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Black Box Explains...Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A).


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... more/see it nowCAT6 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 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.

There are two types of CAT6a cable, UTP and F/UTP.

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Black Box Explains…Component vs. channel testing.

When using a Category 6 system, the full specification includes the testing of each part individually and in an end-to-end-channel. Because CAT6 is an open standard, products from different vendors... more/see it nowshould work together.

Channel testing includes patch cable, bulk cable, jacks, patch panels, etc. These tests cover a number of measurements, including: attenuation, NEXT, PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, ACR, PS-ACR, EL-FEXT, PS-ELFEXT, and Return Loss. Products that are tested together should work together as specified. In theory, products from all manufacturers are interchangeable. But, if products from different manufacturers are inserted in a channel, end-to-end CAT6 performance may be compromised.

Component testing, on the other hand, is much stricter even though only two characteristics are measured: crosstalk and return loss. Although all CAT6 products should be interchangeable, products labeled as component are guaranteed to perform to a CAT6 level in a channel with products from different manufacturers.

For more information on cable, channel, and component specs, see below.

Buyer’s Guide: CAT5e vs. CAT6 Cable

Standard — CAT5e: TIA-568-B.2; CAT6: TIA-568-B.2-1

Frequency — CAT5e: 100 MHz; CAT6: 250 MHz

Attenuation (maximum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 22 dB; CAT6: 19.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 0.4 dB; CAT6: 0.2 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 24.0 dB; CAT6: 21.3 dB

NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 35.3 dB; CAT6: 44.3 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 43.0 dB; CAT6: 54.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 30.1 dB; CAT6: 39.9 dB

PS-NEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — 32.3 dB 42.3 dB

EL-FEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 23.8 dB; CAT6: 27.8 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 35.1 dB; CAT6: 43.1 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 17.4 dB; CAT6: 23.3 dB

PS-ELFEXT (minimum at 100 MHz) — CAT5e: 20.8 dB; CAT6: 24.8 dB

Return Loss (minimum at 100 MHz) —
Cable: CAT5e: 20.1 dB; CAT6: 20.1 dB
Connector: CAT5e: 20.0 dB: CAT6: 24.0 dB
Channel: CAT5e: 10.0 dB; CAT6: 12.0 dB

Characteristic Impedance — Both: 100 ohms ± 15%

Delay Skew (maximum per 100 m) — Both: 45 ns

NOTE: In Attenuation testing, the lower the number, the better. In NEXT, EL-FEXT, and Return Loss testing, the higher the number, the better. collapse


Black Box Explains...Fiber optic cable construction.

Fiber optic cable consists of a core, cladding, coating, strengthening fibers, and cable jacket.

Core
This is the physical medium that transports optical data signals from an attached light source to... more/see it nowa receiving device. The core is a single continuous strand of glass or plastic that’s measured (in microns) by the size of its outer diameter. The larger the core, the more light the cable can carry.

All fiber optic cable is sized according to its core’s outer diameter.

The three multimode sizes most commonly available are 50, 62.5, and 100 microns. Single-mode cores are generally less than 9 microns.

Cladding
This is a thin layer that surrounds the fiber core and serves as a boundary that contains the light waves and causes the refraction, enabling data to travel throughout the length of the fiber segment.

Coating
This is a layer of plastic that surrounds the core and cladding to reinforce the fiber core, help absorb shocks, and provide extra protection against excessive cable bends. These buffer coatings are measured in microns (µ) and can range from 250 to 900 microns.

Strengthening fibers
These components help protect the core against crushing forces and excessive tension during installation.

The materials can range from Kevlar® to wire strands to gel-filled sleeves.

Cable jacket
This is the outer layer of any cable. Most fiber optic cables have an orange jacket, although some types can have black or yellow jackets. collapse


Black Box Explains…Cooling blade servers.

Blade servers are hot. Really hot. These slim, high-powered CPUs generate heat like nothing you’ve ever installed in your data center before—a rack of blade servers can generate more heat... more/see it nowthan an electric oven! And as temperatures rise, servers may fail, leading to downtime and even data loss.

Needless to say, blade servers present a cooling challenge. If you plan to install them, you need to make sure you can accommodate their cooling needs.

Computer rooms have special equipment such as raised-floor cooling systems to meet their high cooling requirements, but it’s also important to ensure that cabinets used to house blade servers provide adequate ventilation—even in a cool room, hot spots can develop inside cabinets if air distribution is inadequate.

If you’re planning to install blade servers or other high-density components in cabinets, look for a cabinet with fully perforated doors in the front and rear— the greater the amount of perforation, the more cool air can be delivered to the components.

Don’t overload the cabinet by trying to fit in too many servers—75% to 80% of capacity is about right. Leave at least 1U of space between rows of servers for front-to-back ventilation. And finally, ensure all unused rack space is closed off with blank panels to prevent recirculation of warm air back to the front of the cabinet.

If you need help calculating your system’s cooling needs, contact our FREE Tech Support.
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Black Box Explains...Ceramic and composite ferrules.

