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Black Box Explains...DS-3 and DS-4

Digital signal (DS) speeds are used to classify the capacities of lines and trunks as designated by the Trunk (T) carrier systems. The most well-known T carrier system is the... more/see it nowNorth American T1 standard, which was originally designed to transmit digitized voice signals at 1.544 Mbps (DS-1). T carrier systems now carry digital data as well as voice transmissions.

DS-3 lines offer the functional equivalent of 28 T1 channels, operating at 44.736 Mbps (commonly rounded up to 45 Mbps). These lines handle up to 672 voice conversations and are used in high-speed interconnect and DS cross-connect (DSX) applications.

DS-4 offers 274.176 Mbps transmission—the same as 4032 standard voice channels—and has 168 times the capacity of T1. This performance level is generally used for carrier backbone networks.

Products offering DS-3 and DS-4 functionality comply with T3 and T4 standards, respectively, and with Bellcore GR-139-CORE specifications. collapse


Black Box Explains...Fiber optic ferrule sleeves.

In a fiber optic adapter, the internal ferrule sleeve holds the fiber in place and aligns the filament of one fiber ferrule with its mate. The ferrule sleeve is the... more/see it nowmost expensive component to manufacture in a fiber optic adapter, accounting for approximately 80% of the total adapter cost.

The ferrule alignment sleeves are also the most critical part of a fiber optic connection process. They provide the bridge between one cable’s ferrule and another cable’s ferrule interface. The precision of the ferrule sleeve and its hole determines how well the fibers align, which affects the light signal transmission.

Fiber optic adapters are generally made with ceramic or metal ferrule sleeves. Some adapters also feature ferrule sleeves that are a combination of these materials.

Ceramic ferrule sleeves are more precisely molded and fit close to the fiber ferrule. This precise molding gives the fiber optic connection a lower optical loss. As a general rule, use ceramic ferrule sleeves for critical network connections, such as backbone runs in highly secure networks or for connections that will be changed frequently, like those in wiring closets. Ceramic ferrule sleeves best suit single-mode cable connections.

Ferrule sleeves made of metal, such as bronze ferrules, offer more durability than ceramic sleeves, but they may not offer the same precision alignment as ceramic ferrule sleeves. Drilling an accurate hole through the metal ferrule sleeve can be difficult, and that can result in less accurate fiber alignment. The use of watch-jeweled centering improves alignment. But overall, metal ferrule sleeves are better suited for multimode fiber applications where absolute alignment isn’t crucial.
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Black Box Explains...UTP cable and color drift.

UTP cable is often used with video or KVM extenders to extend the reach of a video signal. It’s popular for this application because it’s lightweight, easy to handle, and... more/see it nowinexpensive. But when you transmit video over long stretches of twisted-pair cable, you sometimes run into a phenomenon called color drift or color split.

Color drift shows up as that annoying colored shadow you occasionally see around objects on a video screen. It sometimes happens with UTP cable because the pairs of wire in the cable are twisted at slightly different rates to reduce crosstalk between pairs. Because of these differences between wire pairs, video signals for different colors often travel different distances before they reach the remote receiver. When one color signal arrives behind the others because its wire is longer, you get that red, green, or blue shadow around the objects on your video screen.

UTP cable varies widely by manufacturer, so before installing video extenders, it’s difficult to determine whether or not you’re going to have a color drift problem. You’re more likely to experience color drift with higher grades (CAT5e or CAT6) of cable, on longer cable runs, and on high-resolution screens.

If you experience color drift, there are several possible solutions. You can use a shorter length of cable, switch from CAT5e or CAT6 cable to CAT5 cable, use a lower screen resolution, or use a video skew compensator.

A video skew compensator removes color drift by delaying some color signals to compensate for differences in wire pairs. 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...Layer 3 switching.

In the last decade, network topologies have typically featured routers along with hubs or switches. The hub or switch acts as a central wiring point for LAN segments while the... more/see it nowrouter takes care of higher-level functions such as protocol translation, traffic between LAN segments, and wide-area access.

Layer 3 switching, which combines Layer 2 switching and Layer 3 IP routing, provides a more cost-effective way of setting up LANs by incorporating switching and routing into one device. While a traditional Layer 2 switch simply sends data along without examining it, a Layer 3 switch incorporates some features of a router in that it examines data packets before sending them on their way. The integration of switching and routing in a Layer 3 switch takes advantage of the speed of a switch and the intelligence of a router in one economical package.

There are two basic types of Layer 3 switching: packet-by-packet Layer 3 (PPL3) and cut-through Layer 3.

PPL3 switches are technically routers in that they examine all packets before forwarding them to their destinations. They achieve top speed by running protocols such as OSPF (Open Shortest Path First) and by using cache routing tables. Because these switches understand and take advantage of network topology, they can blow the doors off traditional routers with speeds of more than 7,000,000 (that’s seven million!) packets per second.

