Does Copper Cabling Still Have a Place in Data Centers?
More than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced every day. That’s a mind-boggling number. Equally impressive is that roughly 90 percent of all data in the world was produced in the last two years. That second statistic will likely hold true even as years pass. That’s because the rate at which we create new data continues to accelerate. In the face of such overwhelming numbers, it often feels like the entire future of networking rests on the shoulders of fiber optics. While fiber networking is absolutely essential to handling massive, consolidated data streams, it’s a mistake to think that every network needs to completely convert. Ethernet still has a strong place in networking, and that holds true even for the most advanced data centers in the world. Let’s take a look at exactly why Ethernet is still important and how we can expect it to function in the near future.
Ethernet To the DeskThere is no contesting the fact that fiber will continue to do more of the heavy lifting for data centers. IoT and similar concepts are increasing the total amount of information being transmitted by leaps and bounds. Despite that, copper cable’s secure place in all of this is based on a simple fact. None of the endpoint devices building those data tables need high bandwidth. IoT devices themselves tend to be simple and require little bandwidth. It’s an important part of the design. This extends to a large segment of endpoint devices. Sensor networks, digital cameras, long-range detection, monitoring and LED-based power systems all thrive on copper networks. When data rates aren’t needed, the cost of fiber optics is prohibitive. This is to say nothing of the efficiency of running power through copper data lines. PoE saves cost on extending Wi-Fi networks, monitoring systems and an almost innumerable number of additional applications. Basically, Ethernet still has a place in data centers because so many of the devices in the center just don’t need fiber optics.
The Better Ethernet CablesThere’s a second reason that Ethernet is here to stay. It keeps getting better. Cat5 was introduced in 2001. It was the first copper cable to achieve 1Gbps data rates (if inconsistently). In the decades since, Ethernet cables have expanded in capabilities and uses — many of which reside in data centers.
Cat6 EthernetWhile it’s been around for a while, Cat6 has been essential in extending the lifespan of Ethernet networking. Running at frequencies up to 250 MHz and data rates up to 10 Gbps, Cat6 introduced better shielding that protects against crosstalk. It is optimized for VoIP, and in most cases, it’s a superior cable to any other for this purpose. Cat6 can maintain 10 Gbps at distances up to 55 meters, and it is otherwise effective up to 100 meters.
Cat6a EthernetCat6a took improvements in Cat6 and expanded them. It still caps at 10 Gbps, but it can maintain this rate up to 100 meters. It also operates at a frequency of 500 MHz. Perhaps the signature changes is the Cat6a further expanded on shielding to eliminate crosstalk struggles in cable-dense networks. That stronger shielding also makes it well-suited for industrial work and rugged environments.
Cat8 EthernetCat8 is the latest and greatest. It is an Ethernet platform designed for significantly higher data rates. It supports 25GBASE-T and 40GBASE-T applications, meaning it can get up to 20 Gbps. Part of the advancement of Cat8 resides in its 2 GHz transmission frequency. With greater data transmission capabilities, Cat8 is at its best in switch-to-server interconnections. It’s clear to see why it’s a powerful option in data centers. The fact that it still uses copper wires just shows that the future is not fully dominated by fiber optics. Copper cables still have a place in this world, and that isn’t going to be changing anytime soon. While the continued expanse of data transmissions will require some emphasis on fiber cables, applications are increasingly favoring copper at the endpoint. Decentralized networking and hyper-efficient data collection both favor less-expensive networking cable, and copper will continue to be essential in that function. By all means, look for opportunities to utilize fiber where it fits, but never make the mistake of overlooking Ethernet solutions.
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Additional Learning Center Resources
- What is Cat8 and how is it different from other Ethernet cables?
- What is the difference between Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a?
- The Right Ethernet Cables for High Density Networks
- What does 5G mean for business networks?
- Why Would You Use Shielded Ethernet Cables?
- What are Ferrari-style Ethernet Cables?
- Ethernet for Challenging Installs
- Shop all CablesAndKits Ethernet Cables
- Visit the CK Learning Center