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Black Box Explains…Media converters that also work as switches.

Media converters transparently convert the incoming electrical signal from one cable type and then transmit it over another type—thick coax to Thin, UTP to fiber, and so on. Traditionally, media... more/see it nowconverters were purely Layer 1 devices that only converted electrical signals and physical media and didn’t do anything to the data coming through the link.

Today’s media converters, however, are often more advanced Layer 2 Ethernet devices that, like traditional media converters, provide Layer 1 electrical and physical conversion. But, unlike traditional media converters, they also provide Layer 2 services and route Ethernet packets based on MAC address. These media converters are often called media converter switches, switching media converters, or Layer 2 media converters. They enable you to have multiple connections rather than just one simple in-and-out connection. And because they’re switches, they increase network efficiency.

Media converters are often used to connect newer 100-Mbps, Gigabit Ethernet, or ATM equipment to existing networks, which are generally 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, or a mixture of both. They can also be used in pairs to insert a fiber segment into copper networks to increase cabling distances and enhance immunity to electromagnetic interference.

Rent an apartment…
Media converters are available in standalone models that convert between two different media types and in chassis-based models that house many media converters in a a single chassis.

Standalone models convert between two media. But, like a small apartment, they can be outgrown.

Consider your current and future applications before selecting a media converter. A good way to anticipate future network requirements is to choose media converters that work as standalone devices but can be rackmounted if needed later.

…or buy a house.
Chassis-based or modular media converter systems are normally rackmountable and have slots to house media converter modules. Like a well-planned house, the chassis gives you room to grow. These are used when many Ethernet segments of different media types need to be connected in a central location. Modules are available for the same conversions performed by the standalone converters, and they enable you to mix different media types such as 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-FX, ATM, and Gigabit modules. Although enterprise-level chassis-based systems generally have modules that can only be used in a chassis, many midrange systems feature modules that can be used individually or in a chassis. collapse


The difference between unmanaged, managed, and Web-smart switches

With regard to management options, the three primary classes of switches are unmanaged, managed, and Web smart. Which you choose depends largely on the size of your network and how... more/see it nowmuch control you need over that network.

Unmanaged switches are basic plug-and-play switches with no remote configuration, management, or monitoring options, although many can be locally monitored and configured via LED indicators and DIP switches. These inexpensive switches are typically used in small networks or to add temporary workgroups to larger networks.

Managed switches support Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) via embedded agents and have a command line interface (CLI) that can be accessed via serial console, Telnet, and Secure Shell. These switches can often be configured and managed as groups. More recent managed switches may also support a Web interface for management through a Web browser.

These high-end switches enable network managers to remotely access a wide range of capabilities including:

  • SNMP monitoring.
  • Enabling and disabling individual ports or port Auto MDI/MDI-X.
  • Port bandwidth and duplex control.
  • IP address management.
  • MAC address filtering.
  • Spanning Tree.
  • Port mirroring to monitor network traffic.
  • Prioritization of ports for quality of service (QoS).
  • VLAN settings.
  • 802.1X network access control.
  • IGMP snooping.
  • Link aggregation or trunking.

  • Managed switches, with their extensive management capabilities, are at home in large enterprise networks where network administrators need to monitor and control a large number of network devices. Managed switches support redundancy protocols for increased network availability.

    Web-smart switches—sometimes called smart switches or Web-managed switches—have become a popular option for mid-sized networks that require management. They offer access to switch management features such as port monitoring, link aggregation, and VPN through a simple Web interface via an embedded Web browser. What these switches generally do not have is SNMP management capabilities or a CLI. Web-smart switches must usually be managed individually rather than in groups.

    Although the management features found in a Web-smart switch are less extensive than those found in a fully managed switch, these switches are becoming smarter with many now offering many of the features of a fully managed switch. Like managed switches, they also support redundancy protocols for increased network availability.

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    Black Box Explains...DIN rail usage.

