Cat5e vs. Cat6

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 Question by Tim March posted 12 May 2006
 Cat5e vs. Cat6
I am in the process of expanding my datacenter. I used CAT5e ampthnol in the past, but currently exploring CAT6 for the expansion. I would very much appreciate your expert advice on the pros and cons of both solutions. If you have any cost justification, I would be interested in that as well.

Thank you,

Tim March
VP Datacenter Operations
Invision.com
Long Island, NY

Tim@Invision.net
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 Answer by Joseph Golan posted 16 May 2006
Dear Tim,

I took a quick look at your web site to get a better idea of what your company did to better answer your question.
The only downside of category 5e is that you are limited to 1000BaseT (Gigabit Ethernet). With category 6 or augmented category 6 (category 6A), you have the ability to go to 10Gig Ethernet (10GBase-T)in the future.
When category 6 first came out it was unsure if it would be able to handle 10Gig Ethernet as that standard was not yet finalized. As time move on, it was seen that the original category 6 cable and in some cases the hardware was not going to be able to perform to this protocol for a full length link (90 meters). There are several trade articles on this and you should be aware that the Augmented Category 6 standards are due to be finalized in June of this year.

While I do not endorse any particular manufacturer, these links will give you some insight:
http://www.siemon.com/int/download/brochures/systems/BRC_DataCenter.pdf
and
http://www.mohawk-cdt.com/press/article-WhyInstallCategory6.html

If your links are less then 55 meters (you may get away with category 6 but be careful), there is information on an interim standard for 10GBase-T at this site:
http://kb.flukenetworks.com/display_results.asp?sid=2&p=/Dtx%20Series/10GBASE-T_(10_Gigabit_Ethernet).htm

As far as cost justification, category 6 is only minimally higher then category 5e, however the jump to category 6A is even more. As the price of copper and production is in great flux at this time. The best bet for you is to request from your proposed contractors to give pricing both ways and then you can judge the difference for your self, the labor on both is close, with 6A being slightly higher in my experience.

One other thing you must consider is: How much longer will your company occupy their current space. If the answer is only a few years, then there is no sense to put in a category 6A system when you may not reap the benefits, just expend your current 5e system. If you are planning to increase your backbone bandwidth to 10G in the near future and you will be at this location for many years to come, then go with the best out there which is 6A.

My last comment on this is a result of doing some recent designs for category 6A. If you have high concentrations of these cables in pathways or a centralized MDF, you must consider the space requirements for the pathways (ladders, trays, vertical channels of the racks, etc.) as category 6A cables have a much larger outside diameter.

If you have additional questions,please feel free to contact me directly at the email address below.

Sincerely,
Joseph Golan, RCDD
jpgolan-rcdd@cabling-design.com
Bellmore, NY

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