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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.

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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...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...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...802.3ah.

802.3ah, also called Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM), is a new Ethernet standard designed to compete with standards such as DSL and cable modem in delivering broadband access to... more/see it nowhomes.

The 802.3ah specification covers point-to-point copper, point-to-point fiber, and point-to-multipoint fiber.

Ethernet in the First Mile over Copper (EFMC)
This point-to-point specification for copper wire takes advantage of DSL technology to send Ethernet over one pair of copper wires at 10 Mbps for 750 meters or 2 Mbps for 2700 meters.

Ethernet in the First Mile over Fiber (EFMF)
This point-to-point specification for single-mode, single-strand or single-mode, duplex fiber sends Ethernet at speeds of 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps up to 10 kilometers. It includes an optional extended temperature range from -40 to 185° F (-40 to 85° C) for outdoor use.

Ethernet in the First Mile over Passive Optical Networks (EPON)
This point-to-multipoint specification for fiber uses an optical splitter to divide the Ethernet signal into separate strands that go to individual subscribers. This enables an ISP to link many subscribers to a single uplink fiber without using active components in the field.

802.3ah includes the OAM specification, which provides utilities for monitoring and troubleshooting Ethernet links remotely, a capability vital for carrier-class deployment. OAM protocols address discovery, link monitoring, remote fault signaling, and remote loopback.

OAM is managed in-band but takes up very little bandwidth so network performance is not noticeably affected. OAM itself is not affected by VLANs or port-access restrictions. collapse


Black Box Explains...RS-232.

RS-232, also known as RS-232C and TIA/EIA-232-E, is a group of electrical, functional, and mechanical specifications for serial interfaces between computers, terminals, and peripherals. The RS-232 standard was developed by... more/see it nowthe Electrical Industries Association (EIA), and defines requirements for connecting data communications equipment (DCE)—modems, converters, etc.—and data terminal equipment (DTE)—computers, controllers, etc.) devices. RS-232 transmits data at speeds up to 115 Kbps and over distances up to 50 feet (15.2 m).

The standard, which is functionally equivalent to ITU V.24/V.28, specifies the workings of the interface, circuitry, and connector pinning. Both sync and async binary data transmission fall under RS-232. Although RS-232 is sometimes still used to transmit data from PCs to peripheral devices, the most common uses today are for network console ports and for industrial devices.

Even though RS-232 is a “standard,” you can’t necessarily expect seamless communication between two RS-232 devices. Why? Because different devices have different circuitry or pinning, and different wires may be designated to perform different functions.

The typical RS-232 connector is DB25, but some PCs and other data communication devices have DB9 connectors and many newer devices have RJ-45 RS-232 ports. To connect 9-pin PC ports or RJ-45 to devices with 25-pin connectors, you will require a simple adapter cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...10-Gigabit Ethernet.

10-Gigabit Ethernet, sometimes called 10-GbE or 10 GigE, is the latest improvement on the Ethernet standard, ratified in 2003 for fiber as the 802.3ae standard, in 2004 for twinax cable... more/see it now as the 802.3ak standard, and in 2006 for UTP as the 802.3an standard.

10-Gigabit Ethernet offers ten times the speed of Gigabit Ethernet. This extraordinary throughput plus compatibility with existing Ethernet standards has resulted in 10-Gigabit Ethernet quickly becoming the new standard for high-speed network backbones, largely supplanting older technologies such as ATM over SONET. 10-Gigabit Ethernet has even made inroads in the area of storage area networks (SAN) where Fibre Channel has long been the dominant standard. This new Ethernet standard offers a fast, simple, relatively inexpensive way to incorporate super high-speed links into your network.

Because 10-Gigabit Ethernet is simply an extension of the existing Ethernet standards family, it’s a true Ethernet standard—it’s totally backwards compatible and retains full compatibility with 10-/100-/1000-Mbps Ethernet. It has no impact on existing Ethernet nodes, enabling you to seamlessly upgrade your network with straightforward upgrade paths and scalability.

10-Gigabit Ethernet is less costly to install than older high-speed standards such as ATM. And not only is it relatively inexpensive to install, but the cost of network maintenance and management also stays low—10-Gigabit Ethernet can easily be managed by local network administrators.

10-Gigabit Ethernet is also more efficient than other high-speed standards. Because it uses the same Ethernet frames as earlier Ethernet standards, it can be integrated into your network using switches rather than routers. Packets don’t need to be fragmented, reassembled, or translated for data to get through.

Unlike earlier Ethernet standards, which operate in half- or full-duplex, 10-Gigabit Ethernet operates in full-duplex only, eliminating collisions and abandoning the CSMA/CD protocol used to negotiate half-duplex links. It maintains MAC frame compatibility with earlier Ethernet standards with 64- to 1518-byte frame lengths. The 10-Gigabit standard does not support jumbo frames, although there are proprietary methods for accommodating them.

Fiber 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards
There are two groups of physical-layer (PHY) 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards for fiber: LAN-PHY and WAN-PHY.

