Cisco Live Europe: NBASE-T progress report

The Ether
Robert Metcalfe –May 22nd, 1973 – first memo describing Ethernet. Photo Credit:

If you ever get a chance to watch Peter Jones present on a topic, I highly encourage you to take it! He’s passionate about multigigabit and the evolution of Ethernet technology, and it shows.

In this CLEUR Tech Field Day Extra session, Peter outlines significant progress that has been made on the 2.5G and 5G standardization process, which is pretty impressive considering the NBASE-T Alliance was only formed in October of 2014.

In addition to announcing some Cisco products that will be capable of multigigabit magic, Peter also lays out some additional interesting use cases, besides just the hotly debated timeline of the impending 802.11ac Wave 2 data rate apocalypse.

A few highlights from the product announcement pieces of the presentation, be sure to consult relevant data sheets for accuracy, caveats, and any insomnia issues you might have:

  • 48 port blade for the 4500E, 12 ports will do multigigabit
  • 3850 24 or 48 port switch, half of the ports will do multigigabit; note this is an entirely new SKU but stacking is compatible with previous 3850s
  • 3560-CX compact switch, two ports will support the multigigabit
  • All multigigabit ports are supporting UPOE (60 Watts)
  • No SFP+ available – Peter talks briefly about the heat challenges around this form factor, interesting geeky stuff
  • 3800 series AP

While I agree that there’s certainly some questions as to which devices and their data rates will bring current copper infrastructure to its knees, realistically getting more mileage out of already installed cabling makes a good kind of sense. Hardware refresh cycles are generally much shorter intervals than building wiring replacement schedule. Finding ways to cope with aging copper cabling and eking out a few more years of use from such a significant investment is a reality for engineers.

To leverage 2.5G or 5G magic, both devices – what’s getting plugged in and what’s being plugged into – will need to support the multigigabit technology.  Coordinating equipment refresh cycles and budget to make this happen could be quite the challenge as well.  Some number crunching would be appropriate to determine cost effectiveness for your own environment, but multigigabit Ethernet could be that additional tool in the belt when it comes to maximizing cabling investments already made.

Also of nerdy note, Peter’s short discussion of how the multigigabit magic filters out the noise using advanced coding and signal processing is quite fascinating. These brief comments led to me down a rabbit hole and to this interesting article,Crosstalk problems are back, which discusses the issues of noise when dealing with high data rates across copper wiring.

I highly recommend checking out these posts from other awesome engineer bloggers, good stuff:

And for more learning on the topic, definitely check out these:

Fundamentals of NBASE-T


Standard Disclaimer: Tech Field Day covered my expenses at Cisco Live Europe, but I am a redhead, any thought that my opinions could be bought or dictated is just crazy talk. 

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