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Black Box Explains... Crosstalk.

One of the most important cable measurements is Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT). It’s signal interference from one pair that adversely affects another pair on the same end.

Not only can crosstalk... more/see it nowoccur between adjacent wire pairs (“pair-to-pair NEXT“), but all other pairs in a UTP cable can also contribute their own levels of both near-end and far-end crosstalk, multiplying the adverse effects of this interference onto a transmitting or receiving wire pair.

Because such compounded levels of interference can prove crippling in high-speed networks, some cable manufacturers have begun listing Power Sum NEXT (PS-NEXT), FEXT, ELFEXT, and PS-ELFEXT ratings for their CAT5e and CAT6 cables. Here are explanations of the different types of measurements:

NEXT measures an unwanted signal transmitted from one pair to another on the near end.

PS-NEXT (Power Sum crosstalk) is a more rigorous crosstalk measurement that includes the total sum of all interference that can possibly occur between one pair and all the adjacent pairs in the same cable sheath. It measures the unwanted signals from multiple pairs at the near end onto another pair at the near end.

FEXT (Far-End crosstalk) measures an unwanted signal from a pair transmitting on the near end onto a pair at the far end. This measurement takes full-duplex operation into account where signals are generated simultaneously on both ends.

ELFEXT (Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk) measures the FEXT in relation to the received signal level measured on that same pair. It basically measures interference without the effects of attenuation—the equal level.

PS-ELFEXT (Power Sum Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk), an increasingly common measurement, measures the total sum of all intereference from pairs on the far end to a pair on the near end without the effects of attenuation. collapse


Black Box Explains... Standard and ThinNet Ethernet cabling.

The Ethernet standard supports 10-, 100-, and 1000-Mbps speeds. It supports both half- and full-duplex configurations over twisted-pair and fiber cable, as well as half-duplex over coax cable.

However, the Thick... more/see it nowand ThinNet Ethernet standards support only 10-Mbps speeds.

Standard (Thick) Ethernet (10BASE5)
• Uses “Thick” coax cable with N-type connectors for a backbone and a transceiver cable with 15-pin connectors from the transceiver to the network interface card.
• The maximum number of segments is five, but only three can have computers attached. The others are for network extension.
• The maximum length of one segment is 500 meters.
• The maximum total length of all segments is 2500 meters.
• The maximum length of one transceiver cable is 50 meters.
• The minimum distance between transceivers is 2.5 meters.
• No more than 100 transceiver connections per segment are allowed. A repeater counts as a station for both segments.

Thin Ethernet (ThinNet) (10BASE2)
• Uses “Thin” coax cable (RG-58A/U or RG-58C/U).
• The maximum length of one segment is 185 meters.
• The maximum number of segments is five.
• The maximum total length of all segments is 925 meters.
• The minimum distance between T-connectors is 0.5 meters.
• No more than 30 connections per segment are allowed.
• T-connectors must be plugged directly into each device. collapse


Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connectors.

The DVI (Digital Video Interface) technology is the standard digital transfer medium for computers while the HDMI interface is more commonly found on HDTVs, and other high-end displays.

The Digital... more/see it nowVisual Interface (DVI) standard is based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). There are two DVI formats: Single-Link and Dual-Link. Single-link cables use one TMDS-165 MHz transmitter and dual-link cables use two. The dual-link cables double the power of the transmission. A single-link cable can transmit a resolution ?of 1920 x 1200 vs. 2560 x 1600 for a dual-link cable.

There are several types of connectors: ?DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

  • DVI-D is a digital-only connector for use between a digital video source and monitors. DVI-D eliminates analog conversion and improves the display. It can be used when one or both connections are DVI-D.
  • DVI-I (integrated) supports both digital and analog RGB connections. It can transmit either a digital-to-digital signals or an analog-to-analog signal. It is used by some manufacturers on products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. If both connectors are DVI-I, you can use any DVI cable, but a DVI-I is recommended.
  • DVI-A (analog) is used to carry an DVI signal from a computer to an analog VGA device, such as a display. If one or both of your connections are DVI-A, use this cable. ?If one connection is DVI and the other is ?VGA HD15, you need a cable or adapter ?with both connectors.
  • DFP (Digital Flat Panel) was an early digital-only connector used on some displays.
  • EVC (also known as P&D, for ?Plug & Display), another older connector, handles digital and analog connections.
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Black Box Explains...Component video.

Traditional Composite video standards—NTSC, PAL, or SECAM—combine luminance (brightness), chrominance (color), blanking pulses, sync pulses, and color burst information into a single signal.

Another video standard—S-Video—separates luminance from chrominance to provide... more/see it nowsome improvement in video quality.

