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Black Box Explains...What to look for in a channel solution.

Channel solution. You hear the term a lot these days to describe complete copper or fiber cabling systems. But what exactly is a channel solution and what are its benefits?... more/see it now

A definition.
A channel solution is a cabling system from the data center to the desktop where every cable, jack, and patch panel is designed to work together and give you consistent end-to-end performance when compared with the EIA/TIA requirements.

Its benefits.
A channel solution is beneficial because you have some assurance that your cabling components will perform as specified. Without that assurance, one part may not be doing its job, so your entire system may not be performing up to standard, which is a problem — especially if you rely on bandwidth-heavy links for video and voice.

What to look for.
There are a lot of channel solutions advertised on the Internet and elsewhere. So what exactly should you be looking for?

For one, make sure it’s a fully tested, guaranteed channel solution. The facts show an inferior cabling system can cause up to 70 percent of network downtime — even though it usually represents only 5 percent of an initial network investment. So don’t risk widespread failure by skimping on a system that doesn’t offer guaranteed channel performance. You need to make sure the products are engineered to meet or go beyond the key measurements for CAT5e or CAT6 performance.

And, sure, they may be designed to work together, but does the supplier absolutely guarantee how well they perform as part of a channel — end to end? Don’t just rely on what the supplier says. They may claim their products meet CAT5e or CAT6 requirements, but the proof is in the performance. Start by asking if the channel solution is independently tested and certified by a reputable third party. There are a lot of suppliers out there who don’t have the trademarked ETL approval logo, for example.

What ETL Verified means.
The ETL logo certifies that a channel solution has been found to be in compliance with recognized standards. To ensure consistent top quality, Black Box participates in independent third-party testing by InterTek Testing Services/ETL Semko, Inc. Once a quarter, an Intertek inspector visits Black Box and randomly selects cable and cabling products for testing.

The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable are ETL Verified at the component level to verify that they conform to the applicable industry standards. The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Channels, consisting of bulk cable, patch cable, jacks, patch panels, and wiring blocks, are tested and verified according to industry standards in a LAN environment under InterTek’s Cabling System Channel Verification Program. For the latest test results, contact our FREE Tech Support. 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.

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

Black Box Explains...Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered fiber optic cable.

There are two styles of fiber optic cable construction: loose tube and tight buffered. Both contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or... more/see it noweven gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for very different environments.

Loose tube cables, the older of the two cable types, are specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. They protect the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. In loose-tube cables that hold more than one optical fiber, each individually sleeved core is bundled loosely within an all-encompassing outer jacket.

Many loose-tube cables also have a water-resistant gel that surrounds the fibers. This gel helps protect them from moisture, so the cables are great for harsh, high-humidity environments where water or condensation can be a problem. The gel-filled tubes can expand and contract with temperature changes, too.

But gel-filled loose-tube cables are not the best choice when cable needs to be submerged or where it’s routed around multiple bends. Excess cable strain can force fibers to emerge from the gel.

Tight-buffered cables, in contrast, are optimized for indoor applications. Because they’re sturdier than loose-tube cables, they’re best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections, long indoor runs, and even direct burial. Tight-buffered cables are also recommended for underwater applications.

Instead of a gel layer or sleeve to protect the fiber core, tight-buffered cables use a two-layer coating. One is plastic; the other is waterproof acrylate. The acrylate coating keeps moisture away from the cable, like the gel-filled sleeves do for loose-tube cables. But this acrylate layer is bound tightly to the plastic fiber layer, so the core is never exposed (as it can be with gel-filled cables) when the cable is bent or compressed underwater.

Tight-buffered cables are also easier to install because there’s no messy gel to clean up and they don’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination. You can crimp connectors directly to each fiber.

Want the best of both worlds? Try a hybrid, breakout-style fiber optic cable, which combines tight-buffered cables within a loose-tube housing. 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

Black Box Explains...10-Gigabit Ethernet.

