Category Archives: IT Infrastructure

Top 5 Advantages of Pre-Terminated Fibre

If you’re in need of a rapid deployment or are concerned about the quality of your field terminations, pre-terminated fibre may be something to consider. Here are the top five advantages of using pre-terminated fibre:

  1. Lower Total Cost – Our studies have shown that a pre-terminated fibre assembly can reduce overall installation costs by nearly 50% (or more) for (1) 12-strand pre-terminated fibre assembly. By eliminating rework, realizing termination efficiencies, eliminating transmission testing, and all but eliminating the need for termination equipment and consumables, pre-terminated fibre can drastically reduce the overall cost of installation.
  1. Quick-Turn Manufacturing – Quick turn manufacturing can get you a pre-terminated fibre assembly within one or two days. Pre-terminated fibre is great to help meet short project deadlines and increase the overall speed of deployment. Eliminate 3rd party suppliers and go to THE SOURCE. You no longer have to wait one, two, or even three weeks to get your custom fibre assemblies.
  1. Faster Deployments – Designed for rapid deployment, pre-terminated fibre cabling eliminates the need for field terminations. This reduces the labor required which in turn enables you to complete the job sooner. You’ll need to do some up front planning, but once you receive your cable, you’re ready to go.
  1. Proven Performance – Mission critical fibre optic networks require the highest level of care when it comes to cable assembly. Field terminations often compromise the overall quality of the cable because of poor air quality, inefficient end face polishing, and poor cleaning and testing protocol. Pre-terminated fibre assemblies should be manufactured in a clean room and go through a series of inspections, including multiple end-face inspections and certification to specific insertion loss/return loss thresholds.
  1. Online Configuration – Ordering a custom pre-terminated fibre cable can be surprisingly easy. Some manufacturers of pre-terminated fibre cable, including Black Box, offer online configurators and SKU building tools. While you’ll need to plan ahead in terms of lengths, connectors, and other options, you can actually plug in what you want and get a SKU in a matter of seconds. One of the advantages of Black Box’s online configurator compared to other configurators is that you actually get a price and can order right then and there instead of calling in and requesting a quote. If you need help configuring a pre-terminated cable, please take advantage of Black Box’s free 24/7 tech support.

If you’re planning a data centre upgrade, consider trying pre-terminated fibre from Black Box. Contact us for more information.

6 Reasons Fibre Networks Are Best for High-Security Applications

High-security networks, like those used in government, healthcare, retail, and financial applications, require a higher level of network security than commercial applications. While fibre optic networks are well known for their speed, they also present significant security benefits compared to CATx networks. The following security benefits are important to evaluate when considering fibre for high-security networks:

No Radiated Emissions

CATx cable, the network standard, carries a risk of radiated emissions while fibre optic cables do not emit or absorb electromagnetic energy.  To transmit data, CATx cable uses electrical signals which conduct an electromagnetic field. Although CATx cables might be wrapped in shielding to help prevent leakage, the risk of possible exposure of the data poses a risk to security. The effectiveness of the CATx cable shielding depends on the material, quality of construction, and necessary flexibility. Conversely, fibre does not radiate electromagnetic signals and is extremely difficult to tap.

Travels Long Distances

By using light to transmit data at high speeds and great distances, fibre optic cable has very little loss. Unlike the native 328 foot (100 meter) limit of copper, the distances possible with fibre depend on the style of cable, wavelength, and network. As noted in 8 Advantages of Choosing Fibre over Copper Cable, fibre can travel from 550 metres to 40 kilometres depending on speed and cabling. Longer distance requires fewer signal repeaters and signal boosters and therefore fewer breaks in the system that may be exploited to compromise security. The less equipment there is, the easier it will be to centralising the system, improving overall security.

Harder to Tap

Because fibre is extremely difficult to tap, it offers data security unmatched by copper. Any attempt to break the physical security of a fibre network will be immediately apparent because the leak will cause the entire system to fail. Instead of having wiring closets and equipment throughout the building, fibre networks typically feature a secure central location to house all of the network equipment.

Greater Bandwidth

While single-mode fibre offers the greatest bandwidth, the exact speed of transmission depends on the specific types of cable. Fibre carries more information with greater fidelity than copper at speeds of 10 Gbps or better.

Reliability and Immunity

The core of fibre is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through, providing extremely reliable data transmission. Because it is completely immune to environmental factors that affect copper such as electrometric interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, and impedance problems, fibre cable can be run next to industrial equipment without concern. Fibre is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper and can be submerged in water.

Migration

The proliferation and declining cost of media converters has made migrating from copper to fibre much easier. Media converters provide seamless links that extend the life of existing hardware. Fibre upgrades may include 12- and 24- strand MPO cassettes, cables, and hardware possibly in preparation for future 40- and 100-GbE networks.

