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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... ServSwitch Multi and audio cable.

Get more out of your ServSwitch Multi. Add audio cable, a set of speakers, and a microphone to each CPU. Audio cable turns your ServSwitch Multi into the ideal system... more/see it nowfor education, training, retail, medical, and multimedia office environments.

Audio cable isn’t just for the ServSwitch Multi either. You can also use it with servers that give off audible alarms.

So even if you don’t have audio equipment now—plan ahead. When you’re ready to add audio equipment, just plug in our audio cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...Multicasting video over a LAN: Use the right switch.

In KVM extension applications where you want to distribute HD video across a network, you need to understand how it works and what kind of networking equipment to use with... more/see it nowyour extenders.

Think of your network as a river of data with a steady current of data moving smoothly down the channel. All your network users are like tiny tributaries branching off this river, taking only as much water (bandwidth) as they need to process data. When you start to multicast video, data, and audio over the LAN, those streams suddenly become the size of the main river. Each user is then basically flooded with data and it becomes difficult or impossible to do any other tasks. This scenario of sending transmissions to every user on the network is called broadcasting, and it slows down the network to a trickle. There are network protocol methods that alleviate this problem, but it depends on the network switch you use.

Unicast vs. multicasting, and why a typical Layer 2 switch isn’t sufficient.
Unicasting is sending data from one network device to another (point to point); in a typical unicast network, Layer 2 switches easily support these types of communications. But multicasting is transmitting data from one network device to multiple users. When multicasting with Layer 2 switches, all attached devices receive the packets, whether they want them or not. Because a multicast header does NOT have a destination IP address, an average network switch (a Layer 2 switch without supported capabilities) will not know what to do with it. So the switch sends the packet out to every network port on all attached devices. When the client or network interface card (NIC) receives the packet, it analyzes it and discards it if not wanted.

The solution: a Layer 3 switch with IGMPv2 or IGMPv3 and packet forwarding.
Multicasting with Layer 3 switches is much more efficient than with Layer 2 switches because it identifies the multicast packet and sends it only to the intended receivers. A Layer 2 switch sends the multicast packets to every device and, If there are many sources, the network will slow down because of all the traffic. And, without IGMPv2 or IGMPv3 snooping support, the switch can handle only a few devices sending multicasting packets.

Layer 3 switches with IGMP support, however, “know” who wants to receive the multicast packet and who doesn’t. When a receiving device wants to tap into a multicasting stream, it responds to the multicast broadcast with an IGMP report, the equivalent of saying, “I want to connect to this stream.” The report is only sent in the first cycle, initializing the connection between the stream and receiving device. If the device was previously connected to the stream, it sends a grafting request for removing the temporary block on the unicast routing table. The switch can then send the multicast packets to newly connected members of the multicast group. Then, when a device no longer wants to receive the multicast packets, it sends a pruning request to the IGMP-supported switch, which temporarily removes the device from the multicast group and stream.

Therefore, for multicasting, use routers or Layer 3 switches that support the IGMP protocol. Without this support, your network devices will be receiving so many multicasting packets, they will not be able to communicate with other devices using different protocols, such as FTP. Plus, a feature-rich, IGMP-supported Layer 3 switch gives you the bandwidth control needed to send video from multiple sources over a LAN. collapse


Black Box Explains... Multiplatform cabling environments.

When using a ServSwitch™ with multiple computer platforms, choosing which peripherals to use to control your diverse group of CPUs can be confusing. Because of the wide variation in connector... more/see it nowtypes and compatibilities, there is a hierarchy to follow when choosing your “user station“ keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

1. If you have at least one Sun® computer in your application, you should use a Sun keyboard and mouse to control your CPUs.

2. If you have a mixture of PCs and Mac® computers, use your PC-style keyboard and mouse to control your CPUs. collapse


Black Box Explains...Stream mode vs. burst mode/prompt mode.

Computers and mice must communicate with each other in order to operate properly. Most computers and mice communicate via a method called “stream mode”—as a mouse is being moved, it... more/see it nowsends the coordinates of its new position in a constant stream of information.

