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Black Box Explains...USB.

What is USB?
Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a royalty-free bus specification developed in the 1990s by leading manufacturers in the PC and telephony industries to support plug-and-play peripheral connections. USB... more/see it nowhas standardized how peripherals, such as keyboards, disk drivers, cameras, printers, and hubs) are connected to computers.

USB offers increased bandwidth, isochronous and asynchronous data transfer, and lower cost than older input/output ports. Designed to consolidate the cable clutter associated with multiple peripherals and ports, USB supports all types of computer- and telephone-related devices.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) USB detects and configures the new devices instantly.
Before USB, adding peripherals required skill. You had to open your computer to install a card, set DIP switches, and make IRQ settings. Now you can connect digital printers, recorders, backup drives, and other devices in seconds. USB detects and configures the new devices instantly.

Benefits of USB.
• USB is “universal.” Almost every device today has a USB port of some type.
• Convenient plug-and-play connections. No powering down. No rebooting.
• Power. USB supplies power so you don’t have to worry about adding power. The A socket supplies the power.
• Speed. USB is fast and getting faster. The original USB 1.0 had a data rate of 1.5 Mbps. USB 3.0 has a data rate of 4.8 Gbps.

USB Standards

USB 1.1
USB 1.1, introduced in 1995, is the original USB standard. It has two data rates: 12 Mbps (Full-Speed) for devices such as disk drives that need high-speed throughput and 1.5 Mbps (Low-Speed) for devices such as joysticks that need much lower bandwidth.

USB 2.0
In 2002, USB 2.0, (High-Speed) was introduced. This version is backward-compatible with USB 1.1. It increases the speed of the peripheral to PC connection from 12 Mbps to 480 Mbps, or 40 times faster than USB 1.1.

This increase in bandwidth enhances the use of external peripherals that require high throughput, such as printers, cameras, video equipment, and more. USB 2.0 supports demanding applications, such as Web publishing, in which multiple high-speed devices run simultaneously.

USB 3.0
USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed) (2008) provides vast improvements over USB 2.0. USB 3.0 has speeds up to 5 Gbps, nearly ten times that of USB 2.0. USB 3.0 adds a physical bus running in parallel with the existing 2.0 bus.

USB 3.0 is designed to be backward compatible with USB 2.0.

USB 3.0 Connector
USB 3.0 has a flat USB Type A plug, but inside there is an extra set of connectors and the edge of the plug is blue instead of white. The Type B plug looks different with an extra set of connectors. Type A plugs from USB 3.0 and 2.0 are designed to interoperate. USB 3.0 Type B plugs are larger than USB 2.0 plugs. USB 2.0 Type B plugs can be inserted into USB 3.0 receptacles, but the opposite is not possible.

USB 3.0 Cable
The USB 3.0 cable contains nine wires—four wire pairs plus a ground. It has two more data pairs than USB 2.0, which has one pair for data and one pair for power. The extra pairs enable USB 3.0 to support bidirectional asynchronous, full-duplex data transfer instead of USB 2.0’s half-duplex polling method.

USB 3.0 Power
USB 3.0 provides 50% more power than USB 2.0 (150 mA vs 100 mA) to unconfigured devices and up to 80% more power (900 mA vs 500 mA) to configured devices. It also conserves power too compared to USB 2.0, which uses power when the cable isn’t being used.

USB 3.1
Released in 2013, is called SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps. There are three main differentiators to USB 3.1. It doubles the data rate from 5 Gbps to 10 Gbps. It will use the new, under-development Type C connector, which is far smaller and designed for use with everything from laptops to mobile phones. The Type C connector is being touted as a single-cable solution for audio, video, data, and power. It will also have a reversible plug orientation. Lastly, will have bidirectional power delivery of up to 100 watts and power auto-negotiation. It is backward compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0, but an adapter is needed for the physical connection.

Transmission Rates
USB 3.0: 4.8 Gbps
USB 2.0: 480 Mbps
USB 1.1: 12 Mbps

Cable Length/Node
5 meters (3 meters for 3.0 devices requiring higher speeds).
Devices/bus: 127
Tier/bus: 5

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...Low-profile PCI serial adapters.

Ever notice that newer computers are getting smaller and slimmer? That means regular PCI boards won’t fit into these computers’ low-profile PCI slots. But because miniaturization is the rage in... more/see it nowall matters of technology, it was only a short matter of time before low-profile PCI serial adapters became available—and Black Box has them.

