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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...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...NEMA ratings for enclosures.

The National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (NEMA) issues guidelines and ratings for an enclosure’s level of protection against contaminants that might come in contact with its enclosed equipment.

There are many numerical... more/see it nowNEMA designations; we’ll discuss NEMA enclosures relevant to our on-line catalog: NEMA 3, NEMA 3R, NEMA 4, NEMA 4X, and NEMA 12.

NEMA 3 enclosures, designed for both indoor and outdoor use, provide protection against falling dirt, windblown dust, rain, sleet, and snow, as well as ice formation.

The NEMA 3R rating is identical to NEMA 3 except that it doesn’t specify protection against windblown dust.

NEMA 4 and 4X enclosures, also designed for indoor and outdoor use, protect against windblown dust and rain, splashing and hose-directed water, and ice formation. NEMA 4X goes further than NEMA 4, specifying that the enclosure will also protect against corrosion caused by the elements.

NEMA 12 enclosures are constructed for indoor use only and are designed to provide protection against falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, and dripping or splashing noncorrosive liquids. Protection against oil and coolant seepage is also a prerequisite for NEMA 12 designation. 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.

Black Box Explains…TEMPEST.

TEMPEST is an acronym for Telecommunications Electronics Material Protected from Emanating Spurious Transmissions. It pertains to technical security countermeasures, standards, and instrumentation that prevent or minimize the exploitation of vulnerable... more/see it nowdata communication equipment by technical surveillance or eavesdropping.

What puts your data communication equipment at risk? Many things. But first and foremost, its microchip.

Any device with a microchip generates an electromagnetic field, often called a “compromising emanation” by security experts. With the proper surveillance equipment, these emanations can be intercepted and the signal reconstructed and analyzed. Unprotected equipment can, in fact, emit a signal into the air like a radio station—and nobody wants to risk his or her job and a whole lot more by broadcasting national security or trade secrets to the wrong people.

Some of the most vulnerable devices are speakerphones, printers, fax machines, scanners, external disc drives, and other high-speed, high-bandwidth peripherals. If the snoop is using a high-quality interception device, your equipment’s signals can be acquired up to several hundred feet away.

Arguably one of the most vulnerable pieces of equipment is an analog VGA monitor. If a spy were to introduce a Trojan into your system, he or she could monitor and store key presses and passwords used during the day. When the system’s not in use at night, the spy could pulse the VGA screen with grayscale images that have a strong signal at particular frequencies. VGA uses single-ended signaling that has a high common-mode emission level not protected by cable shielding, and it’s possible to monitor these signals outside the secure zone using a radio receiver. Even without a Trojan, a sophisticated receiver located nearby picks up and views what’s on the VGA monitor.

What TEMPEST is and isn’t.
It should come as no surprise that the Federal government became concerned about signal leakage. In fact, its interest goes back to the days of World War I when the Army was trying to exploit weaknesses of enemy combat phones and radio transmitters. Since then, the scope of the government’s interests has broadened beyond battlefield equipment. In the last 40 years, the National Security Agency (NSA) has taken several industry measurement standards and greatly beefed them up. These enhanced criteria are commonly referred to as the TEMPEST standards (although the NSA also calls them EMSEC standards, short for “emissions security”).

TEMPEST disciplines involve designing circuits to minimize emanations and the application of appropriate shielding, grounding, and bonding. Some methods used include radiation screening, alarms, and isolation.

A TEMPEST-approved device resembles its non-secure version with a few key differences. If it’s a network component such as a switch, it comes in a heavy metal case. It also has special shielding, a modified power supply, and perhaps a few other modifications from the standard model. If you need to open the device’s case, a special torque wrench for use with TEMPEST-only products is required.

TEMPEST test equipment is very expensive and is sold exclusively to government agencies. Nobody can sell you commercial TEMPEST testing equipment. And if someone offers you a “TEMPEST surveillance system,” you need to be aware of two things: First, TEMPEST is counter-surveillance science and the offer is a fraud; second, the salesperson is committing a federal felony.

If you buy surveillance equipment—authentic or not—then you have also commited a felony. Construction of, possession of, attempting a sale of, or attempting a purchase of said surveillance equipment is illegal. Even if the product purchased is a hoax, the law will take your intentions into account as much as the salesperson’s. Don’t be surprised if you both go to jail.

In the United States, you can learn about TEMPEST testing only in special schools sanctioned by, if not run by, the NSA. Courses to earn the TEMPEST Technician or TEMPEST Engineer certifications are very expensive. These classes are offered to a limited number of people who have a very high level of security clearance and who will be working on TEMPEST-approved equipment all the time.

TEMPEST ratings.
All TEMPEST-approved communication devices have a rating based on their application and/or environment.

Type 1: This rating is for classified cryptographic equipment used for national security purposes. It’s endorsed by the NSA for securing telecommunications and automated information systems and for the protection of classified or sensitive U.S. Government information.

Type 2: This rating is for unclassified cryptographic equipment used by U.S. Government agencies, state and local governments, and sponsored U.S. Government contractors. It’s endorsed by the NSA for securing telecommunications and automated information systems and for the protection of unclassified but sensitive information, such as contract bids.

Type 3: This rating is for unclassified commercial cryptographic equipment that implements an algorithm registered with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It’s for use in protecting sensitive information, like a corporation’s network communications. 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...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.


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:
A1: Red
A2: Green/Gray
A3: Blue
1: Ground*
2: Vertical Sync*
3: Sense 2
4: Sense Ground
5: Composite Sync 
6: Horizontal Sync*
7: Ground*
8: Sense 1
9: Sense 0
10: Composite Ground

* Considered obsolete; may not be connected. collapse

Black Box Explains... KVM IP gateways

Just as a gate serves as an entry or exit point to a property, a gateway serves the same purpose in the networking world. It’s the device that acts as... more/see it nowa network entrance or go-between for two or more networks.

There are different types of gateways, depending on the network.

An application gateway converts data or commands from one format to another. A VoIP gateway converts analog voice calls into VoIP packets. An IP gateway is like a media gateway, translating data from one telecommunications device to another.

Gateways often include other features and devices, such as protocol converters, routers, firewalls, encryption, voice compression, etc. Although a gateway is an essential feature of most routers, other devices, such as a PC or server, can also function as a gateway.

A KVMoIP switch contains an IP gateway, which is the pathway the KVM signals use to travel from the IP network to an existing non-IP KVM switch. It converts and directs the KVM signals, giving a user access to and control of an existing non-IP KVM switch over the Internet. collapse

Black Box Explains...Super Dynamic II.

This proprietary processing technology developed by Panasonic® eliminates backlighting problems commonly seen with security camera systems. It gives you clear images regardless of the lighting situation and a dynamic range... more/see it nowthat’s 64 times greater than that offered by conventional video cameras.
Super Dynamic II™ accomplishes this by using a double-speed, charge-coupled device (CCD). It takes two pictures in the time
it takes for a conventional CCD to capture one. The first Super Dynamic II picture is a long exposure (1⁄60th of a second) that captures a scene’s dark areas; the second is a short exposure (from 1⁄1000th to 1⁄4000th of a second) that captures the scene’s bright areas. Super Dynamic II then combines the best quality signals from the two images and outputs them as a Composite analog image.
The technology’s enhanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) circuitry corrects gradation to give you proper black level references so black areas within a scene appear black—not washed-out shades of gray. It also enables images with high contrast to be seen on the screen.
What’s more, Super Dynamic II technology provides exceptional sensitivity (0.8 lux using an F1.4 lens), enabling the camera to capture vivid details and color even in low-light applications. collapse

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