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Black Box Explains...Serial ATA technology.

Introduced in the mid 1980s, the Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) interconnect soon became the industry-standard parallel input/output bus interface for connecting internal storage devices. Ultra ATA, which builds on the... more/see it noworiginal parallel ATA interface, has become the most commonly used type of interconnect.

But in recent years, sharing digital video and audio files over high-speed networks and other data-intensive uses has placed greater demands on hard drives, optical drives, and media-storage peripherals. So, not surprisingly, Ultra ATA now faces competition from a new technology—Serial ATA.

As the name implies, this new interconnect uses a serial bus architecture instead of a parallel one. Serial ATA currently supports speeds up to 150 MBps. Further enhancements could to boost rates as high as 600 MBps.

Compared with Ultra ATA, Serial ATA offers distinct advantages, including a point-to-point topology that enables you to dedicate 150 MBps to each connected device. Each channel can work independently and, unlike the “master-slave” shared bus of Ultra ATA, there’s no drive contention or interface bandwidth sharing.

Compared with Ultra ATA’s parallel bus design, Serial ATA requires a single signal path for sending data bits and a second path for receiving acknowledgement data. Each path travels across a 2-wire differential pair, and the bus contains four signal lines per channel. Fewer interface signals means the interconnect cable requires less board space.

Serial ATA also uses thinner cables (no more than 0.25" wide) that are available in longer lengths (up to 1 meter) as well as an improved connector design to reduce crosstalk. It also offers hot-swappable capabilities.

Although Serial ATA can’t interface directly with earlier Ultra ATA devices, it complies fully with the ATA protocol, so software between the two interconnects is compatible. collapse


Black Box Explains...Alien crosstalk.

Alien crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical and unique measurement in 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, used in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, measures the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk,... more/see it nowin 10-GbE systems, is the measurement of the signal coupling between wire pairs in different, adjacent cables.

The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the promixity of adjacent cables and connectors, the cable length, cable twist density, and EMI. Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by Alien Crosstalk.

With Alien Crosstalk, the affected cable is called the disturbed or victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturber cables. collapse


Black Box Explains... Guidelines for choosing fiber optic cable.


Fiber optic cable is becoming one of the fastest-growing transmission mediums for both new cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications. It’s favored for applications that... more/see it nowneed high bandwidth, long distances, and complete immunity to electrical interference.

It’s ideal for high-data-rate systems such as Gigabit Ethernet, FDDI, multimedia, ATM, SONET, Fibre Channel, or any other network that requires the transfer of large, bandwidth-consuming data files, particularly over long distances.

Fiber offers the following advantages:

Greater bandwidth—Because fiber provides far greater bandwidth than copper and has proven performance at rates up to 10 Gbps, it gives network designers future-proofing capabilities as network speeds and requirements increase.

Also, fiber optic cable can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper wire. That’s why the telephone networks use fiber and many CATV companies are converting to fiber.

Low attenuation and greater distance—Because the fiber optic signal is made of light, very little signal loss occurs during transmission, and data can move at higher speeds and greater distances. Fiber does not have the 100-meter (328-ft.) distance limitation of unshielded twisted-pair copper (without a booster). Fiber distances can range from 300 meters (984.2 ft.) to 40 kilometers (24.8 mi.), depending on the style of cable, wavelength, and network. (Fiber distances are typically measured in metric units.) Because fiber signals need less boosting than copper ones do, the cable performs better.

Security—Your data is safe with fiber cable. It doesn’t radiate signals and is extremely difficult to tap. If the cable is tapped, it’s very easy to monitor because the cable leaks light, causing the entire system to fail. If an attempt is made to break the physical security of your fiber system, you’ll know it.

Fiber networks also enable you to put all your electronics and hardware in one central location, instead of having wiring closets with equipment throughout the building.

Immunity and reliability—Fiber provides extremely reliable data transmission. It’s completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable. The core is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through. It’s immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. You can run fiber cable next to industrial equipment without worry. Fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper and can be submerged in water.

