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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


Black Box Explains…A terminal server by any other name.

A terminal server (sometimes called a serial server or a console server or a device server) is a hardware device that enables you to connect serial devices across a network.

Terminal... more/see it nowservers acquired their name because they were originally used for long-distance connection of dumb terminals to large mainframe systems such as VAX™. Today, the name terminal server refers to a device that connects any serial device to a network, usually Ethernet. In this day of network-ready devices, terminal servers are not as common as they used to be, but they’re still frequently used for applications such as remote connection of PLCs, sensors, or automatic teller machines.

The primary advantage of terminal servers is that they save you the cost of running separate RS-232 devices. By using a network, you can connect serial devices even over very long distances—as far as your network stretches. It’s even possible to connect serial devices across the Internet. A terminal server connects the remote serial device to the network, and then another terminal server somewhere else on the network connects to the other serial device.

Terminal servers act as virtual serial ports by providing the appropriate connectors for serial data and also by grouping serial data in both directions into Ethernet TCP/IP packets. This conversion enables you to connect serial devices across Ethernet without the need for software changes.

Because terminal servers send data across a network, security is a consideration. If your network is isolated, you can get by with an inexpensive terminal server that has few or no security functions. But if you’re using a terminal server to make network connections across a network that’s also an Internet subnet, you should look for a terminal server that offers extensive security features. 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...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...UARTs at a glance.

Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitters (UARTs) are integrated circuits that convert bytes from the computer bus into serial bits for transmission. By providing surplus memory in a buffer, UARTs help applications overcome... more/see it nowthe factors that can hinder system performance, providing maximum throughput to high-performance peripherals without slowing down CPUs.

Early UARTs such as 8250 and 16450 did not include buffering (RAM or memory). With the advent of higher-speed devices, the need for UARTs that could handle more data became critical. The first buffered UART was the 16550, which incorporates a 16-byte First In First Out (FIFO) buffer and provides greater throughput than its predecessors.

Manufacturers have been developing enhanced UARTs that continue to increase performance standards. These faster chips provide improvements such as larger buffers and increased speeds. Here are the rates of today’s common UARTs:

UART FIFO Buffer Rate Supported
16550 16-byte 115.2 kbps
16554 16-byte 115.2 kbps
16650 32-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
16654 64-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
16750 64-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
16850 128-byte 460.8 kbps (sustained rate)
16854 128-byte 460.8 kbps (sustained rate) 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...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...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...Power problems.

Sags
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.

Blackouts
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.

Spikes
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.

Surges
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.

Noise
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


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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