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Black Box Explains…How to keep cabinets cool.

Networking equipment—especially servers—generates a lot of heat in a relatively small area. Today’s servers are smaller and have faster CPUs than ever. Because most of the power used by these... more/see it nowdevices is dissipated into the air as heat, they can really strain the cooling capacity of your data center. The components housed in a medium-sized data center can easily generate enough heat to heat a house in the dead of winter!

So cool you must, because when network components become hot, they're prone to failure and a shortened lifespan.

Damage caused by heat is not always immediately evident as a catastrophic meltdown—signs of heat damage include node crashes and hardware failures that can happen over a period of weeks or even months, leading to chronic downtime.

Computer rooms generally have special equipment such as high-capacity air conditioning and raised-floor cooling systems to meet their high cooling requirements. However, it's also important to ensure that individual cabinets used for network equipment provide adequate ventilation. Even if your data center is cool, the inside of a cabinet may overheat if air distribution is inadequate. Just cranking up the air conditioning is not the solution.

The temperature inside a cabinet is affected by many variables, including door perforations, cabinet size, and the types of components housed within the cabinet.

The most direct way to cool network equipment is to ensure adequate airflow. The goal is to ensure that every server, every router, every switch has the necessary amount of air no matter how high or low it is in the cabinet.

It takes a certain volume of air to cool a device to within its ideal temperature range. Equipment manufacturers provide very little guidance about how to do this; however, there are some very basic methods you can use to maximize the ventilation within your cabinets.

Open it up.
Most major server manufacturers recommend that the front and back cabinet doors have at least 63% open area for airflow. You can achieve this by either removing cabinet doors altogether or by buying cabinets that have perforated doors.

Because most servers, as well as other network devices, are equipped with internal fans, open or perforated doors may be the only ventilation you need as long as your data center has enough air conditioning to dissipate the heat load.

You may also want to choose cabinets with side panels to keep the air within each cabinet from mixing with hot air from an adjacent cabinet.

Equipment placement.
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. Maintain at least a 1.5" clearance between equipment and the front and back of the cabinet. And finally, ensure all unused rack space is closed off with blank panels to prevent recirculation of warm air.

Fans and fan placement.
You can increase ventilation even more by installing fans to actively circulate air through cabinets. The most common cabinet fans are top-mounted fan panels that pull air from the bottom of the cabinet or through the doors. For spot cooling, use a fan or fan panel that mounts inside the cabinet.

For very tightly-packed cabinets, choose an enclosure blower—a specialized high-speed fan that mounts in the bottom of the cabinet to pull a column of cool air from the floor across the front of your servers or other equipment. An enclosure blower requires a solid or partially vented front door with adequate space—usually at least 4 inches—between the front of your equipment and the cabinet door for air movement.

When using fans to cool a cabinet, keep in mind that cooling the outside of a component doesn't necessarily cool its inside. The idea is to be sure that the air circulates where your equipment's air intake is. Also, beware of installing fans within the cabinets that work against the small fans in your equipment and overwhelm them.

Temperature monitoring.
To ensure that your components are operating within their approved temperature range, it’s important to monitor conditions within your cabinets.

The most direct method to monitor cabinet temperature is to put a thermometer into your cabinet and check it regularly. This simple and inexpensive method can work well for for small installations, but it does have its drawbacks—a cabinet thermometer can’t tell you what the temperature inside individual components is, it can’t raise the alarm if the temperature goes out of range, and it must be checked manually.

Another simple and inexpensive addition to a cabinet is a thermostat that automatically turns on a fan when the cabinet's temperature exceeds a predetermined limit.

Many network devices come with SNMP or IP-addressable internal temperature sensors to tell you what the internal temperature of the component is. This is the preferred temperature monitoring method because these sensors are inside your components where the temperature really counts. Plus you can monitor them from your desktop—they’ll send you an alert if there’s a problem.

There are also cabinet temperature sensors that can alert you over your network. These sensors are often built into another device such as a PDA but only monitor cabinet temperature, not the temperature inside individual devices. However, these sensors can be a valuable addition to your cooling plan, especially for older devices that don't have internal sensors.

The future of cabinet cooling.
Very high-density data centers filled with blade servers present an extreme cooling challenge, causing some IT managers to resort to liquid-cooled cabinets. They’re still fairly new and tend to make IT managers nervous at the prospect of liquids near electronics, but their high efficiency makes it likely that these liquid-cooled systems will become more prevalent.