    DIN rail is an industry-standard metal rail, usually installed inside an electrical enclosure, which serves as a mount for small electrical devices specially designed for use with DIN rails. These... more/see it nowdevices snap right onto the rails, sometimes requiring a set screw, and are then wired together.

    Many different devices are available for mounting on DIN rails: terminal blocks, interface converters, media converter switches, repeaters, surge protectors, PLCs, fuses, or power supplies, just to name a few.

    DIN rails are a space-saving way to accommodate components. And because DIN rail devices are so easy to install, replace, maintain, and inspect, this is an exceptionally convenient system that has become very popular in recent years.

    A standard DIN rail is 35 mm wide with raised-lip edges, its dimensions outlined by the Deutsche Institut für Normung, a German standardization body. Rails are generally available in aluminum or steel and may be cut for installation. Depending on the requirements of the mounted components, the rail may need to be grounded. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Layer 2, 3, and 4 switches.



    ...more/see it now
    OSI Layer Physical
    Component
    7-Application Applicaton Software

    LAN-Compatible Software
    E-Mail, Diagnostics, Word Processing, Database


    Network Applications
    6-Presentation Data-
    Conversion Utilities
    Vendor-Specific Network Shells and Gateway™ Workstation Software
    5-Session Network Operating System SPX NetBIOS DECnet™ TCP/IP AppleTalk®
    4-Transport Novell® NetWare® IPX™ PC LAN LAN Mgr DECnet PC/TCP® VINES™ NFS TOPS® Apple
    Share®
    3-Network Control
    2-Data Link Network E A TR P TR E TR E E E P E P
    1-Physical E=Ethernet; TR=Token Ring; A=ARCNET®; P=PhoneNET®

    With the rapid development of computer networks over the last decade, high-end switching has become one of the most important functions on a network for moving data efficiently and quickly from one place to another.


    Here’s how a switch works: As data passes through the switch, it examines addressing information attached to each data packet. From this information, the switch determines the packet’s destination on the network. It then creates a virtual link to the destination and sends the packet there.


    The efficiency and speed of a switch depends on its algorithms, its switching fabric, and its processor. Its complexity is determined by the layer at which the switch operates in the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Reference Model (see above).


    OSI is a layered network design framework that establishes a standard so that devices from different vendors work together. Network addresses are based on this OSI Model and are hierarchical. The more details that are included, the more specific the address becomes and the easier it is to find.


    The Layer at which the switch operates is determined by how much addressing detail the switch reads as data passes through.


    Switches can also be considered low end or high end. A low-end switch operates in Layer 2 of the OSI Model and can also operate in a combination of Layers 2 and 3. High-end switches operate in Layer 3, Layer 4, or a combination of the two.


    Layer 2 Switches (The Data-Link Layer)

    Layer 2 switches operate using physical network addresses. Physical addresses, also known as link-layer, hardware, or MAC-layer addresses, identify individual devices. Most hardware devices are permanently assigned this number during the manufacturing process.


    Switches operating at Layer 2 are very fast because they’re just sorting physical addresses, but they usually aren’t very smart—that is, they don’t look at the data packet very closely to learn anything more about where it’s headed.


    Layer 3 Switches (The Network Layer)

    Layer 3 switches use network or IP addresses that identify locations on the network. They read network addresses more closely than Layer 2 switches—they identify network locations as well as the physical device. A location can be a LAN workstation, a location in a computer’s memory, or even a different packet of data traveling through a network.


    Switches operating at Layer 3 are smarter than Layer 2 devices and incorporate routing functions to actively calculate the best way to send a packet to its destination. But although they’re smarter, they may not be as fast if their algorithms, fabric, and processor don’t support high speeds.