However, some computers communicate via a method known as “burst” or “prompt” mode. With this method, the mouse holds its data until the CPU sends a request (or “prompt”) for it. This mode of communication presents a problem for many KVM switches, as they normally pass along mouse coordinates in a stream mode. This results in a CPU receiving data when it isn’t expecting it, and the mouse simply won’t function properly.

All ServSwitch™ products contain support for stream-mode CPUs, and several ServSwitch products support both stream and burst/prompt modes. Call our FREE Tech Support about requirements for your application. collapse


Black Box Explains... Coax cables for ServSwitch products.

What’s the difference between standard and coax cables for ServSwitch™ products? Performance! Coax cables are made with premium-gauge wire, so they can be made in longer lengths. That means you... more/see it nowcan move your workstation up to 100 feet (30.4 m) from your ServSwitch. Plus coax cables have even more shielding to maintain the signal quality and strength you need. If you require high-resolution video or long distances, this is the cable you need! collapse


Black Box Explains…HDMI

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI®) is the first digital interface to combine uncompressed high-definition video, up to eight channels of uncompressed digital audio, and intelligent format and command data in... more/see it nowa single cable. It is now the de facto standard for consumer electronics and high-definition video and is gaining ground in the PC world.

HDMI supports standard, enhanced, and high-definition video. It can carry video signals at resolutions beyond 1080p at 60 Hz (Full HD) up to 4K x 2K (4096 x 2160) as well as 3D TV.

HDMI also provides superior audio clarity. It supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound.

HDMI offers an easy, standardized way to set up home theaters and AV equipment over one cable. Use it to connect audio/video equipment, such as DVD players, set-top boxes, and A/V receivers with an audio and/or video equipment, such as a digital TVs, PCs, cameras, and camcorders. It also supports multiple audio formats from standard stereo to multichannel surround sound. Plus it provides two-way communications between the video source and the digital TV, enabling simple remote, point-and-click configurations.

NOTE: HDMI also supports HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which prevents the copying of digital audio and video content transmitted over HDMI able. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won't work, even over an HDMI cable.

HDMI offers significant benefits over older analog A/V connections. It's backward compatible with DVI equipment, such as PCs. TVs, and other electronic devices using the DVI standard. A DVI-to-HDMI adapter can be used without a loss of video quality. Because DVI only supports video signals, no audio, the DVI device simply ignores the extra audio data.

HDMI standards
The HDMI standard was introduced in December 2002. Since then, there have been a number of versions with increasing bandwidth and/or transmission capabilities.

With the introduction of HDMI (June 2006), more than doubled the bandwidth from 4.95 Gbps to 10.2 Gbps (340 MHz). It offers support for 16-bit color, increased refresh rates, and added support for 1440p WQXGA. It also added support for xvYCC color space and Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio standards. Plus it added features to automatically correct audio video synchronization. Finally, it added a mini connector.

HDMI 1.3a (November 2006), HDMI 1.3b (March 2007, HDMI 1.3b1 (November 2007), and 1.3c (August 2008) added termination recommendations, control commands, and other specification for testing, etc.

HDMI 1.4 (May 2009) increased the maximum resolution to 4Kx 2K (3840 x 2160 p/24/25/30 Hz). It added an HDMI Ethernet channel for a 100-Mbps connection between two HDMI devices. Other advancements include: an Audio Return Channel, stereoscopic 3D over HDMI (HDMI 1.3 devices will only support this for 1080i), an automotive connection system, and the micro HDMI connector.

HDMI 1.4a (March 2010) adds two additional 3D formats for broadcast content.

HDMI 2.0 (August 2013), which is backwards compatible with earlier versions of the HDMI specification, significantly increases bandwidth up to 18 Gbps and adds key enhancements to support market requirements for enhancing the consumer video and audio experience.

HDMI 2.0 also includes the following advanced features:

  • Resolutions up to 4K@50/60 (2160p), which is four times the clarity of 1080p/60 video resolution, for the ultimate video experience.
  • Up to 32 audio channels for a multi-dimensional immersive audio experience.
  • Up to 1536Hz audio sample frequency for the highest audio fidelity.
  • Simultaneous delivery of dual video streams to multiple users on the same screen.
  • Simultaneous delivery of multi-stream audio to multiple users (up to four).
  • Support for the wide angle theatrical 21:9 video aspect ratio.
  • Dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams.
  • CEC extensions provide more expanded command and control of consumer electronics devices through a single control point.

