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We are looking to implement 10Gig ethernet for our ESX hosts and SANs. There are a number of solutions we have been looking at and it has really boiled down to what will give us the best bandwidth.

One solution was to run Intel X540-T2 cards with CAT6a to a Netgear XS712T switch.

The more I read into it the more favourable SFP+ becomes however, And with good availability of second hand switches like the Dell PowerConnect 8024F at a reasonable price point (<£2K GBP) that support stacking and low price difference in 10GBASE-T and 10GBASE-DA NICs it seems to make sense.

Does anyone have any direct experience with SFP+ and CAT6a/CAT7 cabling in a VMWare ESX environment and can offer advice?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

We have a lot of 10GE in our datacenters and we never use CAT6a for it.

I would strongly recommend using SFP+. For Switch-Server connections you can use 10GE DAC cables (special copper cables with fixed SFP+ modules on both ends) that are not as expensive as optical cables/SFP+. We use these without problems to connect ESX hosts:

http://www.flexoptix.net/en/sfp-plus-copper-cable-10-gigabit-dac-1-meter.html

If you need longer patches in the future you can just switch from the DAC cables to optical SFP+ and cables. No need to exchange the switch.

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+1 for the Direct Attach Cables (DACs). We love them in our environment, they are far cheaper, seem to have less issues with compatibility, and I've read they have slightly less latency than optics (although haven't tested this myself). –  Jed Daniels Apr 4 '13 at 14:15
    
Same here. Cisco DAC (TwinAx) is quite cheap and compatible with NetApp and EMC SFP+ ports. Please be advised that 7 and 10 meter TwinAx are NOT compatible with OneX converters ! I do use some runs of Cat6a/Cat7, but only for 10 meters max. on equipment where SFP+ adapters were not easily available. –  Tonny Apr 4 '13 at 14:19
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Cat6a will get there someday, but there's very slow adoption and nascent compatibility issues right now. –  Chris S Apr 4 '13 at 14:20
    
This is EXACTLY the answer I was looking for, in the time I posted this I had done considerably more research and came to this same conclusion with these cables: amazon.co.uk/Cisco-10GBASE-CU-Cable-Meter-SFP-H10GB-CU3M/dp/… With obviously the premise to move to optical SFP+ in future. –  Myles Gray Apr 4 '13 at 15:53

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