Black Box Explains...Ethernet.
If you have an existing network, there’s a 90% chance it’s Ethernet. If you’re installing a new network, there’s a 98% chance it’s Ethernet—the Ethernet standard is... more/see it nowthe overwhelming favorite network standard today.
Ethernet was developed by Xerox®, DEC®, and Intel® in the mid-1970s as a 10-Mbps (Megabits per second) networking protocol—very fast for its day—operating over a heavy coax cable (Standard Ethernet).
Today, although many networks have migrated to Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) or even Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps), 10-Mbps Ethernet is still in widespread use and forms the basis of most networks.
Ethernet is defined by international standards, specifically IEEE 802.3. It enables the connection of up to 1024 nodes over coax, twisted-pair, or fiber optic cable. Most new installations today use economical, lightweight cables such as Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair cable and fiber optic cable.
How Ethernet Works
Ethernet signals are transmitted from a station serially, one bit at a time, to every other station on the network.
Ethernet uses a broadcast access method called Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) in which every computer on the network hears every transmission, but each computer listens only to transmissions intended for it.
Each computer can send a message anytime it likes without having to wait for network permission. The signal it sends travels to every computer on the network. Every computer hears the message, but only the computer for which the message is intended recognizes it. This computer recognizes the message because the message contains its address. The message also contains the address of the sending computer so the message can be acknowledged.
If two computers send messages at the same moment, a collision occurs, interfering with the signals. A computer can tell if a collision has occurred when it doesn’t hear its own message within a given amount of time. When a collision occurs, each of the colliding computers waits a random amount of time before resending the message.
The process of collision detection and retransmission is handled by the Ethernet adapter itself and doesn’t involve the computer. The process of collision resolution takes only a fraction of a second under most circumstances. Collisions are normal and expected events on an Ethernet network. As more computers are added to the network and the traffic level increases, more collisions occur as part of normal operation. However, if the network gets too crowded, collisions increase to the point where they slow down the network considerably.
Standard (Thick) Ethernet (10BASE5)
Thin Ethernet (ThinNet) (10BASE2)
- Uses thick coax cable with N-type connectors for a backbone and a transceiver cable with 9-pin connectors from the transceiver to the NIC.
- Both ends of each segment should be terminated with a 50-ohm resistor.
- Maximum segment length is 500 meters.
- Maximum total length is 2500 meters.
- Maximum length of transceiver cable is 50 meters.
- Minimum distance between transceivers is 2.5 meters.
- No more than 100 transceiver connections per segment are allowed.
Twisted-Pair Ethernet (10BASE-T)
- Uses "Thin" coax cable.
- The maximum length of one segment is 185 meters.
- The maximum number of segments is five.
- The maximum total length of all segments is 925 meters.
- The minimum distance between T-connectors is 0.5 meters.
- No more than 30 connections per segment are allowed.
- T-connectors must be plugged directly into each device.
Fiber Optic Ethernet (10BASE-FL, FOIRL)
- Uses 22 to 26 AWG unshielded twisted-pair cable (for best results, use Category 4 or 5 unshielded twisted pair).
- The maximum length of one segment is 100 meters.
- Devices are connected to a 10BASE-T hub in a star configuration.
- Devices with standard AUI connectors may be attached via a 10BASE-T transceiver.
- Uses 50-, 62.5-, or 100-micron duplex multimode fiber optic cable (62.5 micron is recommended).
- The maximum length of one 10BASE-FL (the new standard for fiber optic connections) segment is 2 kilometers.
- The maximum length of one FOIRL (the standard that preceded the new 10BASE-FL) segment is 1 kilometer.
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…Media converters that also work as switches.
Media converters transparently convert the incoming electrical signal from one cable type and then transmit it over another type—thick coax to Thin, UTP to fiber, and so on. Traditionally, media... more/see it nowconverters were purely Layer 1 devices that only converted electrical signals and physical media and didn’t do anything to the data coming through the link.
