Will Copper Cables Continue to be Indispensable in Data Centres?
Fibre cable relevance in the cabling industry is defining the age-long competition between it and copper. Industry watchers are noticing a tilt in the balance with a growing demand for fiber cable application in data centres. Factors like cabling complexity, light weight, and space-saving attributes of fiber – and price reductions are giving fiber a clear edge over copper.
In data centres, the ratio of fiber cables to copper is at over 70% to 30%, a significant difference in use. Nevertheless, you are wrong if you think fiber cables can entirely replace copper. Below, we will discuss the justifications behind this fact, as well as the different types of copper cables.
Copper Cables remain an Indispensable Component
The increasing size of the data centre necessitates a higher demand and necessity for more bandwidth. It is unarguable that fiber cables are most widely in use since they provide an edge concerning the faster transmission and impressive bandwidth, particularly in the field of backbone applications. But, the cost of maintaining fiber, fiber-to-the-desk (FTTD) system, fiber application, and application environment, etc., is, by far, more costly than copper. Subsequently, copper will remain to function in many fields, including horizontal cabling, LED-based power system, wireless access, digital camera, PoE technology, and sensor networks.
Copper patch cord, since it functions for both data transmission and electricity, can facilitate applications of Power over Ethernet (PoE), including device end, and horizontal network transmission for voice transmission and in-building networks. Moreover, network cable keeps up with improvements. Copper cable can support up to 2GHz bandwidth with the initiation of 25G and 45G path cable standards (25G/40Gbase-T).
Additionally, the latest TIA-568.2-D standard has included 28AWG patch cable in the standardised annex, facilitating, in notable data centre applications, the progress of 28AWG slim patch cables. Furthermore, TIA-568.2-D standard has standardised MPTL (Modular Plug Terminated Link) which is mainly in use for multi-functioning cabling infrastructures with the use of patch cables such as Cat6a for wireless points of access, CCTV cameras, and so on. With the MPTL, the cable can be directly connected to a device, promoting the development of patch cables, and thus, copper will still maintain its crucial significance in data centres.
Which Copper Cables are Currently used in Data Centres?
There is, in the market, a variety of patch cords including Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, Cat7, and Cat8 cables. Various twisted-pair copper cable types may facilitate different wiring operations. Below is a short description of these cables.
TIA/EIA developed Cat5e patch cable (Category 5e) in 2001 for improving specific features of wires. Its design facilitated the support of 1000Mb/s and 100MHz within 100m of cable. This cable is entirely backward-compatible with other previous classifications, and with its 4-wire-pair structure, this Ethernet cable facilitates premise cabling. It can also be operated in the environment of home networking.
The Cat6 Ethernet Cables (Category 6) can facilitate around 10Gbps and close to 250MHz frequencies. Compared to Cat5e, they have thicker insulators and are incompatible with Cat3 cables. Cat6, while it transmits a 10Gbps speed, based on crosstalk, typically facilitates a distance of less than 55m, although regular Ethernet supports up to 100meters. Anyways, it is enhanced for VolP telephony.
At a regular 500MHz frequency, Cat6a cables (Category 6a) facilitates twice the rates of Cat6a bandwidth. It can support 10Gigbit up to 100 meters, and with its robust covering, it eliminates alien crosstalk (AXT). However, since Cat6a is significantly thicker than Cat6, it is preferred for use in industrial areas, as it is less flexible for effective operation.
Cat7 (Category 7) is suitable for panel patches, switches, and other equipment in high-intensity data centres. It facilitates close to 10Gbps within 100 meters. Also, it can transmit up to 40Gpbs at 50 meters, as well as 100Gpbs at 15 meters. It comes with a standard 600MHz frequency
In comparison to previous categories, Cat7 has a stiffer sheathing to minimize shrinkage. Nevertheless, with its dense shielding, the Cat7 is less manageable and pliant. Besides, it has not been standardized for telecommunications hitherto.
The next generation ANSI/TIA-568-C.2-1 standard specified cable is the Cat8 cable (Category 8). Cat8 is an up to 30 meters cabling operating at a frequency of up to 2 GHz. This cable resembles lower category cables, alongside RJ45 termination connections. The cable also works fine with its previous versions because of the backward integration attribute.Cat8 is made to support 25GBASE-T and 40GBASE-T applications and perfect for small or middle enterprise LANs applications. It is especially great for data centre switch-to-server connectivity.
Continued copper technology research will cater to future needs. There continues to be promising use of copper in horizontal cabling, voice transmission, in-building networks, IoT, PoE, etc. As such, it is hopeful that copper should continue to hold its ground despite increasing use of fiber.