10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE), ratified in June 2002, is a logical extension of previous Ethernet versions. 10-GbE was designed to make the transition from LANs to Wide Area Networks (WANs) and... more/see it nowMetropolitan Area Networks (MANs). It offers a cost-effective migration for high-performance and long-haul transmissions at up to 40 kilometers. Its most common application now is as a backbone for high-speed LANs, server farms, and campuses.

10-GbE supports existing Ethernet technologies. It uses the same layers (MAC, PHY, and PMD), and the same frame sizes and formats. But the IEEE 802.3ae spec defines two sets of physical interfaces: LAN (LAN PHY) and WAN (WAN PHY). The most notable difference between 10-GbE and previous Ethernets is that 10-GbE operates in full-duplex only and specifies fiber optic media.

At a glance—Gigabit vs. 10-Gigabit Ethernet

• CSMA/CD + full-duplex
• Leveraged Fibre Channel PMDs
• Reused 8B/10B coding
• Optical/copper media
• Support LAN to 5 km
• Carrier extension

10-Gigabit Ethernet
• Full-duplex only
• New optical PMDs
• New coding scheme 64B/66B
• Optical (developing copper)
• Support LAN to 40 km
• Throttle MAC speed for WAN
• Use SONET/SDH as Layer 1 transport

The alphabetical coding for 10-GbE is as follows:
S = 850 nm
L = 1310 nm
E = 1550 nm
X = 8B/10B signal encoding
R = 66B encoding
W = WIS interface (for use with SONET).

10GBASE-SR — Distance: 300 m; Wavelength: 850 nm; Cable: Multimode
10GBASE-SW — Distance: 300 m; Wavelength: 850 nm; Cable: Multimode
10GBASE-LR — Distance: 10 km; Wavelength: 1310 nm; Cable: Single-Mode
10GBASE-LW — Distance: 10 km; Wavelength: 1310 nm; Cable: Single-Mode
10GBASE-LX4 — Distance: Multimode 300 m, Single-Mode 10 km; Wavelength: Multimode 1310 nm, Single-Mode WWDM; Cable: Multimode or Single-Mode
10GBASE-ER — Distance: 40 km; Wavelength: 1550 nm; Cable: Single-Mode
10GBASE-EW — Distance: 40 km; Wavelength: 550 nm; Cable: Single-Mode
10GBASE-CX4* — Distance: 15 m; Wavelength: Cable: 4 x Twinax
10GBASE-T* — Distance: 25–100 m; Wavelength: Cable: Twisted Pair
* Proposed for copper. collapse

Black Box Explains...Breakout-style cables.

With breakout- or fanout-style cables, the fibers are packaged individually. A breakout cable is basically several simplex cables bundled together in one jacket. Breakout cables are suitable for riser and... more/see it nowplenum applications, and conduit runs.

This differs from distribution-style cables where several tight-buffered fibers are bundled under the same jacket.

This design of the breakout cable adds strength to the cable, although that makes it larger and more expensive than distribution-style cables.

Because each fiber is individually reinforced, you can divide the cable into individual fiber lines. This enables quick connector termination, and eliminates the need for patch panels.

Breakout cable can also be more economical because it requires much less labor to terminate.

You may want to choose a cable that has more fibers than you actually need in case of breakage during termination or for future expansion. collapse

Black Box Explains...PoE phantom power.

10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX Ethernet use only two pairs of wire in 4-pair CAT5/CAT5e/CAT6 cable, leaving the other two pairs free to transmit power for Power over Ethernet (PoE) applications. However,... more/see it nowGigabit Ethernet or 1000BASE-T uses all four pairs of wires, leaving no pairs free for power. So how can PoE work over Gigabit Ethernet?

The answer is through the use of phantom power—power sent over the same wire pairs used for data. When the same pair is used for both power and data, the power and data transmissions don’t interfere with each other. Because electricity and data function at opposite ends of the frequency spectrum, they can travel over the same cable. Electricity has a low frequency of 60 Hz or less, and data transmissions have frequencies that can range from 10 million to 100 million Hz.