Design—Fiber is lightweight, thin, and more durable than copper cable. Plus, fiber optic cable has pulling specifications that are up to 10 times greater than copper cable’s. Its small size makes it easier to handle, and it takes up much less space in cabling ducts. Although fiber is still more difficult to terminate than copper, advancements in connectors are making termination easier. In addition, fiber is actually easier to test than copper cable.

Migration—The proliferation and lower costs of media converters are making copper to fiber migration much easier. The converters provide seamless links and enable the use of existing hardware. Fiber can be incorporated into networks in planned upgrades.

Standards—TIA/EIA standards are bringing fiber closer to the desktop. TIA/EIA-785, ratified in 2001, provides a cost-effective migration path from 10-Mbps Ethernet to 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet over fiber (100BASE-SX). An addendum to the standard eliminates limitations in transceiver designs. In addition, in June 2002, the IEEE approved a 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) standard.

Costs—The cost for fiber cable, components, and hardware is steadily decreasing. Installation costs for fiber are higher than copper because of the skill needed for terminations. Overall, fiber is more expensive than copper in the short run, but it may actually be less expensive in the long run. Fiber typically costs less to maintain, has much less downtime, and requires less networking hardware. And fiber eliminates the need to recable for higher network performance.

Types of fiber cable and standards.

Multimode, 50- and 62.5-micron cable—Multimode cable has a large-diameter core and multiple pathways of light. It comes in two core sizes: 50-micron and 62.5-micron.

Multimode fiber optic cable can be used for most general data and voice fiber applications, such as bringing fiber to the desktop, adding segments to an existing network, and in smaller applications such as alarm systems. Both 50- and 62.5-micron cable feature the same cladding diameter of 125 microns, but 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core (the light-carrying portion of the fiber).

Although both can be used in the same way, 50-micron cable is recommended for premise applications (backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections) and should be considered for any new construction and installations. Both also use either LED or laser light sources. The big difference between the two is that 50-micron cable provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds, particularly in the 850-nm wavelength.

Single-mode, 8–10-micron cable—Single-mode cable has a small 8–10-micron glass core and only one pathway of light. With only a single wavelength of light passing through its core, single-mode cable realigns the light toward the center of the core instead of simply bouncing it off the edge of the core as multimode does.

Single-mode cable provides 50 times more distance than multimode cable. Consequently, single-mode cable is typically used in long-haul network connections spread out over extended areas, including cable television and campus backbone applications. Telcos use it for connections between switching offices. Single-mode cable also provides higher bandwidth, so you can use a pair of single-mode fiber strands full-duplex for up to twice the throughput of multimode fiber. collapse


Black Box Explains... Speaker wire gauge.

Wire gauge (often shown as AWG, for American Wire Gauge) is a measure of the thickness of the wire. The more a wire is drawn or sized, the smaller its... more/see it nowdiameter will be. The lower the wire gauge, the thicker the wire.

For example, a 24 AWG wire is thinner than a 14 AWG wire. A lower AWG means longer transmission distance and better integrity. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

When it comes to choosing speaker cable, consider a few factors: distance, the type of system and amplifier you have, the frequencies of the signals being handled, and any specifications that the speaker manufacturer recommends.

For most home applications where you simply need to run cable from your stereo to speakers in the same room—or even behind the walls to other rooms—16 AWG cable is usually fine.

If you’re considering runs of more than 40 feet (12.1 m), consider using 14 AWG or even 12 AWG cable. They both offer better transmission and less resistance over longer distances. You should probably choose 12 AWG cable for high-end audio systems with higher power output or for low-frequency subwoofers. As a rule of thumb, power loss decreases as the wire size increases.

To terminate your cable, choose gold connectors. Because gold resists oxidation over time, gold connectors wear better and offer better peformance than other connectors do. collapse


Black Box Explains...Gold plating.