    Layer 4 Switches (The Transport Layer)

    Layer 4 of the OSI Model coordinates communications between systems. Layer 4 switches are capable of identifying which application protocols (HTTP, SNTP, FTP, and so forth) are included with each packet, and they use this information to hand off the packet to the appropriate higher-layer software. Layer 4 switches make packet-forwarding decisions based not only on the MAC address and IP address, but also on the application to which a packet belongs.


    Because Layer 4 devices enable you to establish priorities for network traffic based on application, you can assign a high priority to packets belonging to vital in-house applications such as Peoplesoft, with different forwarding rules for low-priority packets such as generic HTTP-based Internet traffic.


    Layer 4 switches also provide an effective wire-speed security shield for your network because any company- or industry-specific protocols can be confined to only authorized switched ports or users. This security feature is often reinforced with traffic filtering and forwarding features.

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    Black Box Explains...802.3ah.

    802.3ah, also called Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM), is a new Ethernet standard designed to compete with standards such as DSL and cable modem in delivering broadband access to... more/see it nowhomes.

    The 802.3ah specification covers point-to-point copper, point-to-point fiber, and point-to-multipoint fiber.

    Ethernet in the First Mile over Copper (EFMC)
    This point-to-point specification for copper wire takes advantage of DSL technology to send Ethernet over one pair of copper wires at 10 Mbps for 750 meters or 2 Mbps for 2700 meters.

    Ethernet in the First Mile over Fiber (EFMF)
    This point-to-point specification for single-mode, single-strand or single-mode, duplex fiber sends Ethernet at speeds of 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps up to 10 kilometers. It includes an optional extended temperature range from -40 to 185° F (-40 to 85° C) for outdoor use.

    Ethernet in the First Mile over Passive Optical Networks (EPON)
    This point-to-multipoint specification for fiber uses an optical splitter to divide the Ethernet signal into separate strands that go to individual subscribers. This enables an ISP to link many subscribers to a single uplink fiber without using active components in the field.

    802.3ah includes the OAM specification, which provides utilities for monitoring and troubleshooting Ethernet links remotely, a capability vital for carrier-class deployment. OAM protocols address discovery, link monitoring, remote fault signaling, and remote loopback.

    OAM is managed in-band but takes up very little bandwidth so network performance is not noticeably affected. OAM itself is not affected by VLANs or port-access restrictions. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Single-strand fiber WDM.

    Traditional fiber optic media converters perform a useful function but don’t really reduce the amount of cable needed to send data on a fiber segment. They still require two strands... more/see it nowof glass to send transmit and receive signals for fiber media communications. Wouldn’t it be better to combine these two logical communication paths within one strand?

    That’s exactly what single-strand fiber conversion does. It compresses the transmit and receive wavelengths into one single-mode fiber strand.

    The conversion is done with Wave-Division Multiplexing (WDM) technology. WDM technology increases the information-carrying capacity of optical fiber by transmitting two signals simultaneously at different wavelengths on the same fiber. The way it usually works is that one unit transmits at 1310 nm and receives at 1550 nm. The other unit transmits at 1550 nm and receives at 1310 nm. The two wavelengths operate independently and don’t interfere with each other. This bidirectional traffic flow effectively converts a single fiber into a pair of “virtual fibers,” each driven independently at different wavelengths.

    Although most implementations of WDM on single-strand fiber offer two channels, four-channel versions are just being introduced, and versions offering as many as 10 channels with Gigabit capacity are on the horizon.

    WDM on single-strand fiber is most often used for point-to-point links on a long-distance network. It’s also used to increase network capacity or relieve network congestion. collapse


    Black Box Explains...SFP, SFP+, and XFP transceivers.

    SFP, SFP+, and XFP are all terms for a type of transceiver that plugs into a special port on a switch or other network device to convert the port to... more/see it nowa copper or fiber interface. These compact transceivers replace the older, bulkier GBIC interface. Although these devices are available in copper, their most common use is to add fiber ports. Fiber options include multimode and single-mode fiber in a variety of wavelengths covering distances of up to 120 kilometers (about 75 miles), as well as WDM fiber, which uses two separate wavelengths to both send and receive data on a single fiber strand.

