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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...Solid vs. stranded cable.

Solid-conductor cable is designed for backbone and horizontal cable runs. Use it for runs between two wiring closets or from the wiring closet to a wallplate. Solid cable shouldn’t be... more/see it nowbent, flexed, or twisted repeatedly. Its attenuation is lower than that of stranded-conductor cable.

Stranded cable is for use in shorter runs between network interface cards (NICs) and wallplates or between concentrators and patch panels, hubs, and other rackmounted equipment. Stranded-conductor cable is much more flexible than solid-core cable. However, attenuation is higher in stranded-conductor cable, so the total length of stranded cable in your system should be kept to a minimum to reduce signal degradation. collapse

Black Box Explains...Industrial Ethernet (Ethernet/IP) and IP-rated connectors.

Ethernet technology is coming to the factory floor. Once limited to office environments, Ethernet has proven to be a robust alternative to the RS-232 interface traditionally used with industrial devices... more/see it nowsuch as programmable logic controllers. Ethernet brings speed, versatility, and cost savings to industrial environments.

The requirements of industrial environments are different than offices, so there are industrial Ethernet standards. The most common is the Ethernet/Industrial Protocol (Ethernet/IP) standard, usually called Industrial Ethernet. Industrial Ethernet adapts ordinary, off-the-shelf IEEE 802.3 Ethernet communication chips and physical media to industrial applications.

The Ingress Protection (IP) ratings developed by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) specify the environmental protection an enclosure provides.

An IP rating consists of two or three numbers. The first number refers to protection from solid objects or materials; the second number refers to protection from liquids; and the third number, commonly omitted from the rating, refers to protection against mechanical impacts. An IP67 rating means that a connector is totally protected from dust and from the effects of immersion in 5.9 inches (15 cm) to 3.2 feet (1 m) of water for 30 minutes.

Because office-grade RJ-45 connectors do not stand up to an industrial environment, the Ethernet/IP standard calls for sealed industrial RJ-45 connectors that meet an IP67 standard, meaning the connectors are sealed against dust and water. 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...UARTs and PCI buses.

Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitters UARTs are designed to convert sync data from a PC bus to an async format that external I/O devices such as printers or modems use. UARTs insert... more/see it nowor remove start bits, stop bits, and parity bits in the data stream as needed by the attached PC or peripheral. They can provide maximum throughput to your high-performance peripherals without slowing down your CPU.

In the early years of PCs and single-application operating systems, UARTs interfaced directly between the CPU bus and external RS-232 I/O devices. Early UARTs did not contain any type of buffer because PCs only performed one task at a time and both PCs and peripherals were slow.

With the advent of faster PCs, higher-speed modems, and multitasking operating systems, buffering (RAM or memory) was added so that UARTs could handle more data. The first buffered UART was the 16550 UART, which incorporates a 16-byte FIFO (First In First Out) buffer and can support sustained data-transfer rates up to 115.2 kbps.

The 16650 UART features a 32-byte FIFO and can handle sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps. Burst data rates of up to 921.6 kbps have even been achieved in laboratory tests.

The 16750 UART has a 64-byte FIFO. It also features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps but delivers better performance because of its larger buffer.

Used in newer PCI cards, the 16850 UART has a 128-byte FIFO buffer for each port. It features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps.

The Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI®) Bus enhances both speed and throughput. PCI Local Bus is a high-performance bus that provides a processor-independent data path between the CPU and high-speed peripherals. PCI is a robust interconnect interface designed specifically to accommodate multiple high-performance peripherals for graphics, full-motion video, SCSI, and LANs.

A Universal PCI (uPCI) card has connectors that work with both a newer 3.3-V power supply and motherboard and with older 5.5-V versions. 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.


    Black Box Explains...Ethernet hubs vs. Ethernet switches.

    Although hubs and switches look very similar and are connected to the network in much the same way, there is a significant difference in the way they function.