It’s easy, really.
Keeping your data and server cabinets cool doesn't have to be complicated. Just remember not to overcrowd the cabinets, be sure to provide adequate ventilation, and always monitor conditions within your cabinets. collapse


Black Box Explains... G.703.

G.703 is the ITU-T recommendation covering the 4-wire physical interface and digital signaling specification for transmission at 2.048 Mbps (E1). G.703 also includes specifications for U.S. 1.544-Mbps T1 but is... more/see it nowstill generally used to refer to the European 2.048-Mbps transmission interface. collapse


Black Box Explains...Cable management.

Corporate networks are complex systems of PCs, servers, printers, and the devices that connect them. Getting everything to work in harmony requires bundles of cables, and managing all those cables... more/see it nowfrom inside a telecommunications closet can be a daunting task. To connect cable bundles to rackmounted equipment (like patch panels, hubs, switches, or routers), you need to direct the bundles overhead, vertically, and horizontally.

A popular choice for overhead cable routing is a ladder rack. Ladder racks come in many varieties. They can run along a wall supported by brackets or they can be installed overhead and supported by a threaded rod. Ladder racks can support large cable bundles neatly and safely. Because bundles lie flat on a ladder rack, cables aren’t subjected to harsh bends. You can run ladder racks directly to the top of most standard telecommunications racks that conform to TIA/EIA standards.

Use vertical cable managers to route cable bundles along the sides of a rack. These “cable troughs” as they’re sometimes called can be single sided—or double sided to route cable bundles to the rear of equipment and to the ports on the front as well. Vertical cable managers usually come with some type of protection for the cable, such as grommeted holes to protect the cable jacket or a cover that may clip on or act as a door.

Horizontal cable managers are usually a series of rings that directs cables in an orderly fashion toward the ports of hubs, switches, and patch panels. collapse


Black Box Explains... Crosstalk.

One of the most important cable measurements is Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT). It’s signal interference from one pair that adversely affects another pair on the same end.

Not only can crosstalk... more/see it nowoccur between adjacent wire pairs (“pair-to-pair NEXT“), but all other pairs in a UTP cable can also contribute their own levels of both near-end and far-end crosstalk, multiplying the adverse effects of this interference onto a transmitting or receiving wire pair.

Because such compounded levels of interference can prove crippling in high-speed networks, some cable manufacturers have begun listing Power Sum NEXT (PS-NEXT), FEXT, ELFEXT, and PS-ELFEXT ratings for their CAT5e and CAT6 cables. Here are explanations of the different types of measurements:

NEXT measures an unwanted signal transmitted from one pair to another on the near end.

PS-NEXT (Power Sum crosstalk) is a more rigorous crosstalk measurement that includes the total sum of all interference that can possibly occur between one pair and all the adjacent pairs in the same cable sheath. It measures the unwanted signals from multiple pairs at the near end onto another pair at the near end.

FEXT (Far-End crosstalk) measures an unwanted signal from a pair transmitting on the near end onto a pair at the far end. This measurement takes full-duplex operation into account where signals are generated simultaneously on both ends.

ELFEXT (Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk) measures the FEXT in relation to the received signal level measured on that same pair. It basically measures interference without the effects of attenuation—the equal level.

PS-ELFEXT (Power Sum Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk), an increasingly common measurement, measures the total sum of all intereference from pairs on the far end to a pair on the near end without the effects of attenuation. collapse


Black Box Explains...Gold plating.

Get premium-quality connectors from Black Box. The 24-karat gold plating ensures better signal transmission and no corrosion. The shielding and heavy gold conductors provide improved performance.


Black Box Explains...Power problems.

Sags
The Threat — A sag is a decline in the voltage level. Also known as “brownouts,” sags are the most common power problem.

The Cause — Sags can be caused... more/see it nowlocally by the start-up demands of electrical devices such as motors, compressors, and elevators. Sags may also happen during periods of high electrical use, such as during a heat wave.

The Effect — Sags are often the cause of “unexplained” computer glitches such as system crashes, frozen keyboards, and data loss. Sags can also reduce the efficiency and lifespan of electrical motors.

Blackouts
The Threat — A blackout is a total loss of power.