LAN-PHY is the most common group of standards. It’s used for simple switch and router connections over privately owned fiber and uses a line rate of 10.3125 Gbps with 64B/66B encoding.

The other group of 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards, WAN-PHY, is used with SONET/SDH interfaces for wide area networking across cities, states—even internationally.

LAN-PHY
10GBASE-SR (Short-Range) is a serial short-range fiber standard that operates over two multimode fibers. It has a range of 26 to 82 meters (85 to 269 ft.) over legacy 62.5-µm 850-nm fiber and up to 300 meters (984 ft.) over 50-µm 850-nm fiber.

10GBASE-LR (Long-Range) is a serial long-range 10-Gbps Ethernet standard that operates at ranges of up to 25 kilometers (15.5 mi.) on two 1310-nm single-mode fibers.

10GBASE-ER (Extended-Range) is similar to 10GBASE-LR but supports distances up to 40 kilometers (24.9 mi.) over two 1550-nm single-mode fibers.

10GBASE-LX4 uses Coarse-Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) to achieve ranges of 300 meters (984 ft.) over two legacy 850-nm multimode fibers or up to 10 kilometers (6.2 mi.) over two 1310-nm single-mode fibers. This standard multiplexes four data streams over four different wavelengths in the range of 1300 nm. Each wavelength carries 3.125 Gbps to achieve 10-Gigabit speed.

WAN-PHY
In fiber-based Gigabit Ethernet, the 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, and 10GBASE-ER LAN-PHY standards have WAN-PHY equivalents called 10GBASE-SW, 10GBASE-LW, and 10GBASE-EW. There is no WAN-PHY standard corresponding to 10GBASE-LX4.

WAN-PHY standards are designed to operate across high-speed systems such as SONET and SDH. These systems are often telco operated and can be used to provide high-speed data delivery worldwide. WAN-PHY 10-Gigabit Ethernet operates within SDH and SONET using an SDH/SONET frame running at 9.953 Gbps without the need to directly map Ethernet frames into SDH/SONET.

WAN-PHY is transparent to data—from the user’s perspective it looks exactly the same as LAN-PHY.

10-Gigabit Ethernet over Copper
10GBASE-CX4
10GBASE-CX4 is a standard that enables Ethernet to run over CX4 cable, which consists of four twinaxial copper pairs bundled into a single cable. CX4 cable is also used in high-speed InfiniBand® and Fibre Channel storage applications. Although CX4 cable is somewhat less expensive to install than fiber optic cable, it’s limited to distances of up to 15 meters. Because this standard uses such a specialized cable at short distances, 10GBASE-CX4 is generally used only in limited data center applications such as connecting servers or switches.

10GBASE-Kx
10GBASE-Kx is backplane 10-Gigabit Ethernet and consists of two standards. 10GBASE-KR is a serial standard compatible with 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, and 10GBASE-ER. 10GBASE-KX4 is compatible with 10GBASE-LX4. These standards use up to 40 inches of copper printed circuit board with two connectors in place of cable. These very specialized standards are used primarily for switches, routers, and blade servers in data center applications.

10GBASE-T
10GBASE-T is the 10-Gigabit standard that uses the familiar shielded or unshielded copper UTP cable. It operates at distances of up to 55 meters (180 ft.) over existing Category 6 cabling or up to 100 meters (328 ft.) over augmented Category 6, or “6a,” cable, which is specially designed to reduce crosstalk between UTP cables. Category 6a cable is somewhat bulkier than Category 6 cable but retains the familiar RJ-45 connectors.

To send data at these extremely high speeds across four-pair UTP cable, 10GBASE-T uses sophisticated digital signal processing to suppress crosstalk between pairs and to remove signal reflections.

10-Gigabit Ethernet Applications
> 10-Gigabit Ethernet is already being deployed in applications requiring extremely high bandwidth:
> As a lower-cost alternative to Fibre Channel in storage area networking (SAN) applications.
> High-speed server interconnects in server clusters.
> Aggregation of Gigabit segments into 10-Gigabit Ethernet trunk lines.
> High-speed switch-to-switch links in data centers.
> Extremely long-distance Ethernet links over public SONET infrastructure.

Although 10-Gigabit Ethernet is currently being implemented only by extremely high-volume users such as enterprise networks, universities, telecommunications carriers, and Internet service providers, it’s probably only a matter of time before it’s delivering video to your desktop. Remember that only a few years ago, a mere 100-Mbps was impressive enough to be called “Fast Ethernet.” collapse


Black Box Explains…Fiber Ethernet adapters vs. media converters.

When running fiber to the desktop, you have two choices for making the connection from the fiber to a PC: a fiber Ethernet adapter or a media converter like our... more/see it nowMicro Mini Media Converter.

Fiber Ethernet adapters:

  • Less expensive.
  • Create no desktop clutter, but the PC must be opened.
  • Powered from the PC—require no separate power provision.
  • Require an open PCI or PCI-E slot in the PC.
  • Can create driver issues that must be resolved.
  • May be required in high-security installations that require a 100% fiber link to the desktop.

