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Multi-Gigabit Ethernet a Stepping Stone for Bandwidth Hungry Businesses

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Multi-Gigabit Ethernet a Stepping Stone for Bandwidth Hungry Businesses

April 20, 2017
By Laura Stotler
TMCnet Contributing Editor

We live in a bandwidth-hungry world. The cloud, the IoT and OTT multimedia services have created an insatiable global appetite for bigger and faster data speeds, and businesses are scrambling to evolve their networks to meet demand. Gigabit Ethernet was once adequate for most businesses but is rapidly being stretched to the limit thanks to a host of bandwidth-greedy applications and services. The evolution to multi-gigabit Ethernet is upon us and thankfully, a logical stepping stone exists for many organizations.

To understand the migration path to multi-gigabit-Ethernet, we need to look at the recent history of bandwidth. Until around 2014, businesses running out of bandwidth on their existing gigabit Ethernet connections needed to upgrade to 10GBASE-T to get more juice. However, 10GBASE-T cannot be run over Cat5e/Cat 6 cables, which many businesses have hard-wired into their buildings. Performing a wholesale upgrade of cabling to that extent is essentially an expensive, labor-intensive nightmare.

And so the NBASE-T and MGBASE-T Alliances were formed, working to create standards for running 2.5G and 5G Ethernet over existing Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables. Collaborating through the broader Ethernet Alliance (News - Alert), the groups formed the IEE standard for 2.5G and 5G Ethernet, paving the way for a host of new high-speed business solutions designed to work with these intermediate standards.

Businesses now have options for upgrading their networks and it’s a question of which multi-Gigabit products will best meet their needs. Offerings should provide scalability to 2.5G/5G data rates over existing Cat 5e or Cat 6 cables as well as auto negotiation for supporting the new data rates in addition to legacy 1G. Products should also support 10G speeds, offering a migration path should businesses eventually want to upgrade their cabling and make the next move.

Multi-gigabit-Ethernet solutions should also support 802.3bz features while also offering a “downshift” option if cabling is degraded or non-compliant. Products should also support Power over Ethernet (PoE), PoE+, UPoE and Energy Efficient Ethernet at all speeds as well as network infrastructure security.

The business case for multi-gigabit-Ethernet is pretty clear. Organizations are under pressure to keep up with the frenzied pace of bandwidth consumption, and an expensive and disruptive wholesale cabling upgrade just isn’t practical in most scenarios. Data rates of 2.5G and 5G are an attractive stepping stone for most businesses, offering significantly better speeds over existing cabling infrastructure, while also paving the way for a 10G upgrade down the road as necessary.

Edited by Alicia Young

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