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Black Box Explains...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... more/see it nowwith 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 non-corrosive 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. 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


Black Box Explains...Thermocouples

A thermocouple is a device that measures temperature by using the fact that a junction between two different metals produces a varying voltage related to their temperature. Two common types... more/see it nowof thermocouple are Type J and Type K.

Type J thermocouples use iron paired with a nickel-copper alloy. Type J thermocouples may cover a temperature range of up to -40 to +1382° F (-40 to +750°C), and offer high sensitivity.

Type K, the most common type of thermocouple, uses nickel-chromium and nickel-aluminum alloys. Because Type K is an early specification, its characteristics vary widely; individual thermocouples may cover a range of up to -328 to +2462 °F (-200 to +1350 °C). collapse


Black Box Explains…Remote monitoring.

Beyond virus protection.
It has become almost automatic to protect your data center by backing up your servers, installing firewalls and virus protection, and keeping the protection up-to-date.

But what about... more/see it nowmore tangible threats? Do you have hot spots in your racks? If the cooling system shuts down, how will you know when temperatures climb out of control? Are you alerted to humidity changes or water leaks that threaten your equipment?

Planning for the unexpected is a critical task because there are more systems performing mission-critical functions than ever before. These systems are often deployed without the proper environmental infrastructure to support them. Equipment density is increasing constantly, which is creating more stress on ventilation and power.

The top three IT risks:
1. Environmental disruption.
The number one cause of downtime for remote locations, environmental problems go beyond fires and floods and affect as much as 30% of a company’s mission-critical infrastructure. Cooling and power are key points of exposure and increase as equipment density does.

2. Unnecessary risk.
When systems are housed in less-than-optimal settings, or are in remote and unsupervised locations, any error causes downtime. Yet, it’s not practical to have someone babysitting the servers.

3. Sabotage.
Regardless of the probability, terrorism is now something each of us must plan for. Your systems can also be brought down from within if the proper security safeguards are not in place.

What’s an environmental monitoring system?
Environmental monitoring products enable you to actively monitor the conditions in your rack, server room, data center, or anywhere else you need to protect critical assets. Conditions monitored include extreme temperatures, humidity, power spikes and surges, water leaks, smoke, and chemical materials. With proper environmental monitoring, you’re alerted to any conditions that could have an adverse effect on your mission-critical equipment. These products can also alert you to potential damage from human error, hacking, or prying fingers.

Environmental monitors consist of three main elements: a base unit, probes or sensors, and network connectivity and integration. The base units may contain one or more built-in sensors, as well as ports for hooking up external probes. Additionally, they include an Ethernet port and have software for remote configuration and graphing. This software may also work with existing network management software, such as SNMP systems.

Measurement.
An environmental monitoring appliance displays the values measured by the attached probes, e.g. temperature, humidity, airflow, status of dry contact, door, motion detector, and other sensors.

Data collecting and graphing.
Measurements are periodically stored in the internal memory or external storage media and displayed as graphs.

Alerting.
When the measured value exceeds the predefined threshold, it triggers an alert: a blinking LED on the front panel, an audible alarm, SNMP trap, e-mail, etc. The environmental monitoring appliance can also activate an external alarm system like a siren or strobe light.

Benefits of environmental monitoring:

  • Reduced downtime—When things go wrong, you’re the first to know. Minimize downtime by being alerted about conditions that cause damage to servers and other network devices.
  • Increased profits—Environmental monitoring systems are easy to implement. Also, they help you cut replacement equipment costs and redistribute your workforce more effectively.
  • Increased employee satisfaction—With built-in notification features like e-mail, SMS, and SNMP traps, a remote monitoring system enables employees to better manage their work.

  • Applications:
    Envornmental and security monitoring systems can be used for a variety of applications, including:
  • Data center monitoring
  • Computer room monitoring
  • Rackmount industrial equipment
  • Telecommunications
  • UPS/battery backup
  • Educational institutions
  • Food and beverage applications
  • Buildings/warehouses
  • Air conditioner/refrigerants/freezer monitoring
  • Greenhouses
  • collapse


    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.

  • PoE Standards PoE
    IEEE 802.3 af
    PoE IEEE 802.3 at
    Power available at powered device 12.95 W 25.5
    Maximum power delivered 15.40 W 34.20
    Voltage range at powred source 44.0-57.0 V 50.0-57.0 V
    Voltage range at powred device 37.0-57.0 42.5-57.0 V
    Maximum current 350 mA 600 mA
    Maximum cable resistance 20 ohms 12.5 ohms
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    Black Box Explains...Fiber connectors.

    • The ST® connector, which uses a bayonet locking system, is the most common connector.

    • The SC connector features a molded body and a push- pull locking system.

    • The FDDI... more/see it nowconnector comes with a 2.5-mm free-floating ferrule and a fixed shroud to minimize light loss.

    • The MT-RJ connector, a small-form RJ-style connector, features a molded body and uses cleave-and-leave splicing.

    • The LC connector, a small-form factor connector, features a ceramic ferrule and looks like a mini SC connector.

    • The VF-45™connector is another small-form factor connector. It uses a unique “V-groove“ design.

    • The FC connector is a threaded body connector. Secure it by screwing the connector body to the mating threads. Used in high-vibration environments.

    • The MTO/MTP connector is a fiber connector that uses high-fiber-count ribbon cable. It’s used in high-density fiber applications.

    • The MU connector resembles the larger SC connector. It uses a simple push-pull latching connection and is well suited for high-density applications.
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    Black Box Explains...Remote access.

    Remote access is the ability to access a network, a personal computer, a server, or other device from a distance for the purpose of controlling it or to access data.... more/see it nowToday, remote access is usually accomplished over the Internet, although a local IP network, telephone lines, cellular service, or leased lines may also be used. With today’s ubiquitous Internet availability, remote access is increasingly popular and often results in significant cost savings by enabling greater network access and reducing travel to remote sites. Remote access is a very general term that covers a wide range of applications from telecommuting to resetting a distant server. Here are just a few of the applications that fall under the remote access umbrella:

    Remote network access
    A common use for remote access is to provide corporate network access to employees who work at home or are in sales or other traveling positions. This kind of remote access typically uses IPsec VPN tunnels to authenticate and secure connections.

    Remote desktop access
    Remote desktop access enables users to access a computer remotely from another computer and take control of it as if it were local. This kind of remote control requires that special software—which is included with most operating systems—be installed and enabled. It’s often used by those who travel frequently to access their “home” computer, and by network administrators for remote server access. This remote access method has some inherent security concerns and is usually incompatible with firewalls, so it’s important to be aware of its limitations and use adequate security precautions.

    Remote KVM access
    A common application in organizations that maintain servers across multiple sites is server administration through an IP-enabled KVM switch. These IP-addressable switches support one or more servers and have an integral Web server, enabling users to access them over the Internet through a Web browser. Because they’re intended for Internet use, these switches offer authentication and encryption for secure connections.

    Remote power management
    Anyone who’s ever had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go switch a server off and back on again to reset it can appreciate the convenience of remote power management. Remote power managers have a wide range of capabilities ranging from simple power switching to reboot a device to sophisticated power monitoring, reporting, and management functions.

    Remote environmental security monitoring
    Remote environmental and security monitoring over the Internet is increasingly popular, largely because of the cost savings of using existing network infrastructure rather than a proprietary security system. This application requires IP-addressable hubs that support a variety of sensors ranging from temperature and humidity to power monitors. Some models even support surveillance cameras. 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


    Black Box Explains...Rack units.

    A Rack Unit is abbreviated as U. One Rack Unit (1U) is equal to 1.75" (4.44 cm).

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