    What is a... more/see it nowhub?
    An Ethernet hub is the basic building block of a twisted-pair (10BASE-T or 100BASE-TX) Ethernet network. Hubs do little more than act as a physical connection. They link PCs and peripherals and enable them to communicate over a network. All data coming into the hub travels to all stations connected to the hub. Because a hub doesn’t use management or addressing, it simply divides the 10- or 100-Mbps bandwidth among users. If two stations are transferring high volumes of data between them, the network performance of all stations on that hub will suffer. Hubs are good choices for small- or home-office networks, particularly if bandwidth concerns are minimal.

    What is a switch?
    An Ethernet switch, on the other hand, provides a central connection in an Ethernet network in which each connected device has its own dedicated link with full bandwidth. Switches divide LAN data into smaller, easier-to-manage segments and send data only to the PCs it needs to reach. They allot a full 10 or 100 Mbps to each user with addressing and management features. As a result, every port on the switch represents a dedicated 10- or 100-Mbps pathway. Because users connected to a switch do not have to share bandwidth, a switch offers relief from the network congestion a shared hub can cause.

    What to consider when selecting an Ethernet hub:
    • Stackability. Select a stackable hub connected with a special cable so you can start with one hub and add others as you need more ports. The entire stack functions as one device.
    • Manageability. Choose an SNMP-manageable hub if you have a large, managed network.

    What to consider when selecting an Ethernet switch:
    • Manageability. Ethernet switches intended for large managed networks feature built-in management, usually SNMP.
    • OSI Layer operation. Most Ethernet switches operate at “Layer 2,” which is for the physical network addresses (MAC addresses). Layer 3 switches use network addresses, and incorporate routing functions to actively calculate the best way to send a packet to its destination. Very advanced Ethernet switches, often known as routing switches, operate on OSI Layer 4 and route network traffic according to the application.
    • Modular construction. A modular switch enables you to populate a chassis with modules of different speeds and media types. Because you can easily change modules, the modular switch is an adaptable solution for large, growing networks.
    • Stackability. Some Ethernet switches can be connected to form a stack of two or more switches that functions as a single network device. This enables you to start with fewer ports and add them as your network grows. 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...Upgrading from VGA to DVI video.

    Many new PCs no longer have traditional Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer monitors with a VGA interface. The latest high-end computers have Digital Flat Panels (DFPs) with a Digital Visual... more/see it nowInterface (DVI). Although most computers still have traditional monitors, the newer DFPs are coming on strong because flat-panel displays are not only slimmer and more attractive on the desktop, but they’re also capable of providing a much sharper, clearer image than a traditional CRT monitor.

    The VGA interface was developed to support traditional CRT monitors. The DVI interface, on the other hand, is designed specifically for digital displays and supports the high resolution, the sharper image detail, and the brighter and truer colors achieved with DFPs.

    Most flat-panel displays can be connected to a VGA interface, even though using this interface results in inferior video quality. VGA simply can’t support the image quality offered by a high-end digital monitor. Sadly, because a VGA connection is possible, many computer users connect their DFPs to VGA and never experience the stunning clarity their flat-panel monitors can provide.

    It’s important to remember that for your new DFP display to work at its best, it must be connected to a DVI video interface. You should upgrade the video card in your PC when you buy your new video monitor. Your KVM switches should also support DVI if you plan to use them with DFPs. collapse

    Black Box Explains... Using fiber optics for KVM extension.

    If you‘re sending KVM signals between buildings for an extended distance, in areas supplied by different power sources, in an electrically noisy environment, or where data security is a big... more/see it nowconcern, you need to use a fiber optic-based KVM extender.

    Optical fiber is an ideal transmission medium not only for backbone and horizontal connection, but also for workstation-to-backracked CPU or server links. It works very well in applications where you need to transfer large, bandwidth-consuming data files over long distances, and where you require immunity from electrical interference or data theft.