Get premium-quality connectors from Black Box. The 24-karat gold plating ensures better signal transmission and no corrosion. The shielding and heavy gold conductors provide improved performance.


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.
  • collapse


    Black Box Explains...10-GbE, CAT6A, and ANEXT.

    The IEEE released the 802.3an 10GBASE-T standard in June 2006. This standard specifies 10-Gbps data transmission over four-pair copper cabling. 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) transmission includes up to 37 meters of... more/see it nowCAT6 cable (with installation mitigation techniques), 100 meters of Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) UTP or F/UTP cable or 100 meters of S/FTP CAT7/Class F cable.

    CAT6A is the ANSI/TIA 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) over copper standard. Its requirements are covered in ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 (Balanced Twisted-Pair Communications Cabling and Components Standard) published in August 2009. It defines 10-Gigabit data transmission over a 4-connector twisted-pair CAT6A copper cable for a distance of 100 meters.

    Category 6A cabling is designed to support next-generation applications, including the transfer of large amounts of data at high speeds, up to 10 Gbps. CAT6A extends electrical specifications to 500 MHz from 250 MHz for CAT6 cabling. CAT6A cables are fully backward compatible with previous categories, including CAT6 and 5e. Category 6A is also designed to support bundled cable installations up to 100 meters and PoE+ low-power implementations. The standard includes the performance parameter, Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT). Because of its higher performance transmission speeds and higher MHz rating, CAT6A cable needs to be tested for external noise outside the cable, which wasn’t a concern with previous cabling categories. CAT6A UTP also has a much larger diameter than previous cables.

    Alien crosstalk (ANEXT) is a critical and unique measurement in 10-GbE systems. Crosstalk, measured in 10/100/1000BASE-T systems, is the mixing of signals between wire pairs within a cable. Alien Crosstalk, in 10-GbE systems, is the measurement of the unwanted signal coupling between wire pairs in different and adjacent cables or from one balanced twisted-pair component, channel, or permanent link to another.

    The amount of ANEXT depends on a number of factors, including the type of cable, cable jacket, cable length, cable twist density, proximity of adjacent cables, and connectors, and EMI. Patch panels and connecting hardware are also affected by ANEXT.

    With Alien Crosstalk, the affected cable is called the victim cable. The surrounding cables are the disturber cables.

    There are a number of ways to mitigate the effects of ANEXT in CAT6A runs. According to the standards, ANEXT can be improved by laying CAT6A UTP cable loosely in pathways and raceways with space between the cables. This contrasts to the tightly bundled runs of CAT6/5e cable that we are used to. The tight bundles present a worst-case scenario of six cables around one, thus the center cable would be adversely affected by ANEXT. CAT6A UTP cable needs to be tested for ANEXT. This is a complex and time-consuming process in which all possible wire-pair combinations need to be tested for ANEXT and far-end ANEXT. It can take 50 minutes to test one link in a bundle of 24 CAT 6A UTP cables.

    To virtually eliminate the problem of ANEXT, you can use CAT6A F/UTP cable. The F indicates an outer foil shield encasing four unshielded twisted pairs. This cable is also a good choice when security is an issue because it doesn’t emit signals. In addition, CAT6A F/UTP cable works well in noisy environments with a lot of EMI/RFI.

    Installation of CAT6A F/UTP is simpler, too, because the cable features a smaller outside diameter than CAT6A UTP. Its construction makes it easier to pull and more resilient. The cable also has a smaller diameter so you can run more cables in a conduit or pathway, and have greater patch panel port density.

    For more information, see the CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know white paper in the Resources section at blackbox.com. collapse


    Black Box Explains...FDDI

    Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) is a networking standard for operating at speeds of up to 100 Mbps. The standard FDDI network is set up in a ring topology with... more/see it nowtwo rings that transmit signals in opposite directions to a series of nodes. FDDI accommodates up to 500 nodes per dual-ring network with spacing up to 2 kilometers between adjacent nodes. FDDI uses the same token-passing scheme as the IEEE 802.5 Token Ring network to control transmission around the loop. 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...50-micron vs. 62.5-micron fiber optic cable.

