Test & Measurement

Fluke Debuts Cat 8 Tester

Fluke Networks has introduced what appears to be the first available field tester certified for testing new Cat 8 cabling.

Fluke's DSX-8000 CableAnalyzer, a member of the its Versiv Cable Certification Family, has been confirmed by Intertek to meet the ANSI/TIA-1152-A Level 2G requirements for measurement accuracy.

Cat 8 cabling is new and still rarely used, but it has properties likely to make it a viable alternative to fiber optic connections in data centers in the coming year, Fluke Regional Marketing Engineer Jim Davis told Light Righting.

It can support 25G and 40G Ethernet. Copper cabling is still cheaper than fiber. Cat 8 allows for the continuing use of the common RJ45 jack (used by Cat 6 but not possible with Cat 7), although Cat 8 has a shorter reach than Cat 5, Cat 6 or Cat 7 -- 30 meters versus 1,000 meters for all the others.

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The reach is shorter but it remains perfectly adequate for inter-rack, top-of-rack (TOR) and some end-of-rack connectivity, Davis explained.

The largest hyperscale data centers are already upgrading to fiber cabling, but much of the rest of the data center market is still only beginning to upgrade to 40G or 25G. 40G has been an available option for a while, but the 25G/50G market is still in the very earliest stages of commercialization, and some data centers appear to be waiting for it. (See 25G Plugfest a Success; 25G Spec Published.)

The next possible application for Cat 8 is in supporting WiFi. With 802.11ac becoming common and 802.11ac Phase 2 and 802.11ax on the way, "The bottleneck isn't the airwaves; it's the cable," Davis observed.

The ANSI/TIA specification for Cat 8 testers was approved only last October. With the the launch of Fluke's new field tester, designers and installers now have the tools they need to deploy Cat 8 in support of 25G and 40G Ethernet networks.

Fluke is claiming the DSX-8000 has the first Permanent Link and Channel adapters with a full 2 GHz range, allowing field certification of TIA Cat 5 through 8 and ISO/IEC Class C through F(A) and I/II (Class II adapters available Summer 2017). The company asserts it is the only tester capable of testing the optional resistance unbalance measurements critical for guaranteeing operation of advanced Power over Ethernet (PoE) systems. Fluke also noted the new tester can certify Cat 6A in just eight seconds.

Antoine Pelletier, project engineer of ICT Cabling Products Testing at Intertek, said in a statement that "The availability of testers that meet this standard is an essential milestone in the evolution of Cat 8 and means customers can ensure their installations are standards compliant."

— Brian Santo, Senior Editor, Components, T&M, Light Reading

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