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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...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

Gigabit
• 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).

10-GbE
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...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

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