Today’s media converters, however, are often 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 and route Ethernet packets based on MAC address. These media converters are often called media converter switches, switching media converters, or Layer 2 media converters. They enable you to have multiple connections rather than just one simple in-and-out connection. And because they’re switches, they increase network efficiency.
Media converters are often used to connect newer 100-Mbps, Gigabit Ethernet, or ATM equipment to existing networks, which are generally 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, or a mixture of both. They can also be used in pairs to insert a fiber segment into copper networks to increase cabling distances and enhance immunity to electromagnetic interference.
Rent an apartment…
Media converters are available in standalone models that convert between two different media types and in chassis-based models that house many media converters in a a single chassis.
Standalone models convert between two media. But, like a small apartment, they can be outgrown.
Consider your current and future applications before selecting a media converter. A good way to anticipate future network requirements is to choose media converters that work as standalone devices but can be rackmounted if needed later.
…or buy a house.
Chassis-based or modular media converter systems are normally rackmountable and have slots to 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 they enable you to mix different media types such as 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 100BASE-FX, ATM, and Gigabit modules. Although enterprise-level chassis-based systems generally have modules that can only be used in a chassis, many midrange systems feature modules that can be used individually or in a chassis. collapse
Black Box Explains... Router Basics
Routers are intelligent, high-level devices that enable individual, unique, logical networks to communicate with each other while maintaining their own identities. A router forms the boundary between networks. It connects... more/see it nowlogically separate networks operating under the same transport protocol such as TCP/IP or SNA. Routers are protocol-dependent and must support the protocols being routed. Thanks to the Internet, these protocols have become fairly standardized.
Part of a routers function is to choose a path over which to send packets. This path may involve multiple hops from the source device to a destination that can be across multiple physical networkseven on another continent. In an enterprise-wide WAN divided by routers, each network is managed separately and is assigned a unique network number (OSI Layer 3), usually an IP address.
A router learns the network number of each connected LAN and stores these numbers in a routing table. If a network changes, the router learns and stores the change automatically. The router uses these routing tables combined with a routing algorithm to decide the best way to route a packet. collapse
Black Box Explains...LAN switches.
Rush hour-all day, every day.
Applications such as document imaging, video/multimedia production, and intranetworking are very demanding. They generate huge data files that often must be transferred... more/see it nowbetween stations based on strict timing requirements. If such traffic is not transmitted efficiently, you end up with jerky video, on-screen graphics that take forever to load, or other irritating, debilitating problems.
These problems arise because in traditional LANs, only one network node transmits data at a time while all other stations listen. This works in conventional, server-based LANs where multiple workstations share files or applications housed on a central server. But if a network has several servers, or if it supports high-bandwidth, peer-to-peer applications such as videoconferencing, the one-station-at-a-time model just doesn’t work.
Ideally, each LAN workstation should be configured with its own dedicated LAN cable segment. But that’s neither practical nor affordable. A far more reasonable solution is a network designed to provide clear paths from each workstation to its destination on demand, whether that destination is another workstation or server.
These vehicles clear the lanes.
Unlike bridges and routers, which process data packets on an individual, first-come, first-served basis, switches maintain multiple, simultaneous data conversions among attached LAN segments.
From the perspective of an end-user workstation, a switched circuit appears to be a dedicated connection-a direct, full-speed LAN link to an attached server or other remote LAN node. Although this technique is somewhat different from what a LAN bridge or router does, switching hubs are based on similar technologies.
Which route will you choose?
Switching hubs that use bridging technologies are called Layer 2 switches-a reference to Layer 2 or the Data-Link Layer of the OSI Model. These switches operate using the MAC addresses in Layer 2 and are transparent to network protocols. Switches that use routing technologies are known as Layer 3 switches, referring to Layer 3—the Network Layer—of the OSI Model. These switches, like routers, represent the next higher level of intelligence in the hardware hierarchy. Rather than passing packets based on MAC addresses, these switches look into the data structure and route it based on the network addresses found in Layer 3. They are also dependent on the network protocol.
