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Black Box Explains...Cable management.

Corporate networks are complex systems of PCs, servers, printers, and the devices that connect them. Getting everything to work in harmony requires bundles of cables, and managing all those cables... more/see it nowfrom inside a telecommunications closet can be a daunting task. To connect cable bundles to rackmounted equipment (like patch panels, hubs, switches, or routers), you need to direct the bundles overhead, vertically, and horizontally.

A popular choice for overhead cable routing is a ladder rack. Ladder racks come in many varieties. They can run along a wall supported by brackets or they can be installed overhead and supported by a threaded rod. Ladder racks can support large cable bundles neatly and safely. Because bundles lie flat on a ladder rack, cables aren’t subjected to harsh bends. You can run ladder racks directly to the top of most standard telecommunications racks that conform to TIA/EIA standards.

Use vertical cable managers to route cable bundles along the sides of a rack. These “cable troughs” as they’re sometimes called can be single sided—or double sided to route cable bundles to the rear of equipment and to the ports on the front as well. Vertical cable managers usually come with some type of protection for the cable, such as grommeted holes to protect the cable jacket or a cover that may clip on or act as a door.

Horizontal cable managers are usually a series of rings that directs cables in an orderly fashion toward the ports of hubs, switches, and patch panels. collapse

Screw Dimensions

Find the right screw length for your cabinet or rack.

Types of Screws

Screw Dimensions

There are two basic kinds of screws used for cabinets and racks—panhead screws and countersunk screws—and... more/see it nowthey’re measured in two different ways. Because the standard way to measure is from the tip of the business end of the screw to where the screw rests on the material it’s fastened to, a panhead screw is measured to the bottom of its head, whereas a countersunk screw is measured to the top of its head.

Black Box Explains...Power over Ethernet (PoE).

What is PoE?
The seemingly universal network connection, twisted-pair Ethernet cable, has another role to play, providing electrical power to low-wattage electrical devices. Power over Ethernet (PoE) was ratified by the... more/see it nowInstitute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in June 2000 as the 802.3af-2003 standard. It defines the specifications for low-level power delivery—roughly 13 watts at 48 VDC—over twisted-pair Ethernet cable to PoE-enabled devices such as IP telephones, wireless access points, Web cameras, and audio speakers.

Recently, the basic 802.3af standard was joined by the IEEE 802.3at PoE standard (also called PoE+ or PoE plus), ratified on September 11, 2009, which supplies up to 25 watts to larger, more power-hungry devices. 802.3at is backwards compatible with 802.3af.

How does PoE work?
The way it works is simple. Ethernet cable that meets CAT5 (or better) standards consists of four twisted pairs of cable, and PoE sends power over these pairs to PoE-enabled devices. In one method, two wire pairs are used to transmit data, and the remaining two pairs are used for power. In the other method, power and data are sent over the same pair.

When the same pair is used for both power and data, the power and data transmissions don’t interfere with each other. Because electricity and data function at opposite ends of the frequency spectrum, they can travel over the same cable. Electricity has a low frequency of 60 Hz or less, and data transmissions have frequencies that can range from 10 million to 100 million Hz.

Basic structure.
There are two types of devices involved in PoE configurations: Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) and Powered Devices (PD).

PSEs, which include end-span and mid-span devices, provide power to PDs over the Ethernet cable. An end-span device is often a PoE-enabled network switch that’s designed to supply power directly to the cable from each port. The setup would look something like this:

End-span device → Ethernet with power

A mid-span device is inserted between a non-PoE device and the network, and it supplies power from that juncture. Here is a rough schematic of that setup:

Non-PoE switch → Ethernet without PoE → Mid-span device → Ethernet with power

Power injectors, a third type of PSE, supply power to a specific point on the network while the other network segments remain without power.

PDs are pieces of equipment like surveillance cameras, sensors, wireless access points, and any other devices that operate on PoE.

