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Smooth Sailing at First NBASE-T Alliance Plugfest

By Peter Jones, NBASE-T Alliance Chairman and Principal Engineer, Cisco

The NBASE-T Alliance sponsored its first plugfest this week where over a dozen companies came together to test 2.5G and 5G functionality and interoperability. The two-day event, which took place at Granite River Labs in Santa Clara, Calif., tested a wide range of products including switches, network interface cards (NICs), access points, test equipment, cabling and more. Some of the participating companies included Aquantia, Aruba Networks, an HP company, Cisco, CommScope, Fluke Networks, Freescale, Intel, Microsemi, Panduit, Spirent and Tehuti Networks.

“As quickly as alliance membership is growing, so, too, is the list of products either shipping or in development,” said LK Bhupathi, chair of the Marketing Working Group for the NBASE-T Alliance. “This event helps streamline NBASE-T product interoperability testing and debugging in order to expand product availability. Our first plugfest ran like clockwork, and we believe our success here accelerates broad deployment of 2.5G and 5G Ethernet in the enterprise.”

All products tested implement the latest version of the NBASE-T specification which defines 2.5G and 5G Ethernet speeds over Category 5e and Category 6 cable.  The vast majority of enterprise networks today are limited to 1G over this type of cable.

Three tables were set up to test products at a variety of cable lengths including 40, 65 and 100 meters through two patch panels.  The alliance verified product performance and functionality in three key areas including linkup time, auto negotiation and bit error rate.

Devices under test (DUTs) were connected to three different NBASE-T switches, one at a time.  Traffic was analyzed after being sent through a switch to the DUT and then back out through the switch.  All member products passed testing over the two-day period.

“As an alliance, we have been laser focused on building consensus around the key technical aspects of a new 2.5GBASE-T/5GBASE-T Ethernet standard,” said Amrik Bains, chairman of Technical Working Group.  “Now knowing that the NBASE-T specification is consistent and/or compatible with what has been defined by the IEEE 802.3bz Task Force, the alliance is working closely with members to test and verify solutions based on the specification so that we can get them deployed in real-world environments. We are quickly getting to the point where anyone can buy and anyone can deploy NBASE-T products.”

The alliance intends to host more events in the coming months, including a certification event in the first half of 2016.