The Cause — Blackouts are caused by excessive demand on the power grid, an act of nature such as lightning or an earthquake, or a human accident such as a car hitting a power pole or a backhoe digging in the wrong place.

The Effect — Of course a blackout brings everything to a complete stop. You also lose any unsaved data stored in RAM and may even lose the total contents of your hard drive.

Spikes
The Threat — A spike, also called an impulse, is an instantaneous, dramatic increase in voltage.

The Cause — A spike is usually caused by a nearby lightning strike but may also occur when power is restored after a blackout.

The Effect — A spike can damage or completely destroy electrical components and also cause data loss.

Surges
The Threat — A surge is an increase in voltage lasting at least 1/120 of a second.

The Cause — When high-powered equipment such as an air conditioner is powered off, the excess voltage is dissipated though the power line causing a surge.

The Effect — Surges stress delicate electronic components causing them to wear out before their time.

Noise
The Threat — Electrical noise, more technically called electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI), interrupts the smooth sine wave expected from electrical power.

The Cause — Noise has many causes including nearby lightning, load switching, industrial equipment, and radio transmitters. It may be intermittent or chronic.

The Effect — Noise introduces errors into programs and data files. 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...The fully accessorized rack.

After you choose your rack, consider how you’ll set it up and what accessories you might need.

Your rack may need to be secured. A typical rack has about a... more/see it now15"-deep base, providing some stability, but not enough to prevent the rack from tipping if heavy objects are mounted on it. To solve this problem, most rack bases can be bolted to the floor.

You also need to decide how to accommodate standalone equipment, which is not actually rackmounted or bolted to the rack. You can place small devices on a cantilevered shelf such as the RM001, however, you should place heavier items such as monitors on a center-weight shelf such as the RM377.

Small extras, such as Patch Panel Hinge Kits, can make your job easier. These hinges enable you to access the back of a patch panel simply by swinging it out from the rack. They’re particularly useful for racks in hard-to-reach areas.

If you need to mount both 19" and 23" equipment in the same rack, use a 23" rack with 23"-to-19" Rackmount Adapters to fit the 19" devices.

For a neater appearance, you can cover unused spaces in a rack with Filler Panels.

Cable management is also an important consideration. Our Horizontal and Vertical Cable Managers help you to route cables along the sides of racks, between racks, and to the rackmounted equipment. collapse


Black Box Explains...Choosing cabinets and racks.



Why cabinets? Why racks?


A cabinet is an enclosure with a door (or doors); a rack is an open frame. There are several things you... more/see it nowshould consider when you’re deciding whether you need an enclosed cabinet or a rack.


First, what equipment will you be putting in it? The extra stability of a cabinet might be important if you’re installing large, heavy equipment like servers. But if you need frequent access to all sides of the equipment, an open rack might be more convenient. And if your equipment needs a lot of ventilation, you’ll have to be more careful about the air supply if you enclose it in a cabinet.


Second, in what environment will you be installing it? If the environment is open or dusty, for example, you might need the extra protection of an enclosed cabinet. On the other hand, a rack might be perfectly adequate in a well-maintained data center.


Don’t neglect aesthetics. Will customers or clients see your installation? A cabinet with a door looks much neater than an open rack. When you’re trying to create a professional image, everything counts.


Finally, there’s security. An enclosed cabinet can be locked with a simple lock and key.


On the other hand, there are advantages to open racks, too. It’s easier to get at all sides of the equipment. But you’ll have to take other steps to keep the equipment secure-keeping it in a locked room, for example.


Both cabinets and racks come in all sizes and in many different installation styles. Some are freestanding; some are designed to be mounted on a wall. Others sit on the floor but attach to the wall for more stability.


If you need to set up your installation in a hurry, you can order a preassembled cabinet. You’re ready to load your equipment as soon as the cabinet arrives.


Choosing the right server cabinet.

Consider this quick checklist of features when choosing a server cabinet:

  • High-volume airflow. The requirements for additional airflow increase as more servers are mounted in a cabinet. Additionally, manufacturers are making servers narrower to increase available space. But with more servers in the same amount of space, heat buildup is frequently a problem.
  • Extra depth to accommodate newer, deeper servers.
  • Adjustable rails.
  • Rails with M6 square holes. Although 10-32 tapped and drilled holes are sometimes still required, newer hardware has M6 square holes. Know which type of mounting equipment you’ll need.
  • Front and/or rear accessibility.
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 with 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 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.