PoE applications and benefits.
• Use one set of twisted-pair wires for both data and low-wattage appliances.
• In addition to the applications noted above, PoE also works well for video surveillance, building management, retail video kiosks, smart signs, vending machines, and retail point-of-information systems.
• Save money by eliminating the need to run electrical wiring.
• Easily move an appliance with minimal disruption.
• If your LAN is protected from power failure by a UPS, the PoE devices connected to your LAN are also protected from power failure.

Black Box Explains...Choosing cabinets and racks.

Why cabinets? Why racks?

A cabinet is an enclosure with a door (or doors); a rack is an open frame. There are several things you... more/see it nowshould consider when you’re deciding whether you need an enclosed cabinet or a rack.

First, what equipment will you be putting in it? The extra stability of a cabinet might be important if you’re installing large, heavy equipment like servers. But if you need frequent access to all sides of the equipment, an open rack might be more convenient. And if your equipment needs a lot of ventilation, you’ll have to be more careful about the air supply if you enclose it in a cabinet.

Second, in what environment will you be installing it? If the environment is open or dusty, for example, you might need the extra protection of an enclosed cabinet. On the other hand, a rack might be perfectly adequate in a well-maintained data center.

Don’t neglect aesthetics. Will customers or clients see your installation? A cabinet with a door looks much neater than an open rack. When you’re trying to create a professional image, everything counts.

Finally, there’s security. An enclosed cabinet can be locked with a simple lock and key.

On the other hand, there are advantages to open racks, too. It’s easier to get at all sides of the equipment. But you’ll have to take other steps to keep the equipment secure-keeping it in a locked room, for example.

Both cabinets and racks come in all sizes and in many different installation styles. Some are freestanding; some are designed to be mounted on a wall. Others sit on the floor but attach to the wall for more stability.

If you need to set up your installation in a hurry, you can order a preassembled cabinet. You’re ready to load your equipment as soon as the cabinet arrives.

Choosing the right server cabinet.

Consider this quick checklist of features when choosing a server cabinet:

  • High-volume airflow. The requirements for additional airflow increase as more servers are mounted in a cabinet. Additionally, manufacturers are making servers narrower to increase available space. But with more servers in the same amount of space, heat buildup is frequently a problem.
  • Extra depth to accommodate newer, deeper servers.
  • Adjustable rails.
  • Rails with M6 square holes. Although 10-32 tapped and drilled holes are sometimes still required, newer hardware has M6 square holes. Know which type of mounting equipment you’ll need.
  • Front and/or rear accessibility.
NEMA 12 certification.

The National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (NEMA) specifies guidelines for cabinet certifications. NEMA 12 cabinets are constructed for indoor use to provide protection against certain contaminants that might come in contact with the enclosed equipment. The NEMA 12 designation means a particular cabinet has met the guidelines, which include protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 certification.

Organizations with mission-critical equipment benefit from a NEMA 12 cabinet. Certain environments put equipment at a higher risk than others. For example, equipment in industrial plants is subject to varying degrees of extreme temperature. Even office buildings generate lots of dust and moisture, which is detrimental to equipment. NEMA 12 enclosures help to ensure that your operation suffers from as little downtime as possible.

Choosing the right rack.

Before you choose a rack, you have to determine what equipment you need to house. This list can include CPUs, monitors, keyboards, modems, servers, switches, hubs, routers, and UPSs. Consider the size and weight of all your equipment as well. The rack must be large and strong enough to hold everything you have now, and you’ll also want to leave extra room for growth.

Most racks are designed to hold equipment that’s 19" (48.3 cm) wide. But height and depth may vary from rack to rack. Common rack heights range from 39" (99.1 cm) to 87" (221 cm).

Another measurement you should know about is the rack unit. One rack unit, abbreviated as U, equals 1.75" (4.4 cm). A rack that is 20U, for example, has 20 rack spaces for equipment, or is 35" high (88.9 cm).

Understanding cabinet and rack measurements.

The main component of a cabinet or rack is a set of vertical rails with mounting holes to which you attach your equipment or shelves. When you consider the width or height of the rack, clarify whether they are inside or outside dimensions.

