Black Box Explains...Layer 2, 3, and 4 switches.
... more/see it now
E-Mail, Diagnostics, Word Processing, Database
Shells and Gateway Workstation Software
TR=Token Ring; A=ARCNET®; P=PhoneNET®
With the rapid development of computer networks over the last decade, high-end switching has become one of the most important functions on a network for moving data efficiently and quickly from one place to another.
Here’s how a switch works: As data passes through the switch, it examines addressing information attached to each data packet. From this information, the switch determines the packet’s destination on the network. It then creates a virtual link to the destination and sends the packet there.
The efficiency and speed of a switch depends on its algorithms, its switching fabric, and its processor. Its complexity is determined by the layer at which the switch operates in the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) Reference Model (see above).
OSI is a layered network design framework that establishes a standard so that devices from different vendors work together. Network addresses are based on this OSI Model and are hierarchical. The more details that are included, the more specific the address becomes and the easier it is to find.
The Layer at which the switch operates is determined by how much addressing detail the switch reads as data passes through.
Switches can also be considered low end or high end. A low-end switch operates in Layer 2 of the OSI Model and can also operate in a combination of Layers 2 and 3. High-end switches operate in Layer 3, Layer 4, or a combination of the two.
Layer 2 Switches (The Data-Link Layer)
Layer 2 switches 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 aren’t very smart—that is, they don’t look at the data packet very closely to learn anything more about where it’s headed.
Layer 3 Switches (The Network Layer)
Layer 3 switches use network or IP addresses that identify locations on the network. They read network addresses more closely than Layer 2 switches—they identify network locations as well as the physical device. A location can be a LAN workstation, a location in a computer’s memory, or even a different packet of data traveling through a network.
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. But although they’re smarter, they may not be as fast if their algorithms, fabric, and processor don’t support high speeds.
Layer 4 Switches (The Transport Layer)
Layer 4 of the OSI Model coordinates communications between systems. Layer 4 switches are capable of identifying which application protocols (HTTP, SNTP, FTP, and so forth) are included with each packet, and they use 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 to which a packet belongs.
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 because any company- or industry-specific protocols can be confined to only authorized switched ports or users. This security feature is often reinforced with traffic filtering and forwarding features. collapse
Black Box Explains...Serial ATA technology.
Introduced in the mid 1980s, the Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) interconnect soon became the industry-standard parallel input/output bus interface for connecting internal storage devices. Ultra ATA, which builds on the... more/see it noworiginal parallel ATA interface, has become the most commonly used type of interconnect.
But in recent years, sharing digital video and audio files over high-speed networks and other data-intensive uses has placed greater demands on hard drives, optical drives, and media-storage peripherals. So, not surprisingly, Ultra ATA now faces competition from a new technology—Serial ATA.
As the name implies, this new interconnect uses a serial bus architecture instead of a parallel one. Serial ATA currently supports speeds up to 150 MBps. Further enhancements could to boost rates as high as 600 MBps.
Compared with Ultra ATA, Serial ATA offers distinct advantages, including a point-to-point topology that enables you to dedicate 150 MBps to each connected device. Each channel can work independently and, unlike the “master-slave” shared bus of Ultra ATA, there’s no drive contention or interface bandwidth sharing.
Compared with Ultra ATA’s parallel bus design, Serial ATA requires a single signal path for sending data bits and a second path for receiving acknowledgement data. Each path travels across a 2-wire differential pair, and the bus contains four signal lines per channel. Fewer interface signals means the interconnect cable requires less board space.
Serial ATA also uses thinner cables (no more than 0.25" wide) that are available in longer lengths (up to 1 meter) as well as an improved connector design to reduce crosstalk. It also offers hot-swappable capabilities.
Although Serial ATA can’t interface directly with earlier Ultra ATA devices, it complies fully with the ATA protocol, so software between the two interconnects is compatible. 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...The 13W3 connector.
The 13W3 connector, also called a 13C3 or DB13W3 connector, is an unusual connector that combines a 10-pin D-shell with three analog video conductors. It supports very-high-resolution analog video signals... more/see it nowand has been used by Sun Microsystems®, SGI, NeXt, Intergraph, and other manufacturers. Although 13W3 connectors from different manufacturers look the same, they may be pinned differently.
Pinning for a standard Sun® 13W3 connector:
2: Vertical Sync*
3: Sense 2
4: Sense Ground
5: Composite Sync
6: Horizontal Sync*
8: Sense 1
9: Sense 0
10: Composite Ground
* Considered obsolete; may not be connected. collapse
Black Box Explains...Shielded vs. unshielded cable.
The environment determines whether cable should be shielded or unshielded.
Shielding is the sheath surrounding and protecting the cable wires from electromagnetic leakage and interference. Sources of this electromagnetic activity... more/see it now(EMI)—commonly referred to as noise—include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and photocopiers. To protect data in areas with high EMI, choose a shielded cable.
Foil is the most basic cable shield, but a copper-braid shield provides more protection. Shielding also protects cables from rodent damage. Use a foil-shielded cable in busy office or retail environments. For industrial environments, you might want to choose a copper-braid shield.
For quiet office environments, choose unshielded cable. collapse
Black Box Explains...High-speed networking.
What are my choices for high-speed
... more/see it nownetworking?
| 100BASE-T | ATM
| Gibabit Ethernet
Switched Ethernet relies on centralized multiport switches
to provide a physical link between multiple LAN segments.
Inside each intelligent switch, high-speed circuitry supports
wire-speed virtual connections between all the segments
for maximum bandwidth allocation on demand. Adding new segments
to a switch increases the aggregate network speed while
reducing overall congestion, so Switched Ethernet provides
superior configuration flexibility. It also gives you an
excellent migration path from 10- to 100-Mbps Ethernet,
since both segments can often operate via the same switch.