Layer 2 switches connect different parts of the same network as determined by the network number contained with the data packet. Layer 3 switches connect LANs or LAN segments with different network numbers.
If you’re subdividing an existing LAN, obviously you’re dealing with only one network and one network number, so you can install a Layer 2 switch wherever it will segment network traffic the best, and you don’t have to reconfigure the LAN. However, if you use a Layer 3 switch, you’ll have to reconfigure the segments to ensure that each has a different network number.
Similarly, if you’re connecting existing networks, you have to examine the currently configured network numbers before adding a switch. If the network numbers are the same, you need to use a Layer 2 switch. If they’re different, you must use a Layer 3 switch.
When dealing with multiple existing networks, you’ll find they usually use different network numbers. In this case, it’s preferable to use a Layer 3 switch (or possibly even a full-featured router) to avoid reconfiguring the network.
But what if you’re designing a network from scratch and can choose either type of switch? Your decision should be based on the expected complexity of your LAN. Layer 3 routing technology is well suited for complex networks. Layer 2 switches are recommended for smaller, less complex networks. collapse
Black Box Explains...Multimode vs. single-mode Fiber.
Multimode, 50- and 62.5-micron cable.
Multimode cable has a large-diameter core and multiple pathways of light. It comes in two core sizes: 50-micron and 62.5-micron.
Multimode fiber optic cable can be... more/see it nowused for most general data and voice fiber applications, such as bringing fiber to the desktop, adding segments to an existing network, and in smaller applications such as alarm systems. Both 50- and 62.5-micron cable feature the same cladding diameter of 125 microns, but 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core (the light-carrying portion of the fiber).
Although both can be used in the same way, 50-micron cable is recommended for premise applications (backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections) and should be considered for any new construction and installations. Both also use either LED or laser light sources. The big difference between the two is that 50-micron cable provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds, particularly in the 850-nm wavelength.
Single-mode, 8–10-micron cable.
Single-mode cable has a small, 8–10-micron glass core and only one pathway of light. With only a single wavelength of light passing through its core, single-mode cable realigns the light toward the center of the core instead of simply bouncing it off the edge of the core as multimode does.
Single-mode cable provides 50 times more distance than multimode cable. Consequently, single-mode cable is typically used in long-haul network connections spread out over extended areas, including cable television and campus backbone applications. Telcos use it for connections between switching offices. Single-mode cable also provides higher bandwidth, so you can use a pair of single-mode fiber strands full-duplex for up to twice the throughput of multimode fiber.
50-/125-Micron Multimode Fiber
Bandwidth: 500 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 3.5 dB/km;
Distance: 550 m;
Bandwidth: 500 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 1.5 dB/km;
Distance: 550 m
62.5-/125-Miron Multimode Fiber
Bandwidth: 160 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 3.5 dB/km;
Distance: 220 m;
Bandwidth: 500 MHz/km;
Attenuation: 1.5 dB/km;
Distance: 500 m
8–10-Micron Single-Mode Fiber
Wavelength: 1310 nm and 1550 nm;
Attenuation: 1.0 dB/km;
Outside Plant Application:
Wavelength: 1310 nm and 1550 nm;
Attenuation: 0.1 dB/km collapse
Black Box Explains...Layer 2, 3, and 4 switching.
The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Reference Model provides a layered network design framework that establishes a standard so that devices from different vendors work together.
Layer 2 (The Data-Link Layer)
Layer 2... more/see it nowswitches 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 arent very smart.
Layer 3 (The Network Layer)
Layer 3 switches use network or IP addresses that identify locations on the network. Physical addresses identify devices; network addresses identify locations. A location can be a LAN workstation, a location in a computer’s memory, or even a packet of data traveling through a network.
Network addresses are hierarchical. The more details included, the more specific the address becomes and the easier it is to find.
