.

Cat8 can handle 10G, 25G and 40G networking demands at distances up to 30 meters. It still works with RJ-45 connectors, but it can also be services with Class II non-RJ45 connections when needed.

Why Is Cat8 Good for 40G?

Cat8 was made for 25G and 40G networks. They still represent an extremely large section of enterprise networking, so it makes sense that Cat8 is seeing rapid growth in market share. It is designed to be forward and reverse compatible with 10G, 25G and 40G networking equipment. This makes it a great choice for networks that are in transition to servicing higher data loads.

The biggest advantage of Cat8 is that it’s a copper-based cable. This eliminates the need for fiber transceivers, and it makes Cat8 significantly more cost-effective than fiber optics when it can be used. The thicker, more heavily shielded Cat8 cables cost more than other copper solutions, but it’s a clear means to saving money on 40G networks.

The other advantage of Cat8 is the RJ45 connection. This enables it to work perfectly with a wide range of networking devices. The flexibility is a powerful tool for upgrading systems under a budget. The legacy and newest systems can all be serviced by the same cable, and that reduces timeline and spending stresses that can occur with less-flexible technology.

Fiber Optics

Fiber optics have formed the backbone of elite data transmissions for decades. The technology has the highest capacity for sending large amounts of data across long distances at high speeds. It’s unparalleled when performance is all that matters. That said, 40G networks don’t require the most elite equipment on the market, and they amply service the majority of enterprise applications. Because of that, we’re going to focus on fiber optics that are optimized for 40G networking. That primarily consists of OM3 and OM4 cables.

Why Use Fiber Optics for 40G?

First, we have to acknowledge the drawbacks. Aside from cost, OM3 and OM4 cables are designed to work at distances of 5 meters. Those distances can certainly be expanded with additional equipment, but that feeds back into the cost problem.

That said, fiber optics are still prominent in countless 40G systems. There are two strong reasons for this. To start, fiber optics were servicing 40G before Cat8 existed. Because of this, fiber designs are more prominent, and it’s easier to learn from the experience of network designers who have been working with this technology for a long time. The experience gap matters, and it can sometimes overcome the additional hardware costs.

The bigger reason fiber is still great in 40G is future proofing. Cat8 has data limits ceilings that are much lower than fiber alternatives. You might be upgrading to 40G today, but in a few years, you may need to go faster. The fiber optics you install today can be selected to handle 100G or 400G down the road. It is a more expensive short-term investment, but you can recover that money through proper long-term planning.

Ultimately, there is no clear victor. The pros and cons of each cable solution are clear. Making the right choice will require you to decide how you prioritize your spending both today and down the road.

To order or if you have any questions, please contact one of our Ethernet Cabling Experts today.

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