Choosing the right rack.

Before you choose a rack, you have to determine what equipment you need to house. This list can include CPUs, monitors, keyboards, modems, servers, switches, hubs, routers, and UPSs. Consider the size and weight of all your equipment as well. The rack must be large and strong enough to hold everything you have now, and you’ll also want to leave extra room for growth.

Most racks are designed to hold equipment that’s 19" (48.3 cm) wide. But height and depth may vary from rack to rack. Common rack heights range from 39" (99.1 cm) to 87" (221 cm).


Another measurement you should know about is the rack unit. One rack unit, abbreviated as U, equals 1.75" (4.4 cm). A rack that is 20U, for example, has 20 rack spaces for equipment, or is 35" high (88.9 cm).


Understanding cabinet and rack measurements.

The main component of a cabinet or rack is a set of vertical rails with mounting holes to which you attach your equipment or shelves. When you consider the width or height of the rack, clarify whether they are inside or outside dimensions.

The first measurement you need to know is the width between the rails. The most common size is 19 inches with hole-to-hole centers measuring 18.3 inches. But there are also 23-inch and 24-inch cabinets and racks. Most rackmount equipment is made to fit 19-inch rails but can be adapted to fit wider rails.


After the width, the most important specification is the number of rack units, abbreviated “U.” It’s a measurement of vertical space available on the rails. Because the width is standard, the amount of vertical space is what determines how much equipment you can actually install. Remember that this measurement of usable vertical space is smaller than the external height of the cabinet or rack.


One rack unit (1U) is 1.75 inches of usable vertical space. So, for example, a rackmount device that’s 2U high will take up 3.5 inches of rack space. A rack that’s 20U high will have 35 inches of usable space.

Because both racks and the equipment that fit in them are usually measured in rack units, it’s easy to figure out how much equipment you can fit in a given cabinet or rack.



Do you need a fan?

Even if your cabinet or rack is in a climate-controlled room, the equipment in it can generate a lot of heat. You may want to consider adding a fan to help keep your equipment from overheating. It’s especially important to have adequate ventilation in an enclosed cabinet.


Getting power to your equipment.

Unless you want to live in a forest of extension cords, you’ll need one or more power strips. Some cabinets come with power strips built in.


If you need to order a power strip, consider which kind will be best for your installation. Rackmount power strips come in versions that mount either vertically or horizontally. Some have outlets that are spaced widely to accommodate transformer blocks-a useful feature if your equipment uses bulky power transformers.


Surge protection is another important issue. Some power strips have built-in surge protection; some don’t. With all the money you have invested in rackmount equipment, you’ll certainly want to make sure it’s protected.


Any mission-critical equipment should also be connected to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS keeps your equipment from crashing during a brief blackout or brownout and gives you enough time to shut down everything properly in an extended power outage. You can choose a rackmount UPS for the most critical equipment, or you can plug the whole rack into a standalone UPS.


Managing the cables.

Your equipment may look very tidy when it’s neatly stacked in a cabinet. But you still have an opportunity to make a mess once you start connecting it all. Unless you’re very careful with your cables, you can create a rat’s nest you’ll never be able to sort out.


There are many cabinet and rack accessories that can simplify cable organization. We have Cable Management Guides, Rackmount Cable Raceways, Horizontal Covered Organizers, Vertical Cable Organizers, Horizontal Wire Ring Panels, and Cable Manager Hangers-all designed to help you manage your cables more easily.


Plotting your connections in advance helps you to decide how to organize the cables. Knowing where the connectors are on your equipment tells you where it’s most efficient to run cables horizontally and where it’s better to run them vertically.

The important thing is to have a plan. Most network problems are in the cabling, so if you let your cables get away from you now, you’re sure to pay for it down the road.


Asking for help.

When you’re setting up a cabinet or rack, you have a lot of different factors to consider. Black Box Tech Support is always happy to help you figure out what you need and how to put it together. For cabinets and racks solutions, call our Connectivity Group at 724-746-5500, press 1, 2, 2.

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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)


  • 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.
Thin Ethernet (ThinNet) (10BASE2)


  • 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.
Twisted-Pair Ethernet (10BASE-T)


  • 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.
Fiber Optic Ethernet (10BASE-FL, FOIRL)


  • 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.
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