Cut-through Layer 3 switching relies on a shortcut for top speed. Cut-through Layer 3 switches, rather than examining every packet, examine only the first in a series to determine its destination. Once the destination is known, the data flow is switched at Layer 2 to achieve high speeds. collapse


Black Box Explains...SCSI Ultra2 and LVD (Low-Voltage Differential).

Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI), pronounced “scuzzy,” has been the dominant technology used to connect computers and high-speed peripherals since the 1980s. SCSI technology is constantly evolving to accommodate increased... more/see it nowbandwidth needs. One of the more recent developments is Ultra2 SCSI.

Because Ultra2 SCSI is backward compatible, it works with all legacy equipment. Ultra2 doubles the possible bandwidth on the bus from 40 to 80 MBps! Just as importantly, Ultra2 supports distances up to 12 meters (39.3 ft.) for a multiple-device configuration. Ultra2 uses Low-voltage Differential (LVD) techniques to transfer data at faster rates with fewer errors. Don’t confuse Ultra2 with LVD. Ultra2 is a data-transfer method; LVD is the signaling technique used to transfer the data.

Cables are very important when designing or upgrading a system to take advantage of Ultra2 SCSI. Cables and connectors must be of high quality and they should come from a reputable manufacturer to prevent crosstalk and minimize signal radiation. BLACK BOX® Ultra2 LVD cables are constructed of the finest-quality components to provide your system with the maximum protection and highest possible data-transfer rates. collapse


Black Box Explains...UARTs and PCI buses.

Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitters UARTs are designed to convert sync data from a PC bus to an async format that external I/O devices such as printers or modems use. UARTs insert... more/see it nowor remove start bits, stop bits, and parity bits in the data stream as needed by the attached PC or peripheral. They can provide maximum throughput to your high-performance peripherals without slowing down your CPU.

In the early years of PCs and single-application operating systems, UARTs interfaced directly between the CPU bus and external RS-232 I/O devices. Early UARTs did not contain any type of buffer because PCs only performed one task at a time and both PCs and peripherals were slow.

With the advent of faster PCs, higher-speed modems, and multitasking operating systems, buffering (RAM or memory) was added so that UARTs could handle more data. The first buffered UART was the 16550 UART, which incorporates a 16-byte FIFO (First In First Out) buffer and can support sustained data-transfer rates up to 115.2 kbps.

The 16650 UART features a 32-byte FIFO and can handle sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps. Burst data rates of up to 921.6 kbps have even been achieved in laboratory tests.

The 16750 UART has a 64-byte FIFO. It also features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps but delivers better performance because of its larger buffer.

Used in newer PCI cards, the 16850 UART has a 128-byte FIFO buffer for each port. It features sustained baud rates of 460.8 kbps.

The Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI®) Bus enhances both speed and throughput. PCI Local Bus is a high-performance bus that provides a processor-independent data path between the CPU and high-speed peripherals. PCI is a robust interconnect interface designed specifically to accommodate multiple high-performance peripherals for graphics, full-motion video, SCSI, and LANs.

A Universal PCI (uPCI) card has connectors that work with both a newer 3.3-V power supply and motherboard and with older 5.5-V versions. collapse


Black Box Explains…Terminating fiber.

Terminating fiber cable used to be a job for experts only. But today, prepolished connectors make it possible for anyone to terminate multimode fiber—all you need is a bit of... more/see it nowpatience and the right tools. Here’s how to terminate fiber with ST connectors:

Step 1 — Slide the connector strain-relief boot, small end first, onto the cable.

Step 2 — Using a template, mark the jacket dimensions to be stripped (40 mm and 52 mm from the end).

Step 3 — Remove the outer jacket from the cable end to the 40 mm mark. Cut the exposed Kevlar. Carefully remove the jacket to the 52-mm mark, exposing the remaining length of Kevlar.

Step 4 — Fan out the Kevlar fibers and slide the crimp ring of the connector approximately 5 mm over the fibers to hold them out of the way. Mark the fiber buffer 11 mm from the end of the cable jacket. Also, mark the buffer where it meets the jacket.

Step 5 — Bit by bit, strip off the buffering until you reach the 11-mm mark. Check the mark you made on the buffer at the jacket. If it’s moved, carefully work the buffer back into the jacket to its original position.

Step 6 — Clean the glass fiber with an alcohol wipe. Cleave the fiber to an 8-mm length.

Step 7 — Carefully insert the fiber into the connector until you feel it bottom out and a bow forms between the connector and the clamp. Cam the connector with the appropriate tool.

Step 8 — Crimp the connector.

Step 9 — Slide the crimp ring up the jacket away from the connector, releasing the Kevlar fibers. Fan the fiber so they encircle the buffer. The ends of the fibers should just touch the rear of the connector—if they’re too long, trim them now.

Step 10 — Crimp the connector again.

Step 11 — Slide the strain-relief boot over the rear of the connector. You might want to put a bead of 411 Loctite adhesive for extra strength on the rear of the boot where it meets the jacket.