    SFPs support speeds up to 4.25 Gbps and are generally used for Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet applications. The expanded SFP standard, SFP+, supports speeds of 10 Gbps or higher over fiber. XFP is a separate standard that also supports 10-Gbps speeds. The primary difference between SFP+ and the slightly older XFP standard is that SFP+ moves the chip for clock and data recovery into a line card on the host device. This makes an SFP+ smaller than an XFP, enabling greater port density.

    Because all these compact transcievers are hot-swappable, there’s no need to shut down a switch to swap out a module—it’s easy to change interfaces on the fly for upgrades and maintenance.

    Another characteristic shared by this group of transcievers is that they’re OSI Layer 1 devices—they’re transparent to data and do not examine or alter data in any way. Although they’re primarily used with Ethernet, they’re also compatible with uncommon or legacy standards such as Fibre Channel, ATM, SONET, or Token Ring.

    Formats for SFP, SFP+, and XFP transceivers have been standardized by multisource agreements (MSAs) between manufacturers, so physical dimensions, connectors, and signaling are consistent and interchangeable. Be aware though that some major manufacturers, notably Cisco, sell network devices with slots that lock out transceivers from other vendors. collapse


    Black Box Explains...vDSL.

    VDSL (Very High Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line or Very High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line) is a “last-mile” broadband solution for both businesses and homes, providing economical, high-speed connections to fiber optic... more/see it nowbackbones.

    VDSL enables the simultaneous transmission of voice, data, and video on existing voice-grade copper wires. Depending on the intended applications, you can set VDSL to run symmetrically or asymmetrically. VDSL’s high bandwidth allows for applications such as high-definition television, video-on-demand (VOD), high-quality videoconferencing, medical imaging, fast Internet access, and regular voice telephone services—all over a single voice-grade twisted pair. The actual VDSL distances you achieve vary based on line rate, gauge and type of wire, and noise/crosstalk environment. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Why media converters need SNMP.

    The number of Ethernet switches and fiber optic segments being added to Ethernet networks keeps increasing. And as long as most Ethernet switches are only available with 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX... more/see it nowinterfaces, media converters will remain in demand.

    Until now, a failure on the network could go unnoticed. Once a failure was detected, it could take a long time to isolate it, especially if a technician had to be sent to the site. But media converters with SNMP eliminate some of the guesswork.

    With SNMP, the IS manager can detect a failure, isolate it to a specific port, and determine what hardware is required to repair it. A technician can then be sent directly to the right place to fix faulty hardware or repair a broken cable.

    SNMP enables you to set up alarms or traps when a link is down. You can turn features on and off from a central terminal, so there’s no need to leave your desk. You can also monitor power supplies and replace them without interrupting service. SNMP management reduces the time and money it takes to get your network up and running again. The users on your network will notice—and appreciate—the improved service and reliability. collapse


    Black Box Explains...DIN rails.

    A DIN rail is an industry-standard metal rail, usually installed inside an electrical enclosure, which serves as a mount for small electrical devices specially designed for use with DIN rails.... more/see it nowThese devices snap right onto the rails, sometimes requiring a set screw, and are then wired together.

    Many different devices are available for mounting on DIN rails: terminal blocks, interface converters, media converter switches, repeaters, surge protectors, PLCs, fuses, or power supplies, just to name a few.

    DIN rails are a space-saving way to accommodate components. And because DIN rail devices are so easy to install, replace, maintain, and inspect, this is an exceptionally convenient system that has become very popular in recent years.

    A standard DIN rail is 35-mm wide with raised-lip edges, its dimensions outlined by the Deutsche Institut für Normung, a German standardization body. Rails are generally available in aluminum or steel and may be cut for installation. Depending on the requirements of the mounted components, the rail may need to be grounded. collapse

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