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Black Box Explains...Category wiring standards

The ABCs of standards
There are two primary organizations dedicated to developing and setting structured cabling standards. In North America, standards are issued by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA),... more/see it nowwhich is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The TIA was formed in April 1988 after a merger with the Electronics Industry Association (EIA). That’s why its standards are commonly known as ANSI/TIA/EIA, TIA/EIA, or TIA.

Globally, the organizations that issue standards are the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Standards are often listed as ISO/IEC. Other organizations include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardizations), and the Japanese Standards Association (JSA/JSI).

The committees of all these organizations work together and the performance requirements of the standards are very similar. But there is some confusion in terminology.

The TIA cabling components (cables, connecting hardware, and patch cords) are labeled with a ”category.” These components together form a permanent link or channel that is also called a ”category.” The ISO/IEC defines the link and channel requirements with a ”class” designation. But the components are called a ”category.”

The standards
Category 5 (CAT5) —ratified in 1991. It is no longer recognized for use in networking.

Category 5e (CAT5e), ISO/IEC 11801 Class D, ratified in 1999, is designed to support full-duplex, 4-pair transmission in 100-MHz applications. The CAT5e standard introduced the measurement for PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, and PS-ELFEXT. CAT5e is no longer recognized for new installations. It is commonly used for 1-GbE installations.

Category 6 (CAT6) – Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).

10-GbE over CAT6 introduces Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT), the unwanted coupling of signals between adjacent pairs and cables. Because ANEXT in CAT6 10-GbE networks is so dependent on installation practices, TIA TSB-155-A and ISO/IEC 24750 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 over channels of 121 to 180 feet (37 to 55 meters) and requires it to be 100% tested, which is extremely time consuming. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that the cables be unbundled, that the space between cables be increased, and that non-adjacent patch panel ports be used. If CAT6 F/UTP cable is used, mitigation is not necessary and the length limits do not apply. CAT6 is not recommended for new 10-GbE installations.

Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) –Class Ea was ratified in February 2008. This standard calls for 10-Gigabit Ethernet data transmission over a 4-pair copper cabling system up to 100 meters. CAT6A extends CAT6 electrical specifications from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. It introduces the ANEXT requirement. It also replaces the term Equal Level Far-End Crosstalk (ELFEXT) with Attenuation to Crosstalk Ratio, Far-End (ACRF) to mesh with ISO terminology. CAT6A provides improved insertion loss over CAT6. It is a good choice for noisy environments with lots of EMI. CAT6A is also well-suited for use with PoE+.

CAT6A UTP cable is significantly larger than CAT6 cable. It features larger conductors, usually 22 AWG, and is designed with more space between the pairs to minimize ANEXT. The outside diameter of CAT6A cable averages 0.29"–0.35" compared to 0.21"–0.24" for CAT6 cable. This reduces the number of cables you can fit in a conduit. At a 40% fill ratio, you can run three CAT6A cables in a 3/4" conduit vs. five CAT6 cables.

CAT6A UTP vs. F/UTP. Although shielded cable has the reputation of being bigger, bulkier, and more difficult to handle and install than unshielded cable, this is not the case with CAT6A F/UTP cable. It is actually easier to handle, requires less space to maintain proper bend radius, and uses smaller conduits, cable trays, and pathways. CAT6A UTP has a larger outside diameter than CAT6A F/UTP cable. This creates a great difference in the fill rate of cabling pathways. An increase in the outside diameter of 0.1", from 0.25" to 0.35" for example, represents a 21% increase in fill volume. In general, CAT6A F/UTP provides a minimum of 35% more fill capacity than CAT6A UTP. In addition, innovations in connector technology have made terminating CAT6A F/UTP actually easier than terminating bulkier CAT6A UTP.

Category 7 (CAT7) –Class F was published in 2002 by the ISO/IEC. It is not a TIA recognized standard and TIA plans to skip over it.

