Top 6 Things to Know About the New Category 8 Cabling Standard

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has published ANSI/TIA-568-C.2-1, which supports 25, 40 and possibly even 50GBASE-T over Category 8 copper cabling. As you consider high-bandwidth applications, here are some key things to keep in mind.

1) How far can you go?

Category 8 channel reach is 30 meters, much shorter than the 100-meter channel of traditional categories of copper cabling.

2) It’s a familiar face!

Category 8 has the familiar RJ45 interface, so jacks and plugs are compatible with the same patch panels, switches, and other equipment that users are familiar with today.

Category 8 products

Category 8 will be deployed as shielded twisted pair construction only.

3) Shields up!

While other category cabling uses unshielded or shielded twisted pair construction, Category 8 will only be shielded cable construction.

4) Where, oh where can it be?

Category 8 is designed for the data center. More specifically, it is designed to support 25G and 40GBASE-T switch-to-server links, a typical fiber-optic application. It will provide the most cost-effective and easiest-to-deploy 25G and 40G links within the data center. The 30-meter reach makes it challenging for Category 8 to be used to deliver higher bandwidth to the desktop or in other Enterprise applications in large-scale deployments.

5) Can Enterprise play, too?

Due to the reach limits of Category 8, Panduit recommends installing Category 6A today for all Enterprise applications. Category 6A supports up to 10GBASE-T at lengths up to 100 meters. Investing in a Category 6A infrastructure for your Enterprise space is the smartest and most cost-effective option for long-term optimal performance of your network. Panduit’s Advanced MaTriX Category 6A products have the additional advantage of allowing optimal heat dissipation and performance with next-generation Power over Ethernet (PoE++).

6) The next step …

Manufacturers are actively developing the next generation 25G and 40G products. Panduit expects to have its product offering – including cabling and connectivity – in 2017, to coincide with the launch of active equipment that will require the higher speeds.

Panduit has already received third-party approval on it’s upcoming Category 8 solution. Learn more here.

Category 8: Delivering 25 and 40GBASE-T

Category 8 is the new copper twisted-pair structured cabling standard being developed within both the TIA and ISO groups to support the new 25 and 40GBASE-T standards being developed by the IEEE. Category 8 is going to have a few differences over prior Category 5e, 6, or 6A cabling, but will still retain the familiarity and features that make RJ45 copper the most widely deployed Ethernet technology on the market.

Cat 8 product

What is new with Category 8?

There are a few differences between Category 8 and prior categories that should be understood.

  • Shielded offering only (no unshielded option)
  • 30 meter reach (versus 100 meter reach for Category 5e, 6, and 6A)
  • Only 2 connectors allowed per channel (versus 4 for Category 5e, 6, and 6A)
  • 4 times the bandwidth of Category 6A, going all the way up to 2000 MHz

    Cat 8 2000 MHz

What is the same with Category 8?

While there are differences, a lot stays the same, as well.

  • Category 8 uses the same RJ45 interface as Category 5e, 6, and 6A, which makes it backwards compatible with 100BASE-T, 1000BASE-T, and 10GBASE-T systems
  • Category 8 will be field terminable and field testable once available product comes to market

What do these differences mean?

Because of the limited reach of 30 meters and 2 connectors, Category 8 is focused on data centers, particularly End of Row or Top of Rack deployments.

This means that as a data center manager, you should plan for:

  • A maximum jack-to-jack reach of 24 meters
  • Grounding the connectivity
  • A maximum of 6 meters of patch total

Latest Industry Developments

Panduit is the latest company to announce that our Category 8 system has been tested by Intertek (3rd party) and confirmed to meet the latest Category 8 TIA draft standard.

The Panduit system we tested was a 30-meter channel, with a 24-meter link and 6 meters of patch cords (3 meters on each end).

It is expected that the standard will be ratified by mid-2016, which is the earliest point where product will be available.

What should I do today?

Panduit strongly recommends against installing any Category 7 or 7A systems. These systems do not have the bandwidth (Category 7 is 600MHz, 7A is 1000MHz) to handle 25 or 40GBASE-T (need bandwidth over 1600MHz). Additionally, Category 7 and 7A do not use RJ45 connectors, so a hybrid patch cord would be required to interface to the equipment.

If you are deploying a cabling system now, Panduit recommends that you install and deploy Category 6A systems. They have the same RJ45 interface as the equipment and can run all current applications up to 10GBASE-T. If you are planning a layout to eventually accommodate Category 8, stick to a permanent link length of 24 meters or below with up to 6 meters of patch total.

Hasn’t Everyone Deployed 10G Ethernet?

The other day I was participating in a conversation with a customer about LAN and SAN speeds greater than 10G. It was a good conversation and the customer had numerous questions about migrating to 40G Ethernet; what is happening with 100G Ethernet, using multiple fibers for Fibre Channel, etc.

Toward the end of the conversation I asked them about their plans regarding deploying 40G Ethernet. They replied that they had no immediate plans for deploying 40G and that the reason they wanted to talk about it was to make sure that their LAN infrastructure could support it in the future. They plan on deploying 10G Ethernet in the new data center.

That revelation hit me with the same impact as participating in an ice bucket challenge.

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10G to 40G Migration Using the PanMPO Connector

Historically, MPO connectors had to be ordered with the correct gender and polarity because they could not be changed in the field. The PanMPO connector changes that, allowing installers to change both polarity and gender quickly and easily, simplifying the migration to 40G Ethernet while maintaining standards compliance. Because of this, data center operators only need to purchase one type of MPO patch cord reducing costs and improving efficiency.

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A New Way to Deploy 40G Ethernet? Cisco’s BiDi

In early November, Cisco launched its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).  ACI includes a new line of Nexus 9000 series switches, a new version of NX-OS and a policy controller called Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC).  We at Panduit were proud to be a part of the launch.

As a part of that launch, Cisco announced a new technology for deploying 40G Ethernet that has so far, received little attention.  Cisco calls that technology BiDi.

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