FCoE using 10GBASE-T

A converged fabric based on Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) helps data center architects and managers reduce CAPEX, OPEX, while simplifying the network infrastructure.  Up until recently, there was something hindering the adoption of FCoE: 10GBASE-T.

Historically, deploying FCoE on the links between servers and aggregation switches meant that one had to use optical fiber or Direct Attach Copper (DAC) cable assemblies.  The first generation of aggregation switches that supported 10GBASE-T did not support FCoE.  Additionally, 10GBASE-T Ethernet server adapters did not support FCoE as well, and FCoE was only available with Converged Network Adapters (CAN) that supported the SFP+ form factor.  That meant one could implement ToR architectures with FCoE using DAC cable assemblies or other architectures using optical fiber for longer distances.

FCoE is a lossless protocol, meaning that packets cannot be dropped as they travel through the network form one node to another.  A concern with 10GBASE-T was its robustness and whether it would it be able to support FCoE.  The primary concern was Alien Crosstalk (AXT), or noise that radiates from one 10GBASE-T link coupling into a neighboring 10GBASE-T link causing an impact on Bit Error Rate (BER).

Today, all of these the missing links have disappeared.

Aggregation switches and CNAs now support FCoE when using 10GBASE-T.  For example, Cisco’s Nexus 5596T platform switch and Nexus 2232TM-E 10GE fabric extender and now support FCoE using 10GBASE-T ports.  Another example is Intel offering their X540-T2 dual-port 10GBASE-T CNA supporting FCoE.  Additionally, LAN on Motherboard (LOM) is now making its appearance in the marketplace further lowering the cost of deploying 10GBASE-T and with it, FCoE.

Panduit has conducted extensive testing of 10GBASE-T using our CAT6A copper cabling and connectivity to answer the question: Can CAT6A and 10GBASE-T support the BER needed for FCOE?

To answer this question, we developed a test environment where the link under test was surrounded by 6 other 10GBASE-T links, or known as “6 around 1”.  This creates an environment with the maximum possible chance to have AXT impact the performance of the link under test.

The industry generally accepts that the BER of the channel must be less than 1 x 10-15 in order to support FCoE.  As you can see, our result was a BER of 4.1 x 10-17 at a confidence level of 99% and 6.3 x 10-17 at 95%.  As you can see, this is about 2 orders of magnitude below the industry’s agreed up BER required to support FCoE.

GraphTo learn more about deploying FCoE using 10GBASE-T, attend the webinar A Guide To 10GBASE-T For Infrastructure Pros hosted by Gigaom and sponsored by Intel, Cisco, and Panduit.  The webinar will take place Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at 10:00 am — 11:00am PST.  You can register here.  We also have more information about 10GBASE-T on our website, which you can get to by clicking here.

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