Benefits of Switched Ethernet—It’s
a cost-effective technique for increasing the overall network
throughput and reducing congestion on a 10-Mbps network.
Other than the addition of the switching hub, the Ethernet
network remains the same—the same network interface
cards, the same client software, the same LAN cabling.
100BASE-T retains the familiar CSMA/CD media access technique
used in 10-Mbps Ethernet networks. It also supports a broad
range of cabling options: two standards for twisted pair
and one for fiber. 100BASE-TX supports 2-pair Category 5
UTP or Type 1 STP cable. 100BASE-FX enables fiber optic
links via duplex multimode fiber cable.
Benefits of 100BASE-T—It
retains CSMA/CD, so existing network management systems
don’t need to be rewritten. It can easily be integrated
into existing 10-Mbps Ethernet LANs, so your previous investment
is saved (see Figures 1 and 2).
It’s also backed by hundreds of manufacturers in the
high-speed networking industry, including Black Box!
||100BASE-T (IEEE 802.3u)
of this Standard
||Category 5 (2-Pair)
||Duplex Multimode or Single-Mode
|| Category 5—100
||Backbone using Ethernet
switches to provide increased throughput. Small to medium
workgroups using applications (i.e. CAD, CAM) that output
huge data files.
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is a cell-based fast-packet
communication technique that supports data-transfer rates
ranging from sub-T1 speeds (less than 1.544 Mbps) up to
Like other packet-switching services (Frame Relay, SMDS),
ATM achieves its high speeds in part by transmitting data
in fixed-size cells and dispensing with error-correction
protocols. Instead, it relies on the inherent integrity
of digital lines to ensure data integrity.
Benefits of ATM—Networks
are extremely versatile. An ATM network can be treated as
a single network, whether it connects points in a building
or across the country. Its fixed-length cell-relay operation,
the signaling technology of the future, offers more predictable
performance than variable-length frames. And it can be integrated
into an existing network as needed without having to upgrade
the entire LAN.
Like Ethernet and Fast Ethernet before it, Gigabit Ethernet
works with earlier versions of the IEEE 802.3 standard—both
10 and 100 Mbps— although some equipment will need
to be upgraded. The Gigabit Ethernet standard (IEEE 802.3z)
was approved in June 1998, and its speed of 1 Gbps is a
tenfold increase over Fast Ethernet.
There are two basic types of Gigabit Ethernet: shared
and switched. Shared Gigabit Ethernet
is a higher-speed version of 10/100BASE-T using CSMA/CD
Medium Access Control. Switched Gigabit Ethernet uses Logical
Link Control (LLC). Gigabit Ethernet increases frame sizes
from 64 bytes to 512 bytes minimum, and from 1514 bytes
to 9000 bytes maximum.
Benefits of Gigabit Ethernet—It
solves bandwidth problems. Its primary use is for backbones.
The medium is fiber or Category 5e 100-ohm cable. collapse
Black Box Explains...Optical isolation and ground loops.
Optical isolation protects your equipment from dangerous ground loops. A ground loop is a current across a conductor, created by a difference in potential between two grounded points, as in... more/see it nowequipment in two buildings connected by a run of RS-232 or other data line. When two devices are connected and their potentials are different, voltage flows from high to low by traveling through the data cable. If the voltage potential is large enough, your equipment wont be able to handle the excess voltage and one of your ports will be damaged.
Ground loops can also exist in industrial environments. They can be created when power is supplied to your equipment from different transformers or when someone simply turns equipment on and off. Ground loops can also occur when there is a nearby lightning strike. During an electrical storm, the ground at one location can be charged differently than the other location, causing a heavy current flow through the serial communication lines that damage components.
You cant test for ground loops. You dont know you have one until a vital component fails. Only prevention works. For data communication involving copper cable, optical isolation is key.
With optical isolation, electrical data is converted to an optical beam, then back to an electrical pulse. Because there is no electrical connection between the DTE and DCE sides, an optical isolator unlike a surge suppressorwill not pass large sustained power surges through to your equipment. Since data only passes through the optical isolator, your equipment is protected against ground loops and other power surges. 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...Multi-user ServSwitch products vs. multipoint access ServSwitch products.
A multi-user ServSwitch, such as the Matrix ServSwitch, enables two or more users to access different servers at the same time. So, for instance, one user can access “Server A”... more/see it nowwhile another user accesses “Server B.” This is considered a “true two-channel” architecture because two users have independent access to CPUs. It should be pointed out that multiple users cannot access the same server at the same time.
A multipoint access ServSwitch, such as the ServSwitch Duo, provides two access points for control stations but requires that both users view the same server at the same time. So, if one user is accessing “Server A” on his screen, the other user is also seeing “Server A” on his screen. If the second user switches to “Server B,“ the first user will also switch to “Server B.” Only one of these users is actually in control. The user in control stays in control until his workstation is inactive for a period of time (selectable). Then the other station can take control.
A multipoint access ServSwitch is useful when simultaneous, independent access is not required—just the ability to access CPUs from more than one place.
Black Box Explains...NEMA 12 certification.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) specifies guidelines for cabinet certifications. NEMA 12 cabinets are constructed for indoor use to provide protection against certain contaminants that might come in contact... more/see it nowwith the enclosed equipment. The NEMA 12 designation means a particular cabinet has met the guidelines, which include protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing non-corrosive liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 certification.
Organizations with mission-critical equipment benefit from a NEMA 12 cabinet. Certain environments put equipment at a higher risk than others. For example, equipment in industrial plants is subject to varying degrees of extreme temperature. Even office buildings generate lots of dust and moisture, which is detrimental to equipment. NEMA 12 enclosures help to ensure that your operation suffers from as little downtime as possible. collapse