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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...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.

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DisplayPort cable.

DisplayPort is a digital video interface that was designed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) in 2006 and has been produced since 2008. It’s incredibly versatile, with the capability... more/see it nowto deliver digital video, audio, bidirectional communications, and accessory power over a single connector.

DisplayPort cables are targeted at the computer world rather than at consumer electronics. DisplayPort is used to connect digital audio/video computers, displays, monitors, projectors, HDTVs, splitters, extenders, and other devices that support resolutions up to 4K and beyond. Unlike HDMI, however, DisplayPort is an open standard with no royalties.

With the proper adapters, DisplayPort cable can carry DVI and HDMI signals, although this doesn’t work the other way around—DVI and HDMI cable can’t carry DisplayPort. Because DisplayPort can provide power to attached devices, DisplayPort to HDMI or DVI adapters don’t need a separate power supply.

DisplayPort supports cable lengths of up to 15 meters with maximum resolutions at cable lengths up to 3 meters. Bidirectional signaling enables DisplayPort to both send and receive data from an attached device.

DisplayPort v1.1: 10.8 Gbps over a 2-meter cable.

DisplayPort v1.2: 21.6 Gbps (4K). DisplayPort v1.2 also enables you to daisychain up to four monitors with only a single output cable. It also offers the future promise of DisplayPort Hubs that would operate much like a USB hub.

DisplayPort v1.3: 2.4 Gbps. (5K)

The standard DisplayPort connector is very compact and features latches that don’t add to the connector’s size. Unlike HDMI, a DisplayPort connector is easily lockable with a pinch-down locking hood, so it can't be easily dislodged. However, a quick squeeze of the connector releases the latch.

The Mini DisplayPort (MiniDP or mDP) is a miniatured version of the DisplayPort interface. It carries both digital and analog computer video and audio signals. Apple® introduced the Mini DisplayPort connector in 2008 and it is now on all new Mac® computers. It is also being used in newer PC notebooks. This small form factor connector fully supports the VESA DisplayPort protocol. It is particularly useful on systems where space is at a premium, such as laptops, or to support multiple connectors on reduced height add-in cards.

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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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Cold aisle containment.

Cold aisle containment (CAC) is a cooling method that increases cooling efficiency and reduces energy costs in data centers.

This cooling method relies on the fact that most network equipment... more/see it nowand servers are designed to cool themselves by drawing air in through the front and exhausting it out the rear. To implement cold aisle containment, rows of cabinets or racks are arranged facing each other to form aisles, and cool air is routed between the rows. Equipment takes the cool air in at the front of the cabinet and exhausts it out the back into the room.

To keep cool air from mixing with warm air, row ends are closed off with an air-flow barrier. This barrier can range from makeshift arrangements of plastic strips to doors made expressly for this purpose.

Because cold aisle containment concentrates cool air at the front of equipment where it’s most needed, it’s an exceptionally effective cooling method. Cold aisle containment significantly reduces energy costs, lowering power bills as well as reducing data centers’ carbon footprints. collapse


Black Box Explains... SNMP.

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) management is the standard for LAN management, particularly in mission-critical applications. The standard is controlled by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It was designed... more/see it nowto manage network configuration, performance, faults, accounting, and security.

An SNMP agent must be present at the device level (a router or a hub, for example), either built into the unit or as a proxy agent, and is accessed through a remote terminal. SNMP does not follow a polling protocol. It waits to receive data from the remote device or sends data based on operator commands.

By using one common set of standards, SNMP enables network administrators to manage, monitor, and control their SNMP-compliant network equipment with one management system and from one management station. If a network device goes down, it|s possible to both pinpoint and troubleshoot the problem more efficiently. And a network administrator isn’t limited to equipment from just one vendor when using an SNMP program. collapse


Black Box Explains...10-32, 12-24, and M6 rails.

The rails on cabinets and racks typically come with one of three mounting options: 10-32, 12-24, or M6.

The 10-32 and 12-24 options are round holes found on drilled and tapped... more/see it nowrails. You’ll find 10-32 openings on cabinets, while 12-24 holes are more commonly found on relay racks and frames. However, exceptions do exist. It’s very important to find out which type of mounting option your equipment requires before you order a cabinet or rack.

M6 holes are square, rather than round. M6 rails were developed to hold rackmount equipment, and you will find them on most server cabinets.

What makes M6 rails so popular on server cabinets? They’re adaptable. With just one cage nut, you can change a square hole into a round one. That gives you much more versatility in your equipment and mounting choices.

If you have a wide array of equipment, such as rackmount servers, hubs, routers, and patch panels, your best bet is a cabinet with M6 rails. It will accommodate the rackmount servers, and the other equipment can be mounted on those same rails using cage nuts.

If you’re unsure what type of cabinet, rack, or frame is best for your application, contact the experts at Black Box Tech Support. They’ll be glad to help you find the right enclosure for your equipment. 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...Insertion loss.

Insertion loss is a power loss that results from inserting a component into a previously continuous path or creating a splice in it. It is measured by the amount of... more/see it nowpower received before and after the insertion.

In copper cable, insertion loss measures electrical power lost from the beginning of the run to the end.

In fiber cable, insertion loss (also called optical loss) measures the amount of light lost from beginning to end. Light can be lost many ways: absorption, diffusion, scattering, dispersion, and more. It can also be from poor connections and splices in which the fibers don’t align properly.

Light loss is measured in decibels (dBs), which indicate relative power. A loss of 10 dB means a tenfold reduction in power.

Light strength can be measured with optical power meters, optical loss test sets, and other test sets that send a known light source through the fiber and measure its strength on the other end. collapse


Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and other digital display interfaces.

There are three main types of digital video interfaces: P&D, DFP, and DVI. P&D (Plug & Display, also known as EVC), the earliest of these technologies, supports both digital and... more/see it nowanalog RGB connections and is now used primarily on projectors. DFP (Digital Flat-Panel Port) was the first digital-only connector on displays and graphics cards; it’s being phased out.

There are different types of DVI connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. Some manufacturers are offering the DVI-I connector type on their products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. DVI-A is used to carry an analog DVI signal to a VGA device, such as a display. DFP, like DVI-D, was an early digital-only connector used on some displays; it’s being phased out. EVC (also known as P&D) is similar to DVI-I only it’s slightly larger in size. It also handles digital and analog connections, and it’s used primarily on projectors.

All these standards are based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to a low level to create transitions that convey data. TMDS uses a pair of signal wires to minimize the number of transitions needed to transfer data. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy. collapse

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