The first measurement you need to know is the width between the rails. The most common size is 19 inches with hole-to-hole centers measuring 18.3 inches. But there are also 23-inch and 24-inch cabinets and racks. Most rackmount equipment is made to fit 19-inch rails but can be adapted to fit wider rails.

After the width, the most important specification is the number of rack units, abbreviated “U.” It’s a measurement of vertical space available on the rails. Because the width is standard, the amount of vertical space is what determines how much equipment you can actually install. Remember that this measurement of usable vertical space is smaller than the external height of the cabinet or rack.

One rack unit (1U) is 1.75 inches of usable vertical space. So, for example, a rackmount device that’s 2U high will take up 3.5 inches of rack space. A rack that’s 20U high will have 35 inches of usable space.

Because both racks and the equipment that fit in them are usually measured in rack units, it’s easy to figure out how much equipment you can fit in a given cabinet or rack.

Do you need a fan?

Even if your cabinet or rack is in a climate-controlled room, the equipment in it can generate a lot of heat. You may want to consider adding a fan to help keep your equipment from overheating. It’s especially important to have adequate ventilation in an enclosed cabinet.

Getting power to your equipment.

Unless you want to live in a forest of extension cords, you’ll need one or more power strips. Some cabinets come with power strips built in.

If you need to order a power strip, consider which kind will be best for your installation. Rackmount power strips come in versions that mount either vertically or horizontally. Some have outlets that are spaced widely to accommodate transformer blocks-a useful feature if your equipment uses bulky power transformers.

Surge protection is another important issue. Some power strips have built-in surge protection; some don’t. With all the money you have invested in rackmount equipment, you’ll certainly want to make sure it’s protected.

Any mission-critical equipment should also be connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS keeps your equipment from crashing during a brief blackout or brownout and gives you enough time to shut down everything properly in an extended power outage. You can choose a rackmount UPS for the most critical equipment, or you can plug the whole rack into a standalone UPS.

Managing the cables.

Your equipment may look very tidy when it’s neatly stacked in a cabinet. But you still have an opportunity to make a mess once you start connecting it all. Unless you’re very careful with your cables, you can create a rat’s nest you’ll never be able to sort out.

There are many cabinet and rack accessories that can simplify cable organization. We have Cable Management Guides, Rackmount Cable Raceways, Horizontal Covered Organizers, Vertical Cable Organizers, Horizontal Wire Ring Panels, and Cable Manager Hangers-all designed to help you manage your cables more easily.

Plotting your connections in advance helps you to decide how to organize the cables. Knowing where the connectors are on your equipment tells you where it’s most efficient to run cables horizontally and where it’s better to run them vertically.

The important thing is to have a plan. Most network problems are in the cabling, so if you let your cables get away from you now, you’re sure to pay for it down the road.

Asking for help.

When you’re setting up a cabinet or rack, you have a lot of different factors to consider. Black Box Tech Support is always happy to help you figure out what you need and how to put it together. For cabinets and racks solutions, call our Connectivity Group at 724-746-5500, press 1, 2, 2.


Black Box Explains…Liquid cooling.

The trend toward high-density installations with higher-powered CPUs has made heat a critical issue in data centers. Blade servers present a special challenge—a rack of blade servers can dissipate more... more/see it nowthan 25 kW, generating more heat than an electric oven.

Heat-generated problems
The heat generated in today’s high-density data centers can shorten equipment lifespan, negatively affect equipment performance, and cause downtime. Traditional air-cooling methods such as hot/cold aisle arrangements simply can’t keep up with these heat-generating installations. Data center managers often try to compensate for the inefficiency of air cooling by under-populating racks, but this wastes space—an often scarce commodity in modern data centers.

Why liquid
Because of the inherent inefficiencies of air cooling, many data centers have turned to liquid cooling through water or other refrigerants. Liquids have far greater heat transfer properties than air—water is 3400 times more efficient than air—and can cool far greater equipment densities.

Liquid cooling is usually done at the rack level using the airflow from the servers to move the heat to a cooling unit where it’s removed by liquid, neutralizing heat at the source before it enters the room. Liquid cooling may also be done at the component level, where cooling liquid is delivered directly to individual components. Liquid cooling may also arrive in the form of portable units for cooling hot spots.