    The background
    As today’s networks expand, the demand for more bandwidth and greater distances increases. Gigabit Ethernet and the emerging 10 Gigabit Ethernet are becoming the applications of choice for current... more/see it nowand future networking needs. Thus, there is a renewed interest in 50-micron fiber optic cable.

    First used in 1976, 50-micron cable has not experienced the widespread use in North America that 62.5-micron cable has.

    To support campus backbones and horizontal runs over 10-Mbps Ethernet, 62.5 fiber, introduced in 1986, was and still is the predominant fiber optic cable because it offers high bandwidth and long distance.

    One reason 50-micron cable did not gain widespread use was because of the light source. Both 62.5 and 50-micron fiber cable can use either LED or laser light sources. But in the 1980s and 1990s, LED light sources were common. Since 50-micron cable has a smaller aperture, the lower power of the LED light source caused a reduction in the power budget compared to 62.5-micron cable—thus, the migration to 62.5-micron cable. At that time, laser light sources were not highly developed and were rarely used with 50-micron cable—mostly in research and technological applications.

    Common ground
    The cables share many characteristics. Although 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core, which is the light-carrying portion of the fiber, both 50- and 62.5-micron cable use the same glass cladding diameter of 125 microns. Because they have the same outer diameter, they’re equally strong and are handled in the same way. In addition, both types of cable are included in the TIA/EIA 568-B.3 standards for structured cabling and connectivity.

    As with 62.5-micron cable, you can use 50-micron fiber in all types of applications: Ethernet, FDDI, 155-Mbps ATM, Token Ring, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet. It is recommended for all premise applications: backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections, and it should be considered especially for any new construction and installations. IT managers looking at the possibility of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and future scalability will get what they need with 50-micron cable.

    Gaining ground
    The big difference between 50-micron and 62.5-micron cable is in bandwidth. The smaller 50-micron core provides a higher 850-nm bandwidth, making it ideal for inter/intrabuilding connections. 50-micron cable features three times the bandwidth of standard 62.5-micron cable. At 850-nm, 50-micron cable is rated at 500 MHz/km over 500 meters versus 160 MHz/km for 62.5-micron cable over 220 meters.

    Fiber Type: 62.5/125 µm
    Minimum Bandwidth (MHz-km): 160/500
    Distance at 850 nm: 220 m
    Distance at 1310 nm: 500 m

    Fiber Type: 50/125 µm
    Minimum Bandwidth (MHz-km): 500/500
    Distance at 850 nm: 500 m
    Distance at 1310 nm: 500 m

    As we move towards Gigabit Ethernet, the 850-nm wavelength is gaining importance along with the development of improved laser technology. Today, a lower-cost 850-nm laser, the Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser (VCSEL), is becoming more available for networking. This is particularly important because Gigabit Ethernet specifies a laser light source.

    Other differences between the two types of cable include distance and speed. The bandwidth an application needs depends on the data transmission rate. Usually, data rates are inversely proportional to distance. As the data rate (MHz) goes up, the distance that rate can be sustained goes down. So a higher fiber bandwidth enables you to transmit at a faster rate or for longer distances. In short, 50-micron cable provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds in the 850-nm wavelength. For example, the proposed link length for 50-micron cable is 500 meters in contrast with 220 meters for 62.5-micron cable.

    Migration
    Standards now exist that cover the migration of 10-Mbps to 100-Mbps or 1 Gigabit Ethernet at the 850-nm wavelength. The most logical solution for upgrades lies in the connectivity hardware. The easiest way to connect the two types of fiber in a network is through a switch or other networking “box.“ It is not recommended to connect the two types of fiber directly. collapse

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