Three Media Options for 10GbE in Data Centers

With the added network infrastructure complexity, power demands, and cost considerations, 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) comes to network administrators’ thinking point. While 1GbE connection is able to handle the bandwidth requirements of a single traffic type, 10GbE has been preferred as the ideal solution by customers to meet current and future input/output (I/O) demands. Delivering more bandwidth, 10GbE simplifies the network infrastructure at the same time by consolidating multiple gigabit ports into a single 10gigabit connection.

Generally speaking, there are three media options for 10GbE: 10GBASE-CX4, SFP+, and 10GBASE-T. Each option has its own virtual point and downside in terms of cost, power consumption and distance reach. This paper analyzes these three options respectively, helping you understanding the pros and cons of current 10GbE media options.


10GBASE-CX4 was the first 10G copper standard published by 802.3 (as 802.3ak-2004), an early favorite standard for 10GbE deployments. Using the XAUI 4-lane PCS (Clause 48) and copper cabling similar to that used by InfiniBand technology, 10GBASE-CX4 is able to reach 15 meters. Practically, this option is limited by its heavy weight and expensive cables. In addition, the size of the CX4 connector prohibited higher switch densities required for large scale deployment. Larger diameter cables are purchased in fixed lengths, causing problems in managing cable slack. What’s more, the space isn’t sufficient to handle the larger cables.


SFP+ fiber optic cables and SFP+ direct attach cables (DACs) are all better solution than CX4.

10GBASE SFP+ Fiber Optic Cables

10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, 10GBASE-LRM are all specified to work through fiber optic cables, such as JD094B (shown below). This HP 10GBASE-LR SFP+ transceivers takes fiber as its transmission medium with distance up to 10km. Really, great for latency and distance, but fibers are expensive. Although they offer low power consumption, the project of laying fiber networks in data centers is limited due to the cost of the electronics largely. The fiber electronics can be four to five times more expensive than their copper counterparts, meaning that ongoing active maintenance, typically based on original equipment purchase price, is also more expensive.

JD094B, HP 10GBASE-LR SFP+ transceiver


DAC can be classified in to direct attach copper cable and active optic cable (AOC). On the one hand, SFP+ DAC is a lower cost option alternative to fiber, with its distance reaching flexible in 1m (eg. SFP-10G-AOC1M), 2m, 3m, 5m, 7m and so on. On the other, SFP+ DAC is not backward-compatible with existing 1GbE switches. Besides, this solution requires the purchase of an adapter card and requires a new top of rack (ToR) switch topology. And the cables are much more expensive than structured copper channels, and cannot be field terminated. All these factors make SFP+ DAC less popular the 10GBASE-T which will be discussed soon.SFP-10G-AOC1M, for short reach


10GBASE-T, or IEEE 802.3an-2006, is a standard released in 2006 to provide 10Gbit/s connections over unshielded or shielded twisted pair cables with distances up to 100metres (330 ft). Due to additional encoding overhead, 10GBASE-T has a slightly higher latency in comparison to most other 10GBASE standards. What’s more, 10GBASE-T offers the most flexibility, the lowest cost media. And because of its backward-compatibility with 1000BASE-T, 10GBASE-T can be deployed based on existing 1GbE switch infrastructures that are cabled with CAT6 and CAT6A (or above) cabling, keeping costs down while offering an easy migration path from 1GbE to 10GbE.


The deployment of 10GbE infrastructure should be much easier, with these media options in mind, coupled with your own such project considerations as cost, power consumption and distance reach. Fiberstore, as a professional fiber optic product supplier, offers a broad selection of fiber and copper cables, including SFP-10G-AOC1M mentioned above. For more information about 10GbE media options, you can visit Fiberstore.

Guide to Coaxial Cable, Twisted Pair Cable and Fiber Optic Cable

The advancements of cable-based technologies have made wider accessibility to greater bandwidth possible in Local Area Network (LAN). With so many network options, to select a right cable-based solution for broadband connection services is a little confusing. When such factors as cost, speed, bandwidth and immunity are considered, which one is an ideal choice for networks, coaxial cable or twisted pair cable? Or is the fiber optic cable that meets your needs?

Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cable, or  in a foam insulation, symmetrically surrounded by a woven braided metal shield, then covered in a plastic jacket. Because of its insulating property, coaxial cable can carry analogy signals with a wide range of frequencies. Thus it is widely used in feedlines connecting radio transmitters and receivers with their antennas, computer network connections, digital audio, and distributing cable television signals. The following figure shows the structure of coaxial cable.

Coaxial cable, a single wire usually copper wrapped

Actually, there exists another cable, twin-ax cable, which is similar to coaxial cable, but with two inner conductors instead of one. This kind of cable comes in either an active or passive twin-ax (twin-axial) cable assembly, used for 10, 40 or 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) links.Like QSFP-H40G-CU1M, this Cisco 40G cabling product is the QSFP to QSFP passive copper cable assembly designed for high-performance 40GbE networks.

QSFP-H40G-CU1M, QSFP to QSFP passive copper cable assembly

Twisted Pair Cable

Twisted pair cable is a type of wiring in which two conductors of a single circuit are twisted together. It comes in two versions: Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) and Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP). STP is commonly used in Token Ring networks and UTP is in Ethernet networks. The image below displays what UTP (left) and STP (right) look like.

Twisted pair cable, UTP and STP

Fiber Optic Cable

A fiber optic cable is a cable containing one or more optical fibers. Fiber optic cables often contain several silica cores, and each fiber can accommodate many wavelengths (or channels), allowing fiber to accommodate ever-increasing data capacity requirements. When terminated with LC/SC/ST/FC/MTRJ/MU/SMA connectors on both ends, such as LC-LC, LC-SC, LC-ST, SC-ST, SC-SC, ST-ST etc, fiber optic cables can achieve fiber link connection between equipment.

Comparison of Three Kinds of Cables

Coaxial cable can be installed easily, relatively resistant to interference. However, it is bulky and just ideal for short length because of its high attenuation. It would be expensive over long-distance data transmission. By contrast, twisted pair cable is the most flexible and cheapest among three kinds of cables, easy to install and operate. But it also encounters attenuation problem and offers relatively low bandwidth. In addition, it is susceptible to interference and noises. As one of the most popular mediums for both new cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications, fiber optic cable is small in size and light in weight. Because the conductor is glass which means that no electricity can flow through, fiber cable is immune to electromagnetic interference. The biggest advantage of fiber optic cable is that it can transmit a big amount of data with low loss at high speed over long distance. Nevertheless, it needs complicated installing skills, difficult to work with and expensive in the short run.

When selecting which kind of cable is appropriate for network services, one should keep in mind that each cable has its unique advantages and disadvantages concerning about these factors: cost, speed, security, reliability, bandwidth, data carrying-capacity, and so on.


Choosing among coaxial cable, twin-ax cable, twisted pair cable and fiber optic cable depends on your needs. You can balance the cost and the requirements of bandwidth to make a choice. In Fiberstore, you can find twisted pair cables and a series of fiber optic cables. Other cables, such as active optical cable (AOC) (eg. QSFP-4X10G-AOC10M) are also available for your networks. You can visit Fiberstore for more information about cable-based solutions.