Copper makes a comeback

Gigabit Ethernet is usually run over fiber-optic backbones, which can covergreater distances than copper ones, but Gigabit Ethernet over copper ora combination of copper and fiber is becoming a more popular option.

Intel Corp. recently introduced three switches that support Gigabit Ethernetover copper, touting copper as less expensive and easier to install thanfiber.

"Gigabit Ethernet over copper can be done utilizing the existing phone cablingbase combined with Ethernet technology," said Steve Rotz, product line managerfor switching products at Intel. "It facilitates growth in the federal governmentwhere Ethernet networks [are common] because it is backward compatible,very standards-based and very scalable."

The new Intel products, which will start shipping during the next two months,include:

* The NetStructure 480T Routing Switch, a data center Gigiabit Ethernetswitch that provides controlled bandwidth for e-business applications.

* The NetStructure 470T/470F Gigabit Ethernet switch, an entry-level switchfor aggregating workgroups and servers.

* The uplink module for the Express 460T stand-alone switches, which enablesthe 460T to link to a server or backbone using Gigabit Ethernet over copper.

Laurie Vickers, an industry analyst at Cahners In-Stat Group, a high-techmarket research firm, said that although copper may be cheaper, it is alsomore vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping.

"Fiber is a lot more snoop-proof for people trying to tap into the line,but not every application needs that kind of protection" Vickers said. "But [copper] does allow you to use the existing cabling you have and itcan be done for one-third to one-half of the cost of fiber."

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