Liquid cooling options
Types of liquid cooling commonly used in data centers include:

  • Cabinet-door liquid cooling: With this method, cooling units are special cabinet doors that contain sealed tubes filled with chilled liquid. The liquid is circulated through the door to remove heat vented by equipment fans. Because liquid-cooled doors can replace standard cabinet doors, they’re the favored method for retrofitting liquid cooling into existing data centers.
  • Integrated liquid cooling: This consists of a specialized sealed cabinet that has channels for liquid cooling built into it to act as heat exchangers. Fans move hot air past the heat exchangers before sending the cooled air back to the servers. These cabinets are closed systems that release very little heat into the room.
  • Component-based liquid cooling: Some servers are preconfigured with integrated liquid-based cooling modules. After the servers are installed, liquid is circulated through the cooling modules.
  • Immersion cooling: This rather counterintuitive cooling method immerses servers in a non-conductive liquid, which is circulated to cool the servers.
  • Portable liquid cooling: These are small units that operate by blowing air across water-cooled coils. They can usually accept water from any source—including a nearby faucet. They’re generally plumbed with ordinary garden hoses and require no special skills to use. Portable cooling units are intended for emergency cooling rather than as a permanent solution.

Liquid cooling requires a shift in the way you think about cooling. Installation may require that you acquire a new skill set or hire a professional installer. However, the space savings and cost savings gained through liquid cooling more than make up for the inconvenience of installing a new cooling technology.

Not only does liquid cooling enable data centers to operate at far greater densities than conventional air cooling does, it gets rid of the infrastructure associated with air cooling, enabling you to eliminate hot/cold aisles and raised floors. Liquid cooling can support from 25 to 80% more equipment in the same footprint, resulting in significantly lower infrastructure costs.

Add to this the fact that cooling is often the majority of a data center’s operating cost, and it’s plain to see why an investment in the efficiency of liquid cooling goes right to the bottom line. collapse

Black Box Explains...NEMA ratings for enclosures.

The National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (NEMA) issues guidelines and ratings for an enclosure’s level of protection against contaminants that might come in contact with its enclosed equipment.

There are many numerical... more/see it nowNEMA designations; we’ll discuss NEMA enclosures relevant to our on-line catalog: NEMA 3, NEMA 3R, NEMA 4, NEMA 4X, and NEMA 12.

NEMA 3 enclosures, designed for both indoor and outdoor use, provide protection against falling dirt, windblown dust, rain, sleet, and snow, as well as ice formation.

The NEMA 3R rating is identical to NEMA 3 except that it doesn’t specify protection against windblown dust.

NEMA 4 and 4X enclosures, also designed for indoor and outdoor use, protect against windblown dust and rain, splashing and hose-directed water, and ice formation. NEMA 4X goes further than NEMA 4, specifying that the enclosure will also protect against corrosion caused by the elements.

NEMA 12 enclosures are constructed for indoor use only and are designed to provide protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing noncorrosive liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 designation. collapse

Cold aisle containment.

Cold aisle containment (CAC) is a cooling method that increases cooling efficiency and reduces energy costs in data centers.

This cooling method relies on the fact that most network equipment... more/see it nowand servers are designed to cool themselves by drawing air in through the front and exhausting it out the rear. To implement cold aisle containment, rows of cabinets or racks are arranged facing each other to form aisles, and cool air is routed between the rows. Equipment takes the cool air in at the front of the cabinet and exhausts it out the back into the room.

To keep cool air from mixing with warm air, row ends are closed off with an air-flow barrier. This barrier can range from makeshift arrangements of plastic strips to doors made expressly for this purpose.

Because cold aisle containment concentrates cool air at the front of equipment where it’s most needed, it’s an exceptionally effective cooling method. Cold aisle containment significantly reduces energy costs, lowering power bills as well as reducing data centers’ carbon footprints. collapse

Black Box Explains...10-32, 12-24, and M6 rails.

The rails on cabinets and racks typically come with one of three mounting options: 10-32, 12-24, or M6.