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. However, because Layer 3 Switches take the extra time to read more details of a network address, they are sometimes much slower than Layer 2 Switches.
Layer 4 (The Transport Layer)
Layer 4 of the OSI Model coordinates communications between systems. Layer 4 identifies which application protocols (HTTP, SNTP, FTP, etc.) are included with each packet and uses 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 a packet belongs to.
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. collapse
Black Box Explains...DIN rails.
A DIN rail is an industry-standard metal rail, usually installed inside an electrical enclosure, which serves as a mount for small electrical devices specially designed for use with DIN rails.... more/see it nowThese devices snap right onto the rails, sometimes requiring a set screw, and are then wired together.
Many different devices are available for mounting on DIN rails: terminal blocks, interface converters, media converter switches, repeaters, surge protectors, PLCs, fuses, or power supplies, just to name a few.
DIN rails are a space-saving way to accommodate components. And because DIN rail devices are so easy to install, replace, maintain, and inspect, this is an exceptionally convenient system that has become very popular in recent years.
A standard DIN rail is 35-mm wide with raised-lip edges, its dimensions outlined by the Deutsche Institut für Normung, a German standardization body. Rails are generally available in aluminum or steel and may be cut for installation. Depending on the requirements of the mounted components, the rail may need to be grounded. collapse
Black Box Explains...Remote access.
Remote access is the ability to access a network, a personal computer, a server, or other device from a distance for the purpose of controlling it or to access data.... more/see it nowToday, remote access is usually accomplished over the Internet, although a local IP network, telephone lines, cellular service, or leased lines may also be used. With today’s ubiquitous Internet availability, remote access is increasingly popular and often results in significant cost savings by enabling greater network access and reducing travel to remote sites.
Remote access is a very general term that covers a wide range of applications from telecommuting to resetting a distant server. Here are just a few of the applications that fall under the remote access umbrella:
Remote network access
A common use for remote access is to provide corporate network access to employees who work at home or are in sales or other traveling positions. This kind of remote access typically uses IPsec VPN tunnels to authenticate and secure connections.
Remote desktop access
Remote desktop access enables users to access a computer remotely from another computer and take control of it as if it were local. This kind of remote control requires that special software—which is included with most operating systems—be installed and enabled. It’s often used by those who travel frequently to access their “home” computer, and by network administrators for remote server access. This remote access method has some inherent security concerns and is usually incompatible with firewalls, so it’s important to be aware of its limitations and use adequate security precautions.
Remote KVM access
A common application in organizations that maintain servers across multiple sites is server administration through an IP-enabled KVM switch. These IP-addressable switches support one or more servers and have an integral Web server, enabling users to access them over the Internet through a Web browser. Because they’re intended for Internet use, these switches offer authentication and encryption for secure connections.
Remote power management
Anyone who’s ever had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go switch a server off and back on again to reset it can appreciate the convenience of remote power management. Remote power managers have a wide range of capabilities ranging from simple power switching to reboot a device to sophisticated power monitoring, reporting, and management functions.
Remote environmental security monitoring
Remote environmental and security monitoring over the Internet is increasingly popular, largely because of the cost savings of using existing network infrastructure rather than a proprietary security system. This application requires IP-addressable hubs that support a variety of sensors ranging from temperature and humidity to power monitors. Some models even support surveillance cameras.
Black Box Explains...Designing your wireless network.
Setting up wireless devices that belong to the 802.11 family is relatively simple, but you do have to pay attention to a few simple factors.
Ad-hoc or infrastructure... more/see it nowmode?
The 802.11 wireless standards support two basic configurations: ad-hoc mode and infrastructure mode.
In ad-hoc mode, wireless user devices such as laptop computers and PDAs communicate directly with each other in a peer-to-peer manner without the benefit of access points.
Ad-hoc mode is generally used to form very small spontaneous networks. For instance, with ad-hoc mode, laptop users in a meeting can quickly establish a small network to share files.