  • Media converters:
  • More expensive.
  • No need to open the PC but can create a cluttered look.
  • Powered from an AC outlet or a PC’s USB port.
  • Don’t require an open slot in the PC.
  • Plug-and-play installation—totally transparent to data, so there are no driver problems; install in seconds.
  • The short copper link from media converter to PC may be a security vulnerability.
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    Black Box Explains...NEBS Level 3.

    Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) standards set requirements for telco equipment. The standards are maintained by Telcordia Technologies, Inc., formerly Bellcore. Bellcore Special Report, SR-3580 defines three distinct functional levels... more/see it nowof NEBS compliance. The third of these levels, NEBS Level 3, is the most stringent, certifying carrier-class equipment intended for long-term use in variable environments.

    NEBS Level 3 certifies that a piece of equipment can be safely used in an extreme environment. To become certified at NEBS Level 3, a device must meet strict physical, electrical, and environmental requirements to prove it will operate safely and reliably in extreme conditions. It must pass a series of tests that include extreme heat, humidity, fire, earthquakes (Zone 4), light, and noise. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Gigabit Ethernet.

    As workstations and servers migrated from ordinary 10-Mbps Ethernet to 100-Mbps speeds, it became clear that even greater speeds were needed. Gigabit Ethernet was developed for an even faster Ethernet... more/see it nowstandard to handle the network traffic generated on the server and backbone level by Fast Ethernet. Gigabit Ethernet delivers an incredible 1000 Mbps (or 1 Gbps), 100 times faster than 10BASE-T. At that speed, Gigabit Ethernet can handle even the traffic generated by campus network backbones. Plus it provides a smooth upgrade path from 10-Mbps Ethernet and 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet at a reasonable cost.

    Compatibility
    Gigabit Ethernet is a true Ethernet standard. Because it uses the same frame formats and flow control as earlier Ethernet versions, networks readily recognize it, and it’s compatible with older Ethernet standards. Other high-speed technologies (ATM, for instance) present compatibility problems such as different frame formats or different hardware requirements.

    The primary difference between Gigabit Ethernet and earlier implementations of Ethernet is that Gigabit Ethernet almost always runs in full-duplex mode, rather than the half-duplex mode commonly found in 10- and 100-Mbps Ethernet.

    One significant feature of Gigabit Ethernet is the improvement to the Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) function. In half-duplex mode, all Ethernet speeds use the CSMA/CD access method to resolve contention for shared media. For Gigabit Ethernet, CSMA/CD has been enhanced to maintain the 200-meter (656.1-ft.) collision diameter.

    Affordability and adaptability
    You can incorporate Gigabit Ethernet into any standard Ethernet network at a reasonable cost without having to invest in additional training, cabling, management tools, or end stations. Because Gigabit Ethernet blends so well with your other Ethernet applications, you have the flexibility to give each Ethernet segment exactly as much speed as it needs—and if your needs change, Ethernet is easily adaptable to new network requirements.

    Gigabit Ethernet is the ideal high-speed technology to use between 10-/100-Mbps Ethernet switches or for connection to high-speed servers with the assurance of total compatibility with your Ethernet network.

    When Gigabit Ethernet first appeared, fiber was crucial to running Gigabit Ethernet effectively. Since then, the IEEE802.3ab standard for Gigabit over Category 5 cable has been approved, enabling short stretches of Gigabit speed over existing copper cable. Today, you have many choices when implementing Gigabit Ethernet:

    1000BASE-X
    1000BASE-X refers collectively to the IEEE802.3z standards: 1000BASE-SX, 1000BASE-LX, and 1000BASE-CX.

    1000BASE-SX
    The “S“ in 1000BASE-SX stands for “short.“ It uses short wavelength lasers, operating in the 770- to 860-nanometer range, to transmit data over multimode fiber. It’s less expensive than 1000BASE-LX, but has a much shorter range of 220 meters over typical 62.5-µm multimode cable.

    1000BASE-LX
    The “L“ stands for “long.“ It uses long wavelength lasers operating in the wavelength range of 1270 to 1355 nanometers to transmit data over single-mode fiber optic cable. 1000BASE-LX supports up to 550 meters over multimode fiber or up to 10 kilometers over single-mode fiber.

    1000BASE-CX
    The “C“ stands for “copper.“ It operates over special twinax cable at distances of up to 25 meters. This standard never really caught on.

    Gigabit over CAT5—1000BASE-TX
    The 802.3ab specification, or 1000BASE-TX, enables you to run IEEE-compliant Gigabit Ethernet over copper twisted-pair cable at distances of up to 100 meters of CAT5 or higher cable.

    Gigabit Ethernet uses all four twisted pairs within the cable, unlike 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX, which only use two of the four pairs. It works by transmitting 250 Mbps over each of the four pairs in 4-pair cable. collapse

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