Low-profile cards meet the PCI Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) Low-Profile PCI specifications, the form-factor definitions for input/output expansion. Low-Profile PCI has two card lengths defined for 32-bit bus cards: MD1 and MD2. MD1 is the smaller of the two, with cards no larger than 4.721 inches long and 2.536 inches high. MD2 cards are a maximum of 6.6 inches long and 2.536 inches high.

BLACK BOX® Low-Profile Serial PCI cards comply with the MD1 low-profile specification and are compatible with the universal bus. Universal bus is a PCI card that can operate in either a 5-V or 3.3-V signaling level system. collapse

Black Box Explains...Fiber optic cable construction.

Fiber optic cable consists of a core, cladding, coating, strengthening fibers, and cable jacket.

This is the physical medium that transports optical data signals from an attached light source to... more/see it nowa receiving device. The core is a single continuous strand of glass or plastic that’s measured (in microns) by the size of its outer diameter. The larger the core, the more light the cable can carry.

All fiber optic cable is sized according to its core’s outer diameter.

The three multimode sizes most commonly available are 50, 62.5, and 100 microns. Single-mode cores are generally less than 9 microns.

This is a thin layer that surrounds the fiber core and serves as a boundary that contains the light waves and causes the refraction, enabling data to travel throughout the length of the fiber segment.

This is a layer of plastic that surrounds the core and cladding to reinforce the fiber core, help absorb shocks, and provide extra protection against excessive cable bends. These buffer coatings are measured in microns (µ) and can range from 250 to 900 microns.

Strengthening fibers
These components help protect the core against crushing forces and excessive tension during installation.

The materials can range from Kevlar® to wire strands to gel-filled sleeves.

Cable jacket
This is the outer layer of any cable. Most fiber optic cables have an orange jacket, although some types can have black or yellow jackets. collapse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Layer 2 Switches (The Data-Link Layer)

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

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

Layer 3 Switches (The Network Layer)

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

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

Layer 4 Switches (The Transport Layer)

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

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

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


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...Media converters.

Media converters interconnect different cable types such as twisted pair, fiber, and coax within an existing network. They are often used to connect newer Ethernet equipment to legacy cabling.... more/see it nowThey can also be used in pairs to insert a fiber segment into copper networks to increase cabling distances and enhance immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI).

Traditional media converters are purely Layer 1 devices that only convert electrical signals and physical media. They don’t do anything to the data coming through the link so they’re totally transparent to data. These converters have two ports—one port for each media type. Layer 1 media converters only operate at one speed and cannot, for instance, support both 10-Mbps and 100-Mbps Ethernet.

Some media converters are more advanced Layer 2 Ethernet devices that, like traditional media converters, provide Layer 1 electrical and physical conversion. But, unlike traditional media converters, they also provide Layer 2 services—in other words, they’re really switches. This kind of media converter often has more than two ports, enabling you to, for instance, extend two or more copper links across a single fiber link. They also often feature autosensing ports on the copper side, making them useful for linking segments operating at different speeds.

Media converters are available in standalone models that convert between two different media types and in chassis-based models that connect many different media types in a single housing.

Rent an apartment

Standalone converters convert between two media. But, like a small apartment, they can be outgrown. Consider your current and future applications before selecting a media converter. Standalone converters are available in many configurations, including 10BASE-T to multimode or single-mode fiber, 10BASE-T to Thin coax (ThinNet), 10BASE-T to thick coax (standard Ethernet), CDDI to FDDI, and Thin coax to fiber. 100BASE-T and 100BASE-FX models that connect UTP to single- or multimode fiber are also available. With the development of Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps), media converters have been created to make the transition to high-speed networks easier.

...or buy a house.

Chassis-based or modular media converters are normally rackmountable and have slots that house media converter modules. Like a well-planned house, the chassis gives you room to grow. These are used when many Ethernet segments of different media types need to be connected in a central location. Modules are available for the same conversions performed by the standalone converters, and 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-FX, and Gigabit modules may also be mixed.


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

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...Insertion loss.

Insertion loss is a power loss that results from inserting a component into a previously continuous path or creating a splice in it. It is measured by the amount of... more/see it nowpower received before and after the insertion.

In copper cable, insertion loss measures electrical power lost from the beginning of the run to the end.

In fiber cable, insertion loss (also called optical loss) measures the amount of light lost from beginning to end. Light can be lost many ways: absorption, diffusion, scattering, dispersion, and more. It can also be from poor connections and splices in which the fibers don’t align properly.

Light loss is measured in decibels (dBs), which indicate relative power. A loss of 10 dB means a tenfold reduction in power.

Light strength can be measured with optical power meters, optical loss test sets, and other test sets that send a known light source through the fiber and measure its strength on the other end. collapse

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