Looking up and down the ecosystem that your product operates in can often show things that one would normally just take for granted. I attended a BICSI* conference last year with our partners Fluke*, ADC* and Extreme Networks*. Our show at the convention was to highlight how to design an end to end solution for 10 Gigabit copper. The show itself was a big hit, but the real data for me was while manning the both. Times are always tight, so it was "one riot, one ranger" time for Intel networks, so I was the only one there. I had to answer all the questions. I waited to be bombarded with Operating System questions, buffer sizes, VLAN tags offloads all sorts of questions. I got just a handful, and the big question on everyone's mind, was "Do you have that in fiber?"
I was blown away. Up in adapter land, we support all sorts of cable types, Fiber, Copper, and CX4 on our 10G products. Normally the question we get is "Do you have that in Copper". The BICSI crowd isn't your normal crowd. Being cabling professionals, they worry about fire hazards and consider any active cabling, like copper, a latent fire hazard. To the cabling guys, it was a touchy subject. Fiber was more expensive to install, and harder to work with (Try splicing a fiber cable) but was lighter, didn't have crosstalk, did longer distances and wasn't a hazard. Copper is currently cheaper, easier to work with in terms of splicing and custom length's, but was heavy, had noise problems (both giving and receiving) and was at risk of being obsolete. The CAT3 to CAT5 transition would mean a complete re-wire of a building, something few businesses could afford. Then to move to CAT6e just a few years later would be unimaginable.
Another big concern expressed to me was about how concerned some were about the signal integrity. At one point an attendee walked up and started to talk to me about crosstalk issues and how in his experience a crimp in the copper cable could drop link. I wasn't buying it, having never seen this. Finally having enough of my perceived bravado, he reached behind the demo and bent the cable from my server back on itself, touching the two lengths together. He peered around the front and looked at the performance monitoring software I had running. Not a blip. He watched for a moment, then released the cable. Again nothing. He was finally convinced, (it wasn't bravado), and he walked away amazed that things had progressed so fast from the "early days" of 10 Gigabit. At this point one of my friends at ADC came up and told me about the Cabling Wars. BICSI was split into two camps, the fiber and the copper camps. Both sides had good points, but it was almost like a rivalry more like it was between college football teams than networking professional. They took it that seriously.
The good news for developers and end users is that Intel networks (as you can tell from the links) isn't taking sides in the Cabling Wars. Betting on all sides, we have options to cover how you or your customers design the network. And since our MAC products are the ones that support the multiple interfaces, it is just one driver that will support the listed types. So there the driver you qualify for your copper implementation is the same driver as your fiber implementation on the same card. Some interfaces are available later than others, like 10G copper comes out after our fiber offerings, but once the later driver come out, it will support both.
1. Intel has both Fiber and Copper (and CX4) offering for most product lines
2. Intel drivers will support both interfaces when the both are offered at the same time
3. Thanks for using Intel networking products