The 10-32 and 12-24 options are round holes found on drilled and tapped... more/see it nowrails. You’ll find 10-32 openings on cabinets, while 12-24 holes are more commonly found on relay racks and frames. However, exceptions do exist. It’s very important to find out which type of mounting option your equipment requires before you order a cabinet or rack.

M6 holes are square, rather than round. M6 rails were developed to hold rackmount equipment, and you will find them on most server cabinets.

What makes M6 rails so popular on server cabinets? They’re adaptable. With just one cage nut, you can change a square hole into a round one. That gives you much more versatility in your equipment and mounting choices.

If you have a wide array of equipment, such as rackmount servers, hubs, routers, and patch panels, your best bet is a cabinet with M6 rails. It will accommodate the rackmount servers, and the other equipment can be mounted on those same rails using cage nuts.

If you’re unsure what type of cabinet, rack, or frame is best for your application, contact the experts at Black Box Tech Support. They’ll be glad to help you find the right enclosure for your equipment. collapse

Black Box Explains…How to keep cabinets cool.

Networking equipment—especially servers—generates a lot of heat in a relatively small area. Today’s servers are smaller and have faster CPUs than ever. Because most of the power used by these... more/see it nowdevices is dissipated into the air as heat, they can really strain the cooling capacity of your data center. The components housed in a medium-sized data center can easily generate enough heat to heat a house in the dead of winter!

So cool you must, because when network components become hot, they're prone to failure and a shortened lifespan.

Damage caused by heat is not always immediately evident as a catastrophic meltdown—signs of heat damage include node crashes and hardware failures that can happen over a period of weeks or even months, leading to chronic downtime.

Computer rooms generally have special equipment such as high-capacity air conditioning and raised-floor cooling systems to meet their high cooling requirements. However, it's also important to ensure that individual cabinets used for network equipment provide adequate ventilation. Even if your data center is cool, the inside of a cabinet may overheat if air distribution is inadequate. Just cranking up the air conditioning is not the solution.

The temperature inside a cabinet is affected by many variables, including door perforations, cabinet size, and the types of components housed within the cabinet.

The most direct way to cool network equipment is to ensure adequate airflow. The goal is to ensure that every server, every router, every switch has the necessary amount of air no matter how high or low it is in the cabinet.

It takes a certain volume of air to cool a device to within its ideal temperature range. Equipment manufacturers provide very little guidance about how to do this; however, there are some very basic methods you can use to maximize the ventilation within your cabinets.

Open it up.
Most major server manufacturers recommend that the front and back cabinet doors have at least 63% open area for airflow. You can achieve this by either removing cabinet doors altogether or by buying cabinets that have perforated doors.

Because most servers, as well as other network devices, are equipped with internal fans, open or perforated doors may be the only ventilation you need as long as your data center has enough air conditioning to dissipate the heat load.

You may also want to choose cabinets with side panels to keep the air within each cabinet from mixing with hot air from an adjacent cabinet.

Equipment placement.
Don't overload the cabinet by trying to fit in too many servers—75% to 80% of capacity is about right. Leave at least 1U of space between rows of servers for front-to-back ventilation. Maintain at least a 1.5" clearance between equipment and the front and back of the cabinet. And finally, ensure all unused rack space is closed off with blank panels to prevent recirculation of warm air.

Fans and fan placement.
You can increase ventilation even more by installing fans to actively circulate air through cabinets. The most common cabinet fans are top-mounted fan panels that pull air from the bottom of the cabinet or through the doors. For spot cooling, use a fan or fan panel that mounts inside the cabinet.

For very tightly-packed cabinets, choose an enclosure blower—a specialized high-speed fan that mounts in the bottom of the cabinet to pull a column of cool air from the floor across the front of your servers or other equipment. An enclosure blower requires a solid or partially vented front door with adequate space—usually at least 4 inches—between the front of your equipment and the cabinet door for air movement.

When using fans to cool a cabinet, keep in mind that cooling the outside of a component doesn't necessarily cool its inside. The idea is to be sure that the air circulates where your equipment's air intake is. Also, beware of installing fans within the cabinets that work against the small fans in your equipment and overwhelm them.