Infrastructure mode uses wireless access points to enable wireless devices to communicate with each other and with your wired network. Most networks use infrastructure mode.
The basic components of infrastructure mode networks include:
One or many access points?
- The radios embedded or installed within the wireless devices themselves. Many notebook computers and other Wi-Fi-compliant mobile devices, such as PDAs, come with the transmitters built in. But for others, you need to install a card-type device to enable wireless communications. Desktop PCs may also need an ISA or a PCI bus adapter to enable the cards to work.
- The access point, which acts as a base station that relays signals between the 802.11 devices.
Access points are standalone hardware devices that provide a central point of communication for your wireless users. How many you need in your application depends on the number of users and the amount of bandwidth required by each user. Bandwidth is shared, so if your network has many users who routinely send data-heavy multimedia files, additional access points may be required to accommodate the demand.
A small-office network with fewer than 15 users may need just 1 access point. Larger networks require multiple points. If the hardware supports it, you can overlap coverage areas to allow users to roam between cells without any break in network coverage. A user’s wireless device picks up a signal beacon from the strongest access point to maintain seamless coverage.
How many access points to use also depends on your operating environment and the required range. Radio propagation can be affected by walls and electrical interference that can cause signal reflection and fading. If you’re linking mobile users indoors-where walls and other obstructions impede the radiated signal-the typical maximum range is 150 feet. Outdoors, you can get greater WLAN range-up to 2000 feet (depending on your antenna type) where there’s a clear line of sight!
For optimal speed and range, install your wireless access point several feet above the floor or ground and away from metal equipment or large appliances that may emit interference.
Battle of the bands.
In addition to sharing bandwidth, users also share a band. Most IEEE 802.11 or 802.11b devices function in the 2.4-2.4835-GHz band. But these frequencies are often congested, so you may want to use devices that take advantage of the IEEE 802.11a 5.725-5.825-GHz band.
No matter what frequency you use, you’ll want to isolate your users from outsiders using the same frequency. To do this, assign your users a network identifier, such as an Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID), as well as distinct channels.
Web and wired network links.
The access point links your wireless network to your wired network, enabling your wireless users to access shared data resources and devices across your LAN enterprise. Some access points even feature capabilities for routing traffic in one or both directions between a wired and wireless network.
For Internet access, connect a broadband router with an access point to an Internet connection over a broadband service such as DSL, cable modem, or satellite.
For connecting network printers, you can dedicate a computer to act as a print server or add a wireless print server device; this enables those on your wireless network to share printers.
When to use external antennas.
If you plan to install access points, you can boost your signal considerably by adding external antennas. Various mounting configurations and high- and low-gain options are available.
You can also use add-on antennas to connect nodes where the topology doesn’t allow for a clear signal between access points. Or use them to link multiple LANs located far apart.
Additional external antennas are also useful to help overcome the effects of multipath propagation in which a signal takes different paths and confuses the receiver. It’s also helpful to deploy antennas that propagate the signal in a way that fits the environment. For instance, for a long, narrow corridor, use an antenna that focuses the RF pattern in one direction instead of one that radiates the signal in all directions.
Plan ahead with a site survey.
A site survey done ahead of time to plot where the signal is the strongest can help you identify problem areas and avoid dead spots where coverage isn’t up to par or is unreliable. For this, building blueprints are helpful in revealing potential obstructions that you might not see in your physical site walkthrough.
To field test for a clear signal path, attach an antenna to an access point or laptop acting as the transmitter at one end. Attach another antenna to a wireless device acting as a receiver at the other end. Then check for interference using RF test equipment (such as a wireless spectrum analyzer) and determine whether vertical or horizontal polarization will work best.
Need help doing this? Call us. We even offer a Site Survey Kit that has a variety of antennas included. Great for installers, the kit enables you to test a variety of antennas in the field before placing a larger antenna order. collapse