  • HDMI Cables
  • Standard HDMI Cable: 1080i and 720p
  • Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
  • Automotive HDMI Cable
  • High Speed HDMI Cable: 1080p, 4K, 3D and Deep Color
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet

  • HDMI connectors
    There are four HDMI connector types.
    Type A: 19 pins. It supports all SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV modes. It is electrically compatible with single-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type B: 29 pins. Offers double the video bandwidth of Type A. Use for very high-resolution displays such as WQUXGA. It's electronically compatible with dual-link DVI-D. HDMI 1.0 specification.

    Type C Mini: 19 pins. This mini connector is intended for portable devices. It is smaller than Type A but has the same pin configuration and can be connected to Type A cable via an adapter or adapter cable. Type C is defined in HDMI 1.3.

    Type D Micro: 19 pins. This also has the 19-pin configuration of Type A but is about the size of a micro-USB connector. Type D is defined in HDMI 1.4.

    HDMI cable
    Recently, HDMI Licensing, LLC announced that all able would be tested as either Standard or High-Speed cables. Referring to cables based on HDMI standard (e.g. 1.2, 1.3 etc.) is no longer allowed.

    Standard HDMI cable is designed for use with digital broadcast TV, cable TV, satellites TV, Blu-ray, and upscale DVD payers to reliably transmit up to 1080i or 720p video (or the equivalent of 75 MHz or up to 2.25 Gbps).

    High-Speed HDMI reliably transmits video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including advanced display technologies such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. High-Speed HDMI is the recommended cable for 1080p video. It will perform at speeds of 600 MHz or up to 18 Gbps, the highest bandwidth urgently available over an HDMI cable.

    HDCP copy protection
    HDMI also supports High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), which prevents the copying of content transmitted over HDMI cable. If you have a device between the source and the display that supports HDMI but not HDCP, your transmission won’t work, even over an HDMI cable. Additional resources and licensing information is available at HDMI.org.

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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...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connectors.

    DVI (Digital Video Interface) is the standard digital interface for transmitting uncompressed high-definition, 1080p video between PCs and monitors and other computer equipment. Because DVI accommodates both analog and digital... more/see it nowinterfaces with a single connector, it is also compatible with the VGA interface. DVI differs from HDMI in that HDMI is more commonly found on HDTVs and consumer electronics.

    The DVI standard is based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). There are two DVI formats: Single-Link and Dual-Link. Single-link cables use one TMDS-165 MHz transmitter and dual-link cables use two. The dual-link cables double the power of the transmission. A single-link cable can transmit a resolution ?of 1920 x 1200 vs. 2560 x 1600 for a dual-link cable.

    There are several types of connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

    DVI-D (digital). This digital-only interface provides a high-quality image and fast transfer rates between a digital video source and monitors. It eliminates analog conversion and improves the display. It can be used when one or both connections are DVI-D.

    DVI-I (integrated). This interface supports both digital and analog RGB connections. It can transmit either a digital-to-digital signal or an analog-to-analog signal. It can be used with adapters to enable connectivity to a VGA or DVI-I display or digital connectivity to a DVI-D display. If both connectors are DVI-I, you can use any DVI cable, but DVI-I is recommended.

    DVI-A (analog) This interface is used to carry a DVI signal from a computer to an analog VGA device, such as a display. If one connection is DVI and the other is VGA HD15, you need a cable or adapter with both connectors.

    DFP (Digital Flat Panel) was an early digital-only connector used on some displays.

    EVC (also known as P&D, for Plug & Display), another older connector, handles digital and analog connections.

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    Black Box Explains...On-screen menus.

    When the ServSwitch™ brand of KVM switches was first introduced, there were only two ways to switch: from front-panel push buttons or by sending command sequences from the keyboard. While... more/see it nowthis was more convenient than having a separate keyboard, monitor, and mouse for each CPU, the operator still had to remember key combinations and which server was connected to which port—leading to many cryptic, scribbled notes attached to the switch and to the workstation.

    But with the advent of on-screen menus, an operator can use easy-to-read, pop-up menus to identify and select CPUs. It’s even possible to give each CPU a name that makes sense to you—names like “MIS Server,” “Accounting Server,” and so on.
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