Category 7 specifies minimum performance standards for fully shielded cable (individually shielded pairs surrounded by an overall shield) transmitting data at rates up to 600 MHz. It comes with one of two connector styles: the standard RJ plug and a non-RJ-style plug and socket interface specified in IEC 61076-2-104:2.

Category 7a (CAT7a) –Class Fa (Amendment 1 and 2 to ISO/IEC 11801, 2nd Ed.) is a fully shielded cable that extends frequency from 600 MHz to 1000 MHz.

Category 8 – The TIA decided to skip Category 7 and 7A and go to Category 8. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is establishing specs for a 40-Gbps twisted-pair solution with a 2-GHz frequency. The proposed standard is for use in a two-point channel in a data center at 30 meters. It is expected to be ratified in February 2016. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is also incorporating ISO/IEC Class II cabling performance criteria into the standard. It is expected to be called TIA-568-C.2-1. The difference between Class I and Class II is that Class II allows for three different styles of connectors that are not compatible with one another or with the RJ-45 connector. Class I uses an RJ-45 connector and is backward compatible with components up to Category 6A. collapse


Black Box Explains...Token Ring Cabling

The original Token Ring specifications called for shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable using either a DB9 connector or a unique square connector called the IBM data connector. Later, Token Ring was... more/see it nowadapted to use conventional unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable with RJ-45 connectors. The most common kinds of Token Ring cabling in use to day are Type 1 and Type 6 STP as well as Type 3 UTP.

Type 1 shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable is the original wiring for Token Ring. In Type 1 cabling, each wire is constructed of 22 AWG solid copper. Type 1 cable is not as flexible as Type 6 cable and is generally used for long runs in areas where twists and turns are less likely, such as in walls or conduits.

Type 6 Token Ring cable is a lighter, more pliable version of Type 1 cable. It’s constructed of two stranded 26 AWG copper pairs that are surrounded by an overall braided shield. Type 6 cable is commonly used in offices and open areas, and its flexible construction enables it to negotiate multiple twists and turns.

Type 3 or UTP Token Ring cabling uses the same twisted-pair CAT3, CAT5, or CAT5e cabling with RJ-45 connectors as 10BASE-T Ethernet does. Attaching older Type 1 Token Ring to UTP Token Ring requires a balun or adapter. collapse


Black Box Explains...Type 1 vs. Type 6 Cable

Type 1 Cable is made of solid wire, typically 22 AWG bare copper. It has braided shielding around each pair. It’s recommended for long runs in walls, conduits, etc.

Type 6... more/see it nowCable is typically made of 26 AWG stranded copper and has one shield around both pairs. It’s lighter and more flexible than Type 1 Cable and has a better “look.” It’s recommended for use in office environments. collapse


Black Box Explains... RJ-48

An RJ-48 plug is often mistaken for RJ-45. On the outside, the two look identical—both are housed in a miniature 8-position jack. The difference is in the pairing of the... more/see it nowwires.

In RJ-48, two of the wires are for transmit, two are for receive, and two are for the drain. The last two wires are reserved for future use.

There are three subsets within RJ-48: RJ-48C, RJ-48X, and RJ-48S.

RJ-48C and RJ-48X are very similar. Both use lines 1, 2, 4, and 5 and connect T1 lines. The RJ-48C is more common. The difference is that RJ-48X connectors have shorting bars.

RJ-48S uses lines 1, 2, 7, and 8. It connects 56K DDS lines. collapse


Black Box Explains... Fibre Channel Technology.

What is Fibre Channel?
Fibre Channel is a set of communication standards designed to provide high-speed data transfer over a duplex, serial interface. It’s an open standard that supports multiple protocols... more/see it nowincluding higher-level protocols, such as FDDI, SCSI, HIPPI, and IPI, to manage data transfer.

Although it operates at a range of 133 Mbps to 4 Gbps, Fibre Channel is most commonly used at speeds of 1 or 2 Gbps. A working standards group recently announced that 10-Gbps speeds are expected in soon.

