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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... Smart Serial Interface

Smart Serial is the Cisco router interface. It uses a space-saving 26-pin connector that automatically detects RS-232, RS-449, RS-530, X.21, and V.35 interfaces for both DTE and DCE devices based... more/see it nowon the type of cable used.

Smart Serial connectors can be found on Smart Serial cables and on the dual-serial-port WAN interface cards used in Cisco 2600 and 1720 series routers. The cables feature a Smart Serial connector on one end and a standard cable connector (such as DB25 or V.35) on the other end. The Smart Serial connector attaches to the dual-serial-port WAN interface card.

Each port on the WAN interface card features a Smart Serial connector. Ports can be configured independently to support two different physical interfaces. For example, you can run RS-232 cable to one port and RS-449 cable to the other port using a single WAN interface card.

What if you need to replace that RS-232 cable with V.35 cable? Just plug a Smart Serial–V.35 cable into the port. Because any Smart Serial connector on the WAN interface card attaches to any Smart Serial cable connector, no additional interface or adapter is necessary. Changing the configuration of your network is literally a snap! collapse


Black Box Explains…SFP compatibility.

Standards for SFP fiber optic media are published in the SFP Multi-Source Agreement, which specifies size, connectors, and signaling for SFPs, with the idea that all SFPs are compatible with... more/see it nowdevices that have appropriate SFP slots. These standards, which also extend to SFP+ and XFP transceivers, enable users to mix and match components from different vendors to meet their own particular requirements.

However, some major manufacturers, notably Cisco®, HP®, and 3Com®, sell network devices with SFP slots that lock out transceivers from other vendors. Because the price of SFPs—especially Gigabit SFPs and 10GBASE SFP+ and XFP transceivers—can add significantly to the price of a switch, this lock-out scheme raises hardware costs and limits transceiver choices.

Many vendors don’t advertise that SFP slots on their devices don’t accept standard SFPs from other vendors. This can lead to unpleasant surprises when a device simply refuses to communicate with an SFP.

Another game that some vendors play is to build devices that accept open-standard SFPs, but refuse to support those devices when SFPs from another vendor are used with them.

The only way around this “lock-in” practice is to only buy network devices that accept standard SFPs from all vendors and to buy from vendors that support their devices no matter whose SFPs are used with them. Questions? Call our FREE Tech Support at 724-746-5500. collapse


Black Box Explains...Why media converters need SNMP.

The number of Ethernet switches and fiber optic segments being added to Ethernet networks keeps increasing. And as long as most Ethernet switches are only available with 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX... more/see it nowinterfaces, media converters will remain in demand.

Until now, a failure on the network could go unnoticed. Once a failure was detected, it could take a long time to isolate it, especially if a technician had to be sent to the site. But media converters with SNMP eliminate some of the guesswork.

With SNMP, the IS manager can detect a failure, isolate it to a specific port, and determine what hardware is required to repair it. A technician can then be sent directly to the right place to fix faulty hardware or repair a broken cable.

SNMP enables you to set up alarms or traps when a link is down. You can turn features on and off from a central terminal, so there’s no need to leave your desk. You can also monitor power supplies and replace them without interrupting service. SNMP management reduces the time and money it takes to get your network up and running again. The users on your network will notice—and appreciate—the improved service and reliability. collapse


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... GBICs

A Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC) is a transceiver that converts digital electrical currents to optical signals and back again. GBICs support speeds of 1 Gbps or more and are typically... more/see it nowused as an interface between a high-speed Ethernet or ATM switch and a fiber backbone. GBICs are hot-swappable, so switches don’t need to be powered down for their installation. 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.
  • collapse


    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...Power over Ethernet (PoE).

    What is PoE?
    The seemingly universal network connection, twisted-pair Ethernet cable, has another role to play, providing electrical power to low-wattage electrical devices. Power over Ethernet (PoE) was ratified by the... more/see it nowInstitute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in June 2000 as the 802.3af-2003 standard. It defines the specifications for low-level power delivery—roughly 13 watts at 48 VDC—over twisted-pair Ethernet cable to PoE-enabled devices such as IP telephones, wireless access points, Web cameras, and audio speakers.

    Recently, the basic 802.3af standard was joined by the IEEE 802.3at PoE standard (also called PoE+ or PoE plus), ratified on September 11, 2009, which supplies up to 25 watts to larger, more power-hungry devices. 802.3at is backwards compatible with 802.3af.

    How does PoE work?
    The way it works is simple. Ethernet cable that meets CAT5 (or better) standards consists of four twisted pairs of cable, and PoE sends power over these pairs to PoE-enabled devices. In one method, two wire pairs are used to transmit data, and the remaining two pairs are used for power. In the other method, power and data are sent over the same pair.

    When the same pair is used for both power and data, the power and data transmissions don’t interfere with each other. Because electricity and data function at opposite ends of the frequency spectrum, they can travel over the same cable. Electricity has a low frequency of 60 Hz or less, and data transmissions have frequencies that can range from 10 million to 100 million Hz.

    Basic structure.
    There are two types of devices involved in PoE configurations: Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) and Powered Devices (PD).

    PSEs, which include end-span and mid-span devices, provide power to PDs over the Ethernet cable. An end-span device is often a PoE-enabled network switch that’s designed to supply power directly to the cable from each port. The setup would look something like this:

    End-span device → Ethernet with power

    A mid-span device is inserted between a non-PoE device and the network, and it supplies power from that juncture. Here is a rough schematic of that setup:

    Non-PoE switch → Ethernet without PoE → Mid-span device → Ethernet with power

    Power injectors, a third type of PSE, supply power to a specific point on the network while the other network segments remain without power.

    PDs are pieces of equipment like surveillance cameras, sensors, wireless access points, and any other devices that operate on PoE.

    PoE applications and benefits.

  • Use one set of twisted-pair wires for both data and low-wattage appliances.
  • In addition to the applications noted above, PoE also works well for video surveillance, building management, retail video kiosks, smart signs, vending machines, and retail point-of-information systems.
  • Save money by eliminating the need to run electrical wiring.
  • Easily move an appliance with minimal disruption.
  • If your LAN is protected from power failure by a UPS, the PoE devices connected to your LAN are also protected from power failure.

  • Converters and Scalers Selector
    PoE Standards PoE
    IEEE 802.3 af
    PoE IEEE 802.3 at
    Power available at powered device 12.95 W 25.5
    Maximum power delivered 15.40 W 34.20
    Voltage range at powred source 44.0-57.0 V 50.0-57.0 V
    Voltage range at powred device 37.0-57.0 42.5-57.0 V
    Maximum current 350 mA 600 mA
    Maximum cable resistance 20 ohms 12.5 ohms
    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

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