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Black Box Explains...Media converters that are really switches.

A media converter is a device that converts from one media type to another, for instance, from twisted pair to fiber to take advantage of fiber’s greater range. A traditional... more/see it nowmedia converter is a two-port Layer 1 device that performs a simple conversion of only the physical interface. It’s transparent to data and doesn't “see” or manipulate data in any way.

An Ethernet switch can also convert one media type to another, but it also creates a separate collision domain for each switch port, so that each packet is routed only to the destination device, rather than around to multiple devices on a network segment. Because switches are “smarter” than traditional media converters, they enable additional features such as multiple ports and copper ports that autosense for speed and duplex.

Switches are beginning to replace traditional 2-port media converters, leading to some fuzziness in terminology. Small 4- or 6-port Ethernet switches are very commonly called media converters. In fact, anytime you see a “Layer 2” media converter or a media converter with more than two ports, it’s really a small Ethernet switch. collapse

Black Box Explains...DIN rail.

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...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…Component vs. channel testing.

When using a Category 6 system, the full specification includes the testing of each part individually and in an end-to-end-channel. Because CAT6 is an open standard, products from different vendors... more/see it nowshould work together.

Channel testing includes patch cable, bulk cable, jacks, patch panels, etc. These tests cover a number of measurements, including: attenuation, NEXT, PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, ACR, PS-ACR, EL-FEXT, PS-ELFEXT, and Return Loss. Products that are tested together should work together as specified. In theory, products from all manufacturers are interchangeable. But, if products from different manufacturers are inserted in a channel, end-to-end CAT6 performance may be compromised.

Component testing, on the other hand, is much stricter even though only two characteristics are measured: crosstalk and return loss. Although all CAT6 products should be interchangeable, products labeled as component are guaranteed to perform to a CAT6 level in a channel with products from different manufacturers.

For more information on cable, channel, and component specs, see below.

Buyer’s Guide: CAT5e vs. CAT6 Cable

Standard — CAT5e: TIA-568-B.2; CAT6: TIA-568-B.2-1

Frequency — CAT5e: 100 MHz; CAT6: 250 MHz

Attenuation (maximum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 22 dB; CAT6: 19.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 0.4 dB; CAT6: 0.2 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 24.0 dB; CAT6: 21.3 dB

NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 35.3 dB; CAT6: 44.3 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 43.0 dB; CAT6: 54.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 30.1 dB; CAT6: 39.9 dB

PS-NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — 32.3 dB 42.3 dB

EL-FEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 23.8 dB; CAT6: 27.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 35.1 dB; CAT6: 43.1 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 17.4 dB; CAT6: 23.3 dB

PS-ELFEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — CAT5e: 20.8 dB; CAT6: 24.8 dB

Return Loss (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 20.1 dB; CAT6: 20.1 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 20.0 dB: CAT6: 24.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 10.0 dB; CAT6: 12.0 dB

Characteristic Impedance — Both: 100 ohms ± 15%

Delay Skew (maximum per 100 m) — Both: 45 ns

NOTE: In Attenuation testing, the lower the number, the better. In NEXT, EL-FEXT, and Return Loss testing, the higher the number, the better. collapse

Black Box Explains...How fiber is insulated for use in harsh environments.

Fiber optic cable not only gives you immunity to interference and greater signal security, but it’s also constructed to insulate the fiber’s core from the stress associated with use in... more/see it nowharsh environments.

The core is a very delicate channel that’s used to transport data signals from an optical transmitter to an optical receiver. To help reinforce the core, absorb shock, and provide extra protection against cable bends, fiber cable contains a coating of acrylate plastic.

In an environment free from the stress of external forces such as temperature, bends, and splices, fiber optic cable can transmit light pulses with minimal attenuation. And although there will always be some attenuation from external forces and other conditions, there are two methods of cable construction to help isolate the core: loose-tube and tight-buffer construction.

In a loose-tube construction, the fiber core literally floats within a plastic gel-filled sleeve. Surrounded by this protective layer, the core is insulated from temperature extremes, as well as from damaging external forces such as cutting and crushing.

In a tight-core construction, the plastic extrusion method is used to apply a protective coating directly over the fiber coating. This helps the cable withstand even greater crushing forces. But while the tight-buffer design offers greater protection from core breakage, it’s more susceptible to stress from temperature variations. Conversely, while it’s more flexible than loose-tube cable, the tight-buffer design offers less protection from sharp bends or twists. collapse

Black Box Explains...Power problems.

The Threat — A sag is a decline in the voltage level. Also known as “brownouts,” sags are the most common power problem.

The Cause — Sags can be caused... more/see it nowlocally by the start-up demands of electrical devices such as motors, compressors, and elevators. Sags may also happen during periods of high electrical use, such as during a heat wave.

The Effect — Sags are often the cause of “unexplained” computer glitches such as system crashes, frozen keyboards, and data loss. Sags can also reduce the efficiency and lifespan of electrical motors.

The Threat — A blackout is a total loss of power.

The Cause — Blackouts are caused by excessive demand on the power grid, an act of nature such as lightning or an earthquake, or a human accident such as a car hitting a power pole or a backhoe digging in the wrong place.

The Effect — Of course a blackout brings everything to a complete stop. You also lose any unsaved data stored in RAM and may even lose the total contents of your hard drive.

The Threat — A spike, also called an impulse, is an instantaneous, dramatic increase in voltage.

The Cause — A spike is usually caused by a nearby lightning strike but may also occur when power is restored after a blackout.

The Effect — A spike can damage or completely destroy electrical components and also cause data loss.

The Threat — A surge is an increase in voltage lasting at least 1/120 of a second.

The Cause — When high-powered equipment such as an air conditioner is powered off, the excess voltage is dissipated though the power line causing a surge.

The Effect — Surges stress delicate electronic components causing them to wear out before their time.

The Threat — Electrical noise, more technically called electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI), interrupts the smooth sine wave expected from electrical power.

The Cause — Noise has many causes including nearby lightning, load switching, industrial equipment, and radio transmitters. It may be intermittent or chronic.

The Effect — Noise introduces errors into programs and data files. 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...Straight-pinned and crossover cable.

Straight-pinned cable has the most common type of pinning. The send and receive pairs are wired straight-through on either end of the cable.

Crossover cable is generally used for peer-to-peer connections.... more/see it nowThe send and receive pairs are crossed between Connector A to Connector B on either end of the cable. 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...Multimode vs. single-mode Fiber.

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... more/see it nowused 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.

Specification comparison:

50-/125-Micron Multimode Fiber

850-nm Wavelength:
Bandwidth: 500 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 3.5 dB/km;
Distance: 550 m;

1300-nm Wavelength:
Bandwidth: 500 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 1.5 dB/km;
Distance: 550 m

62.5-/125-Miron Multimode Fiber

850-nm Wavelength:
Bandwidth: 160 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 3.5 dB/km;
Distance: 220 m;

1300-nm Wavelength:
Bandwidth: 500 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 1.5 dB/km;
Distance: 500 m

8–10-Micron Single-Mode Fiber

Premise Application:
Wavelength: 1310 nm and 1550 nm;
Attenuation: 1.0 dB/km;

Outside Plant Application:
Wavelength: 1310 nm and 1550 nm;
Attenuation: 0.1 dB/km collapse

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