Why is it called Fibre Channel?
Originally, Fibre Channel was designed to support only fiber. When copper was added, the International Standards Organization (ISO) task force changed the spelling of fiber to fibre instead of renaming the technology.

Fibre Channel history.
Fibre Channel was first developed in 1988, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) formed a committee in 1989. To ensure interoperability, IBM®, Hewlett-Packard®, and Sun Microsystems® formed the FCSI (Fibre Channel Systems Initiative), a temporary organization, in 1992. FCSI later dissolved, and development was handed over to the FCA (Fibre Channel Association) in 1994. ANSI accepted Fibre Channel as a standard in 1994.

The best of both worlds.
This hardware-based standard combines the best of both channel and network communication methods into one I/O interface. It takes advantage of hardware-intensive, quicker point-to-point channel links that offer low overhead, such as SCSI bus technology, as well as the broad connectivity and long-distance benefits of software-intensive network technology.

Where Fibre Channel is used.
Fibre Channel is used to transfer large amounts of data quickly between supercomputers, mainframes, workstations, desktop computers, storage devices, displays, and other peripherals.

Fibre Channel offers reliability, scalability, congestion-free data flow, Gigabit bandwidth, compatibility with multiple topologies and protocols, flow control, self management, hot pluggability, speed, cost efficiency, loop resiliency, and distance. This makes it ideal for large data operations such as Internet/intranets, data warehousing, networked storage, integrated audio/video, real-time computing, on-line services, and imaging.

The most popular application for this technology right now is Storage Area Networks (SANs). Independent methods of centralized storage management within a SAN (e.g., RAID, tape backup or library, CD-ROM library) run more efficiently with a Fibre Channel backbone.

Fibre Channel topologies.
Fibre Channel can be connected by three methods. In all cases, the topology of the network is transparent to the attached devices.

Point to point is the simplest topology, which uses simple bidirectional links between two connected devices.

Arbitrated loop is the most common topology and the most complex. It is distributed, connecting up to 126 devices across shared media, and it offers shared bandwidth. Two ports on the loop establish a point-to-point, full-duplex connection through arbitration among all ports.

The cross-point or fabric-switched topology uses 24-bit addressing to connect up to 2 (to the 24th) devices in a cross-point switched configuration. This enables many devices to communicate at the same time and does not require shared media.

Fibre Channel layers.
Fibre Channel protocol is divided into five hierarchical layers: The three bottom layers, FC-0–FC-2, define the physical transmission standard. Layers FC-3 and FC-4 address interfaces with other network protocols.

FC-0: Media and interface layer that defines the physical link.

FC-1: Transmission encode/decode layer. Information is encoded 8 bits at a time into a 10-bit transmission character (8B/10B from IBM).

FC-2: Signaling protocol layer that serves as the transport mechanism performing basic signaling and framing. FC-2 includes the following classes of service:
• Class 1 provides dedicated connections. Intermix is an optional type of Class 1 service in which Class 1 frames are guaranteed a special amount of bandwidth.
• Class 2 is a frame-switched, connectionless service, also known as multiplex. It guarantees delivery and confirms receipt of traffic.
• Class 3 is a one-to-many, connectionless, frame-switched service. It’s similar to Class 2 except it uses buffer-to-buffer flow control and does not confirm frame delivery.

FC-3: Common-services layer that provides common services required for advanced features such as striping, hunt groups, and multicast.

FC-4: Upper layer for protocol mapping of network and channel data transmitting concurrently over the same physical interface.

Fibre Channel media.
Fibre Channel runs at up to 1 Gbps over copper or fiber, but for higher speeds, fiber is required. Copper-wire cable can be video coax, miniature coax, or, most commonly, shielded twisted pair with a DB9 or HSSDC connector. Fiber choices include 62.5- or 50-µm multimode and 7- or 9-µm single-mode fiber, all with an SC connector.

Other Fibre Channel equipment includes disk enclosures, drivers, extenders, hubs, interface converters, host bus adapters, routers, switches, and SCSI bridges. collapse

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