Temperature monitoring.
To ensure that your components are operating within their approved temperature range, it’s important to monitor conditions within your cabinets.

The most direct method to monitor cabinet temperature is to put a thermometer into your cabinet and check it regularly. This simple and inexpensive method can work well for for small installations, but it does have its drawbacks—a cabinet thermometer can’t tell you what the temperature inside individual components is, it can’t raise the alarm if the temperature goes out of range, and it must be checked manually.

Another simple and inexpensive addition to a cabinet is a thermostat that automatically turns on a fan when the cabinet's temperature exceeds a predetermined limit.

Many network devices come with SNMP or IP-addressable internal temperature sensors to tell you what the internal temperature of the component is. This is the preferred temperature monitoring method because these sensors are inside your components where the temperature really counts. Plus you can monitor them from your desktop—they’ll send you an alert if there’s a problem.

There are also cabinet temperature sensors that can alert you over your network. These sensors are often built into another device such as a PDA but only monitor cabinet temperature, not the temperature inside individual devices. However, these sensors can be a valuable addition to your cooling plan, especially for older devices that don't have internal sensors.

The future of cabinet cooling.
Very high-density data centers filled with blade servers present an extreme cooling challenge, causing some IT managers to resort to liquid-cooled cabinets. They’re still fairly new and tend to make IT managers nervous at the prospect of liquids near electronics, but their high efficiency makes it likely that these liquid-cooled systems will become more prevalent.

It’s easy, really.
Keeping your data and server cabinets cool doesn't have to be complicated. Just remember not to overcrowd the cabinets, be sure to provide adequate ventilation, and always monitor conditions within your cabinets. collapse

Black Box Explains...Choosing a cabinet.

Understanding cabinet and rack measurements.
The main component of a cabinet is a set of vertical rails with mounting holes to which you attach your equipment or shelves. When you consider... more/see it nowthe width or height of a cabinet, clarify whether the dimensions are inside or outside.

The first measurement you need to know is the width of the rails. The most common size is 19 inches with hole-to-hole centers measuring 18.3 inches. There are also 23-inch and 24-inch cabinets and racks. Most rackmount equipment is made to fit 19-inch rails but can be adapted for wider rails.

After width, the most important specification is the number of rack units, abbreviated as “U.” It’s a measurement of space available to mount equipment. Because cabinet width is standard, the amount of space is what determines how much equipment you can actually install. Remember, this is an internal measurement of usable space and is smaller than an external measure of the cabinet or rack.

One rack unit (1U) is 1.75 inches of usable space and is usually, but not always, measured vertically. So, for example, a rackmount device that’s 2U high takes up 3.5 inches of rack space. A rack that’s 20U high has 35 inches of usable space.

Choosing the right cabinet.
Here’s a quick checklist of features to keep in mind before you choose a cabinet for servers or other network devices:
• High-volume airflow.
• Adjustable rails.
• Rails with M6 square holes.
• Moisture and dust resistance.
• Air filters.
• Front and/or rear accessibility.
• Locking doors.
• Left- or right-hinging doors.
• Power strips and cable organizers.
• Interior lighting.
• Preassembly.
• Availability of optional shelves, fans, and casters.
• Cable management rails, space, and knockouts.
• Extra depth to accommodate newer, deeper servers.

Don’t forget to accessorize.
Even if your cabinet is in a climate-controlled room, you may need to add a fan panel to help keep your equipment from overheating. It’s especially important to have ventilation in an enclosed cabinet.

Rackmount power strips mount either vertically or horizontally. Some have widely spaced outlets to accommodate transformer blocks. Some power strips include surge protection.

Mission-critical equipment should be connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS keeps your equipment from crashing during a brief blackout or brownout and provides you with enough time to shut down everything properly in a more extended power outage.

For accessories that make cabling easier, just take a look at our many cable management products. We have cable management guides, rackmount raceways, horizontal and vertical organizers, cable managers, cable hangers, and much more. collapse

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