10GbE Interconnect Solutions Overview

New sophisticated networking services, coupled with the increase of Internet users push the Internet traffic to an even higher point, driving the need for increased bandwidth consequently. One Ethernet technology—10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) is adequate for such bandwidth demand, and has become widely available due to the competitive price and performance, as well as its simplified cabling structure.

Several cable and interconnect solutions are available for 10GbE, the choice of which depends on the maximum interconnect distance, power budget and heat consumption, signal latency, network reliability, component adaptability to future requirements, cost. Here cost includes more than what we call the equipment interface and cable cost, but more often the labor cost. Thus, choosing a 10GbE interconnect solution requires careful evaluation of each option against the specific applications. This text aims to introduce two main 10GbE interconnect solutions: fiber optics and copper.

Fiber Optics Solution

Fiber optic cables include single-mode fiber (SMF) and multi-mode fiber (MMF). MMF is larger in diameter than that of single-mode, thus portions of the light beam follow different paths as they bounce back and forth between the walls of the fiber, leading to the possible distorted signal when reach the other end of the cable. The amount of distortion increases with the length of the cable. The light beam follows a single path through thinner single-mode cable, so the amount of distortion is much lower.

fiber optics solution: SMF & MMF

The typical 10GBASE port type that uses MMF is 10GBASE-SR which uses 850nm lasers. When used with OM3 MMF, 10GBASE-SR can support 300m-connection distances, and when with OM4 MMF, 400m link length is possible through 10GBASE-SR SFP+ transceiver.

10GBASE-LR (eg. E10GSFPLR), 10GBASE-ER and 10GBASE-ZR are all specified to work via SMF. SMF can carry signals up to 80km, so it is more often used in wide-area networks. But since SMF requires a more expensive laser light source than MMF does, SMF is replaced by MMF when the required connection distance is not so long.

Copper Solution

10GBASE-CX4, SFP+ Direct Attach (DAC) and 10GBASE-T are all specified to operate through copper medium.

  • 10GBASE-CX4

Being the first 10GbE copper solution standardized by the IEEE as 802.3ak in 2002, 10GBase-CX4 uses four cables, each carrying 2.5gigabits of data. It is specified to work up to a distance of 15m. Although 10GBase-CX4 provides an extremely cost-effective method to connect equipment within that 15m-distance, its bulky weight and big size of the CX4 connector prohibited higher switch densities required for large scale deployment. Besides, large diameter cables are purchased in fixed lengths, causing problems in managing cable slack. What’s more, the space isn’t sufficient enough to handle these large cables.

  • SFP+ DAC

SFP+ Direct Attach Cable (DAC), or called 10GSFP+Cu, is a copper 10GBASE twin-axial cable, connected directly into an SFP+ housing. It comes in either an active or passive twin-axial cable assembly. This solution provides a low-cost and low energy-consuming interconnect with a flexible cabling length, typically 1 to 7m (passive versions) or up to 15m (active versions) in length. Below is the SFP+ to SFP+ passive copper cable assembly with 1m length, 487655-B21, a HP compatible 10GbE cabling product.

SFP+ to SFP+ passive copper cable assembly, 1m link length

  • 10GBASE-T

10GBASE-T, known as IEEE 802.3an-2006, utilizes twisted pair cables and RJ-45 connectors over distances up to 100m. Cat 6 and Cat 6a are recommended, with the former reaching the full length at 100m, and the latter at 55m. In a word, 10GBASE-T permits operations over 4-connector structured 4-pair twisted-pair copper cabling for all supported distances within 100m. Besides, 10GBASE-T cabling solution is backward-compatible with 1000BASE-T switch infrastructures, keeping costs down while offering an easy migration path from 1GbE to 10GbE.


In summary, two main media options are available for 10GbE interconnect: copper and fiber optics, including 10GBASE-CX4, SFP+ DAC, 10GBASE-T, 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, 10GBASE-ER, 10GBASE-ZR, and so on. Fiberstore offers all these 10GBASE SFP+ modules and cables for your 10GbE deployment, which are quality-assured and cost-effective, like E10GSFPLR and 487655-B21 mentioned above. For more information about 10GbE interconnect solutions, you can visit Fiberstore.

Data Center 10 Gigabit Ethernet Cabling Options

With the dramatic growth in data center throughput, the usage and demand for higher-performance servers, storage and interconnects have also increased. As a result, the expansion of higher speed Ethernet solutions, especially 10 and 40 Gigabit Ethernet has been ongoing. For 10 Gigabit Ethernet solution, selecting the appropriate 10-gigabit physical media is a challenge, because 10GbE is offered in two broad categories: optical and copper. This article will introduce both optical and copper cabling options for 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

Fiber Optic Cables

Two general types of fiber optic cables are available: single-mode fiber and multimode fiber.

Single-mode Fiber (SMF), typically with an optical core of approximately 9 μm (microns), has lower modal dispersion than multimode fiber. It is able to support distances of at least 10 kilometers, depending on transmission speed, transceivers and the buffer credits allocated in the switches.

Multimode Fiber (MMF), with an optical core of either 50 μm or 62.5 μm, can support distances up to 600 meters, depending on transmission speed and transceivers.

When planning data center cabling requirements, be sure to consider that a service life of 15-20 years can be expected for fiber optic cabling. Thus the cable chosen should support legacy, current and emerging data rates.

10GBASE-SR — a port type for multimode fiber, 10GBASE-SR cable is the most common type for fiber optic 10GbE cable. It is able to support an SFP+ connector with an optical transceiver rated for 10GbE transmission speed. 10GBASE-SR cable is known as “short reach” fiber optic cable.

10GBASE-LR — a port type for single-mode fiber, 10GBASE-LR cable is the “long reach” fiber optic cable. It is able to support a link length of 10 kilometers.

OM3 and OM4 are multimode cables that are “laser optimized” and support 10GbE applications. The transmission distance can be up to 300 m and 400 m respectively.

Copper Cables

Common forms of 10GbE copper cables are as follows:

10GBASE-CR — the most common type of copper 10GbE cable, 10GBASE-CR cable uses an attached SFP+ connector and it is also known as a SFP+ Direct Attach Copper (DAC). This fits into the same form factor connector and housing as the fiber optic cables with SFP+ connectors. Many 10GbE switches accept cables with SFP+ connectors, which support both copper and fiber optic cables.

Passive and Active DAC — passive copper connections are common with many interfaces. As the transfer rates increase, passive copper does not provide the distance needed and takes up too much physical space. So the industry is moving towards an active copper type of interface for higher speed connections. Active copper connections include components that boost the signal, reduce the noise and work with smaller gauge cables, improving signal distance, cable flexibility and airflow.

10GBASE-T — 10GBASE-T cables are Cat6a (category 6 augmented). Supporting the higher frequencies required for 10GbE transmission, category 6a is required to reach the distance of 100 meters (330 feet). Cables must be certified to at least 500 MHz to ensure 10GBASE-T compliance. Cat 6 cables may work in 10GBASE-T deployments up to 55 meters (180 feet) depending on the quality of installation. Some 10GbE switches support 10GBASE-T (RJ45) connectors.

When to Use Different Type of 10GbE Cables

To summarize, currently the most common types of 10GbE cables use SFP+ connectors.

  • For short distances, such as within a rack or to a nearby rack, use DAC with SFP+ connectors, also known as 10GBASE-CR.
  • For mid-range distances, use laser optimized multimode fiber cables, either OM3 or OM4, with SFP+ connectors.
  • For long-range distances, use single-mode fiber optic cables, also known as 10GBASE-LR.