10- and 100-Mbps PoE may also use phantom power. The 802.3af PoE standard for use with 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX defines two methods of power transmission. In one method, called Alternative A, power and data are sent over the same pair. In the other method, called Alternative B, two wire pairs are used to transmit data, and the remaining two pairs are used for power. That there are two different PoE power-transmission schemes isn’t obvious to the casual user because PoE Powered Devices (PDs) are made to accept power in either format. collapse

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...Fiber connectors.

• The ST® connector, which uses a bayonet locking system, is the most common connector.

• The SC connector features a molded body and a push- pull locking system.

• The FDDI... more/see it nowconnector comes with a 2.5-mm free-floating ferrule and a fixed shroud to minimize light loss.

• The MT-RJ connector, a small-form RJ-style connector, features a molded body and uses cleave-and-leave splicing.

• The LC connector, a small-form factor connector, features a ceramic ferrule and looks like a mini SC connector.

• The VF-45™connector is another small-form factor connector. It uses a unique “V-groove“ design.

• The FC connector is a threaded body connector. Secure it by screwing the connector body to the mating threads. Used in high-vibration environments.

• The MTO/MTP connector is a fiber connector that uses high-fiber-count ribbon cable. It’s used in high-density fiber applications.

• The MU connector resembles the larger SC connector. It uses a simple push-pull latching connection and is well suited for high-density applications.

Black Box Explains... Industrial modem benefits.

Not all modems shuttle data in air-conditioned, climate-controlled comfort. And modems that operate in cozy environments have absolutely no business being exposed to harsh industrial conditions or to the elements.

But... more/see it nowjust because you work in a rough-and-tumble place doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the convenience of a good modem. Instead, you should opt for an industrial modem. There are many industrial modems built for various degrees of extremity.

Survivability depends on reliability.
Sure, standard modems give you access to data in remote sites or enable you to service equipment on the plant floor—and you can do all this from the convenience of your office. However, these benefits are only possible if your modem can continue to function in its environment. And since standard modems aren’t built for adverse conditions, they’re not going to be reliable.

No penalties for interference.
Electrical control equipment—such as motors, relays, compressors, and generators—emit electromagnetic interference (EMI) that can affect the performance and reliability of a standard telephone modem.

EMI is emitted through power lines, the RS-232 communications cable, or through the telephone line itself. The very means of data communication, cable, is often the worst enemy of the standard modems that use it.

An industrial modem, on the other hand, has filters and superior EMI immunity to protect itself and your data. If you build your electrical cabinets to UL® or CSA standards, remember that your modem must also conform to UL® standard 508.

They go to extremes.
Temperature is the biggest killer of electronic equipment in industrial environments. The heat generated by industrial equipment in sealed enclosures or where space is a premium can make the temperature as much as 50 °F higher than the surrounding environment.

So standard modems can’t take the heat. But what about being outdoors in the other extreme, cold weather? Well, standard modems can’t take the cold either.

If you install your equipment in remote outdoor locations, it must work on the coldest days— especially those cold days when you least want to get in the car and go to the site to repair a standard modem that froze up.

Whether they’re placed in manufacturing environments or the great outdoors, industrial modems get the data through when you need it. They go to extremes for you.

Heavy metal for all kinds of banging around.
Industrial modems are built with durable metal enclosures that protect circuitry in rough conditions and ward off signal-disrupting EMI. Plus, they feature steel-bolt flanges to anchor them. In short, industrial modems can take the physical, heavy-duty punishment thrown their way.

So where exactly can you use an industrial modem?
• Heavy industry and manufacturing
• Oil and gas fields
• Refineries
• Storage sites
• Utility substations
• Agricultural projects
• Military facilities
• Research installations
• Water/wastewater systems

…and another thing!
If dedicated copper lines can’t be run through industrial environments, or if the fiber optic option is cost-prohibitive, there are also wireless industrial modems that make line-of-sight connections. If there’s a way to get the data through, industrial modems will get the job done.

Industrial-strength assurance.
Industrial modems remain in service for a very long time. But if you ever need a replacement that is hardware or software compatible, be assured that Black Box continues to support its products year after year—so you don’t spend your time re-engineering systems if you have to make a replacement. collapse

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