But there’s a new kind of video called Component video appearing in many high-end video devices such as TVs and DVD players. Component video is an advanced digital format that separates chrominance, luminance, and synchronization into separate signals. It provides images with higher resolution and better color quality than either traditional Composite video or S-Video. There are two kinds of Component video: Y-Cb-Cr and Y-Pb-Pr. Y-Cb-Cr is often used by high-end DVD players. HDTV decoders typically use the Y-Pb-Pr Component video signal.

Many of today’s high-end video devices such as plasma televisions and DVD players actually have three sets of video connectors: Composite, S-Video, and Component. The easiest way to improve picture quality on your high-end TV is to simply connect it using the Component video connectors rather than the Composite or S-Video connectors. Using the Component video connection enables your TV to make use of the full range of video signals provided by your DVD player or cable box, giving you a sharper image and truer colors.

To use the Component video built into your video devices, all you need is the right cable. A Component video cable has three color-coded BNC connections at each end. For best image quality, choose a high-quality cable with adequate shielding and gold-plated connectors. 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


Black Box Explains...PC, UPC, and APC fiber connectors.

Fiber optic cables have different types of mechanical connections. The type of connection determines the quality of the fiber optic lightwave transmission. The different types we’ll discuss here are the... more/see it nowflat-surface, Physical Contact (PC), Ultra Physical Contact (UPC), and Angled Physical Contact (APC).

The original fiber connector is a flat-surface connection, or a flat connector. When mated, an air gap naturally forms between the two surfaces from small imperfections in the flat surfaces. The back reflection in flat connectors is about -14 dB or roughly 4%.

As technology progresses, connections improve. The most common connection now is the PC connector. Physical Contact connectors are just that—the end faces and fibers of two cables actually touch each other when mated.

In the PC connector, the two fibers meet, as they do with the flat connector, but the end faces are polished to be slightly curved or spherical. This eliminates the air gap and forces the fibers into contact. The back reflection is about -40 dB. This connector is used in most applications.

An improvement to the PC is the UPC connector. The end faces are given an extended polishing for a better surface finish. The back reflection is reduced even more to about -55 dB. These connectors are often used in digital, CATV, and telephony systems.

The latest technology is the APC connector. The end faces are still curved but are angled at an industry-standard eight degrees. This maintains a tight connection, and it reduces back reflection to about -70 dB. These connectors are preferred for CATV and analog systems.

PC and UPC connectors have reliable, low insertion losses. But their back reflection depends on the surface finish of the fiber. The finer the fiber grain structure, the lower the back reflection. And when PC and UPC connectors are continually mated and remated, back reflection degrades at a rate of about 4 to 6 dB every 100 matings for a PC connector. APC connector back reflection does not degrade with repeated matings. 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...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...SCSI Ultra2 and LVD (Low-Voltage Differential).

Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI), pronounced “scuzzy,” has been the dominant technology used to connect computers and high-speed peripherals since the 1980s. SCSI technology is constantly evolving to accommodate increased... more/see it nowbandwidth needs. One of the more recent developments is Ultra2 SCSI.

Because Ultra2 SCSI is backward compatible, it works with all legacy equipment. Ultra2 doubles the possible bandwidth on the bus from 40 to 80 MBps! Just as importantly, Ultra2 supports distances up to 12 meters (39.3 ft.) for a multiple-device configuration. Ultra2 uses Low-voltage Differential (LVD) techniques to transfer data at faster rates with fewer errors. Don’t confuse Ultra2 with LVD. Ultra2 is a data-transfer method; LVD is the signaling technique used to transfer the data.

Cables are very important when designing or upgrading a system to take advantage of Ultra2 SCSI. Cables and connectors must be of high quality and they should come from a reputable manufacturer to prevent crosstalk and minimize signal radiation. BLACK BOX® Ultra2 LVD cables are constructed of the finest-quality components to provide your system with the maximum protection and highest possible data-transfer rates. collapse


Black Box Explains: M1 connectors.

In 2001, the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) approved the M1 Display Interface System for digital displays. The M1 system is a versatile and convenient system designed for computer displays,... more/see it nowspecifically digital projectors. M1 supports both analog and digital signals.

M1 is basically a modified DVI connector that can support DVI, VGA, USB and IEEE-1394 signals. The single connector replaces multiple connectors on projectors. An M1 cable can also be used to power accessories, such as interface cards for PDAs.

There are three primary types of M1 connectors:
–M1-DA (digital and analog). This is the most common connector, and it supports VGA, USB and DVI signals.
–M1-D (digital) supports DVI signals.
–M1-A (analog) supports VGA signals.

The M1 standard does not cover any signal specifications or detailed connector specifications. collapse

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