    The choice for extraordinary reach.
    Fiber doesn’t have the 100-meter (328-ft.) distance limitation that UTP copper without a booster does. Fiber distances can range from 300 meters (984.2 ft.) to 70 kilometers (24.8 mi.), depending on the cable, wavelength, and network. With fiber-based KVM extenders, the transmitter converts conventional data signals into a modulated light beam, then transports the beam via the fiber to a receiver, which converts the light back into electrical signals.

    Many newer fiber-based KVM extenders support both analog and digital transmission. Often, they work by digitizing video output from a local CPU, then sending it across fiber link to a remote unit, which converts it back to the original analog signal. In many cases, one fiber of the fiber pair transmits monitor video serially and the second fiber sends remote mouse and keyboard information back to the local CPU.

    The choice for ensuring signal integrity.
    Because fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, no electric current can flow through. It’s immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. This is why fiber-based KVM extenders are beneficial to users in process control, engineering, utility, and factory automation applications. The users need to keep critical information safe and secure off the factory floor but be able to access that data from workstations and control consoles within the harsh environments. Plus, fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper is, and it can be submerged ?in water.

    The choice for greater signal fidelity.
    Fiber-based KVM extenders can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper-based ones can. For this reason, they’re ideal for high-data-rate systems in which multimedia workstations are used.

    Newer KVM extenders enable you to send both DVI and keyboard and mouse signals over the same fiber cable, transmitting video digitally for zero signal loss. This way, you can get HD-quality resolution even at very long distances from the source. Users in university or government R&D, broadcasting, healthcare—basically anyone who depends on detailed image rendering—can benefit from this technology.

    The choice for data security.
    Plus, your data is safe when using fiber to connect a workstation with a CPU or server under lock and key. 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.

    Many IT managers in military, government, finance, and healthcare choose fiber-based KVM extenders for this very reason. Plus corporations, aware of rising data privacy concerns over customer billing information and the need to protect intellectual property, use this type of extension technology in their offices, too.

    Considerations for fiber-based KVM extension.
    Before selecting a fiber-based KVM extender, it’s important to know the limitations of your system. You need to know where couplers, links, interconnect equipment, and other devices are going to be placed. If it’s a longer run, you have to determine whether multimode or single-mode fiber cable is needed.

    The most important consideration in planning cabling for fiber-based KVM extension is the power budget specification of device connection. The receiver at the remote end has to receive the light signal at a certain level. This value, called the loss budget, tells you the amount of loss in decibels (dB) that can be present in the link between the two devices before the units fail to perform properly.

    Specifically, this value takes the fiber type (multimode or single-mode) and wavelength you intend to use—and the amount of expected in-line attenuation—into consideration. This is the decrease of signal strength as it travels through the fiber cable. In the budget loss calculation, you also have to account for splices, patch panels, and connectors, where additional dBs may lost in the entire end-to-end fiber extension. If the measured loss is less than the number calculated by your loss budget, your installation is good.

    Testers are available to determine if the fiber cabling supports your intended application. You can measure how much light is going to the other end of the cable. Generally, these testers give you the results in dB lost, which you then compare to the loss budget to determine your link loss margin.

    Also, in some instances, particularly when using single-mode fiber to drive the signal farther, the signal may be too strong between connected devices. This causes the light signal to reflect back down the fiber cable, which can corrupt data, result in a faulty transmission, and even damage equipment. To prevent this, use fiber attenuators. They’re used with ?single-mode fiber optic devices and cable to filter the strength of the fiber optic signal from the transmitter’s LED output so it doesn’t overwhelm the receiver. Depending on the type of attenuator attached to the devices at each end of the link, you can diminish the strength of the light signal a variable amount by a certain number of decibels.

    Need help calculating your budget loss? Call our FREE Tech Support. If necessary, they can even recommend a fusion splicing fiber kit, a fiber tester, or a signal attenuator for your specific requirements. collapse

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