Cables manufactured with ceramic ferrules are ideal for mission-critical applications or connections that are changed frequently. These cables are high quality and typically have a very long life. Ceramic ferrules... more/see it noware more precisely molded and fit closer to the fiber than their composite counterparts, which gives them a lower optical loss.

On the other hand, cables with composite ferrules are ideal for less critical applications or connections that won’t be changed frequently. Composite ferrule cables are characterized by low loss, good quality, and long life. collapse


Black Box Explains...What to look for in a channel solution.


Channel solution. You hear the term a lot these days to describe complete copper or fiber cabling systems. But what exactly is a channel solution and what are its benefits?... more/see it now

A definition.
A channel solution is a cabling system from the data center to the desktop where every cable, jack, and patch panel is designed to work together and give you consistent end-to-end performance when compared with the EIA/TIA requirements.

Its benefits.
A channel solution is beneficial because you have some assurance that your cabling components will perform as specified. Without that assurance, one part may not be doing its job, so your entire system may not be performing up to standard, which is a problem — especially if you rely on bandwidth-heavy links for video and voice.

What to look for.
There are a lot of channel solutions advertised on the Internet and elsewhere. So what exactly should you be looking for?

For one, make sure it’s a fully tested, guaranteed channel solution. The facts show an inferior cabling system can cause up to 70 percent of network downtime — even though it usually represents only 5 percent of an initial network investment. So don’t risk widespread failure by skimping on a system that doesn’t offer guaranteed channel performance. You need to make sure the products are engineered to meet or go beyond the key measurements for CAT5e or CAT6 performance.

And, sure, they may be designed to work together, but does the supplier absolutely guarantee how well they perform as part of a channel — end to end? Don’t just rely on what the supplier says. They may claim their products meet CAT5e or CAT6 requirements, but the proof is in the performance. Start by asking if the channel solution is independently tested and certified by a reputable third party. There are a lot of suppliers out there who don’t have the trademarked ETL approval logo, for example.

What ETL Verified means.
The ETL logo certifies that a channel solution has been found to be in compliance with recognized standards. To ensure consistent top quality, Black Box participates in independent third-party testing by InterTek Testing Services/ETL Semko, Inc. Once a quarter, an Intertek inspector visits Black Box and randomly selects cable and cabling products for testing.

The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable are ETL Verified at the component level to verify that they conform to the applicable industry standards. The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Channels, consisting of bulk cable, patch cable, jacks, patch panels, and wiring blocks, are tested and verified according to industry standards in a LAN environment under InterTek’s Cabling System Channel Verification Program. For the latest test results, contact our FREE Tech Support. 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


The difference between unmanaged, managed, and Web-smart switches

With regard to management options, the three primary classes of switches are unmanaged, managed, and Web smart. Which you choose depends largely on the size of your network and how... more/see it nowmuch control you need over that network.

Unmanaged switches are basic plug-and-play switches with no remote configuration, management, or monitoring options, although many can be locally monitored and configured via LED indicators and DIP switches. These inexpensive switches are typically used in small networks or to add temporary workgroups to larger networks.

Managed switches support Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) via embedded agents and have a command line interface (CLI) that can be accessed via serial console, Telnet, and Secure Shell. These switches can often be configured and managed as groups. More recent managed switches may also support a Web interface for management through a Web browser.

These high-end switches enable network managers to remotely access a wide range of capabilities including:

  • SNMP monitoring.
  • Enabling and disabling individual ports or port Auto MDI/MDI-X.
  • Port bandwidth and duplex control.
  • IP address management.
  • MAC address filtering.
  • Spanning Tree.
  • Port mirroring to monitor network traffic.
  • Prioritization of ports for quality of service (QoS).
  • VLAN settings.
  • 802.1X network access control.
  • IGMP snooping.
  • Link aggregation or trunking.

  • Managed switches, with their extensive management capabilities, are at home in large enterprise networks where network administrators need to monitor and control a large number of network devices. Managed switches support redundancy protocols for increased network availability.

    Web-smart switches—sometimes called smart switches or Web-managed switches—have become a popular option for mid-sized networks that require management. They offer access to switch management features such as port monitoring, link aggregation, and VPN through a simple Web interface via an embedded Web browser. What these switches generally do not have is SNMP management capabilities or a CLI. Web-smart switches must usually be managed individually rather than in groups.

    Although the management features found in a Web-smart switch are less extensive than those found in a fully managed switch, these switches are becoming smarter with many now offering many of the features of a fully managed switch. Like managed switches, they also support redundancy protocols for increased network availability.

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    Black Box Explains...Category 6.

    Category 6 (CAT6)–Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. In recent years, it has been the... more/see it nowcable of choice for new structured cabling systems. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).

    10-GbE over CAT6 introduces the problem of 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, TSB-155 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 up to 55 meters and requires it to be 100% tested. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that you unbundle the cables and increase the separation between the cables.

    You can always contact Black Box Tech Support to answer your cabling questions. Our techs can recommend cable testers and steer you in the right direction when you’re installing new cabling. And the advice is FREE! collapse


    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

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