Although the details may vary slightly with different connectors and termination kits, the basic termination procedure is the same. collapse


Black Box Explains...Terminal Servers

A terminal server (sometimes called a serial server) is a hardware device that enables you to connect serial devices across a network.

Terminal servers acquired their name because they were originally... more/see it nowused 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. If, however, 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... Using fiber optics for KVM extension.

If you‘re sending KVM signals between buildings for an extended distance, in areas supplied by different power sources, in an electrically noisy environment, or where data security is a big... more/see it nowconcern, you need to use a fiber optic-based KVM extender.

Optical fiber is an ideal transmission medium not only for backbone and horizontal connection, but also for workstation-to-backracked CPU or server links. It works very well in applications where you need to transfer large, bandwidth-consuming data files over long distances, and where you require immunity from electrical interference or data theft.

The choice for extraordinary reach.
Fiber doesn’t have the 100-meter (328-ft.) distance limitation that UTP copper without a booster does. Fiber distances can range from 300 meters (984.2 ft.) to 70 kilometers (24.8 mi.), depending on the cable, wavelength, and network. With fiber-based KVM extenders, the transmitter converts conventional data signals into a modulated light beam, then transports the beam via the fiber to a receiver, which converts the light back into electrical signals.

Many newer fiber-based KVM extenders support both analog and digital transmission. Often, they work by digitizing video output from a local CPU, then sending it across fiber link to a remote unit, which converts it back to the original analog signal. In many cases, one fiber of the fiber pair transmits monitor video serially and the second fiber sends remote mouse and keyboard information back to the local CPU.

The choice for ensuring signal integrity.
Because fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, no electric current can flow through. It’s immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. This is why fiber-based KVM extenders are beneficial to users in process control, engineering, utility, and factory automation applications. The users need to keep critical information safe and secure off the factory floor but be able to access that data from workstations and control consoles within the harsh environments. Plus, fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper is, and it can be submerged ?in water.

The choice for greater signal fidelity.
Fiber-based KVM extenders can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper-based ones can. For this reason, they’re ideal for high-data-rate systems in which multimedia workstations are used.

Newer KVM extenders enable you to send both DVI and keyboard and mouse signals over the same fiber cable, transmitting video digitally for zero signal loss. This way, you can get HD-quality resolution even at very long distances from the source. Users in university or government R&D, broadcasting, healthcare—basically anyone who depends on detailed image rendering—can benefit from this technology.

The choice for data security.
Plus, your data is safe when using fiber to connect a workstation with a CPU or server under lock and key. It doesn’t radiate signals and is extremely difficult to tap. If the cable is tapped, it’s very easy to monitor because the cable leaks light, causing the entire system to fail. If an attempt is made to break the physical security of your fiber system, you’ll know it.

Many IT managers in military, government, finance, and healthcare choose fiber-based KVM extenders for this very reason. Plus corporations, aware of rising data privacy concerns over customer billing information and the need to protect intellectual property, use this type of extension technology in their offices, too.

Considerations for fiber-based KVM extension.
Before selecting a fiber-based KVM extender, it’s important to know the limitations of your system. You need to know where couplers, links, interconnect equipment, and other devices are going to be placed. If it’s a longer run, you have to determine whether multimode or single-mode fiber cable is needed.

The most important consideration in planning cabling for fiber-based KVM extension is the power budget specification of device connection. The receiver at the remote end has to receive the light signal at a certain level. This value, called the loss budget, tells you the amount of loss in decibels (dB) that can be present in the link between the two devices before the units fail to perform properly.

Specifically, this value takes the fiber type (multimode or single-mode) and wavelength you intend to use—and the amount of expected in-line attenuation—into consideration. This is the decrease of signal strength as it travels through the fiber cable. In the budget loss calculation, you also have to account for splices, patch panels, and connectors, where additional dBs may lost in the entire end-to-end fiber extension. If the measured loss is less than the number calculated by your loss budget, your installation is good.

Testers are available to determine if the fiber cabling supports your intended application. You can measure how much light is going to the other end of the cable. Generally, these testers give you the results in dB lost, which you then compare to the loss budget to determine your link loss margin.

Also, in some instances, particularly when using single-mode fiber to drive the signal farther, the signal may be too strong between connected devices. This causes the light signal to reflect back down the fiber cable, which can corrupt data, result in a faulty transmission, and even damage equipment. To prevent this, use fiber attenuators. They’re used with ?single-mode fiber optic devices and cable to filter the strength of the fiber optic signal from the transmitter’s LED output so it doesn’t overwhelm the receiver. Depending on the type of attenuator attached to the devices at each end of the link, you can diminish the strength of the light signal a variable amount by a certain number of decibels.

Need help calculating your budget loss? Call our FREE Tech Support. If necessary, they can even recommend a fusion splicing fiber kit, a fiber tester, or a signal attenuator for your specific requirements. collapse

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