Meeting Future Networks Needs with Fibre

Fibre optics are the right choice for most modern networks. Although other technologies may be sufficient, the capabilities of fibre are vast. As technology continues to emerge, fibre optics are making great strides, extending its superior capabilities even more.

Learn how easy it is to bring fibre from the data centre to the desktop with our Media Converters Guide or contact us to discuss an upcoming project.

Cable tidy and re-patching solutions and services from Black Box Network Services

Disorganised cabinets and racks cost time and money.

Constant staff and equipment moves and changes over time can result in your communications cabinets becoming congested, unreliable and difficult to manage.

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Problems escalate if it is necessary to trace faulty or disconnected patch cables resulting in network downtime and lost productivity.

Black Box Network Services offers a complete data cabinet tidy and re-patching service to maximise the performance of your network.  We can untangle years of messy network cabling, radically improve the cable management and help you take back control of your comms cabinets.

How Black Box can help you achieve a cleaner, more manageable solution:

  • Audit existing cabinets, creating a patching schedule of the interconnecting leads and equipment.
  • Record, label and remove all equipment, patch panels and cables.
  • Provide and install new racks and enclosures or utilise existing cabinets.
  • Optimise the location of switches and panels within the cabinet or rack, leaving room for future expansion and reducing patch cable lengths.
  • Install vertical and horizontal cable management throughout the cabinet to allow patch leads to be added or removed easily without impacting other cables. Well-spaced cable management is key to a maintaining a bulk cabling system.
  • It is important to leave plenty of space for expansion to the network. We can provide different sizes of blanking panels which also help to prevent the ingress of dust.
  • Install vertical or horizontal power strips to suit the size of cabinet and active equipment within.
  • Reinstate patching in line with the original schedule using short – 0.3, 0.6, 0.9m, or custom length patch leads.
  • Provide colour-coded patch leads to indicate function or area.
  • Work can be undertaken out of office hours to avoid disrupting your business.

BENEFITS

Future additions and changes on the network are easier to manage and stress-free.

When it is time to upgrade active equipment in the cabinets, it can be swapped over with little effort.

Remember: only let authorised personnel have access to your IT cabinets.

Talk to Black Box about our on-site network services today, or register for a free consultation on your cabinet tidy requirements.

Save space, improve airflow, and optimise cable handling with Slim-Net™ 28-AWG Cable

Black Box recently introduced Slim-Net, the company’s 28-AWG CAT6 and CAT6A UTP cables to answer a need for better patching in crowded cabinets and racks. Over the past few years, 28-AWG cable has been gaining fans and is becoming a popular choice, especially for high-density data centres and telecom rooms.

In this article, we’ll examine the advantages of using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable as well as some usage considerations.

What is 28-AWG cable?

It’s a patch cable made with thinner, 28-AWG stranded copper conductors as opposed to traditional patch cables made with thicker 23-, 24- or 26-AWG conductors. Black Box Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is constructed with top-quality, stranded copper conductors. The plug is custom designed to ensure a snug fit on the RJ-45 gold-blade contacts and to guarantee top performance.

Here are some of the advantages of using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable.

Blog_28AWG_Image1Advantage 1: Space savings

With a diameter of only 4.1 mm, Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is almost half the size of a typical 24-AWG cable at 5.9 mm. This gives you a lot of extra space in cable managers and in pathways. The difference can be dramatic, as shown in this photo of a bundle of 28-AWG cable compared to a bundle of 24-AWG cable. When you calculate the physical cable area in bundles and in patching connections, you’ll actually save more than 50% space when compared to traditional cables. This can make a significant difference in congested telecom rooms and data centres.

Advantage 2: Improved airflow

Cooling is a hot issue in today’s data centres, especially in crowded racks and cabinets. Slim-Net 28-AWG cables actually help cooling because they are so much thinner than traditional 24-AWG cables. The result is that they take up less space in front of patch panels and hot network equipment, such as switches. The extra space between cables results in improved airflow and cooling for the equipment.

Advantage 3: Easier handling

There’s more space between patched Slim-Net 28-AWG cables, so the cable is much easier to handle. Compared to 24-AWG cables, which often are a dense mass in front of equipment, you’ll find there’s more space for your fingers to get a hold on plugs when doing installs and moves, additions, and changes. Also, you’ll find it’s much easier to identify port assignments on equipment because of the extra space.

Advantage 4: Fewer cable managers

Slim-Net 28-AWG cables are much less bulky and offer better flexibility than 24-AWG cables. With a bend radius that’s 70% tighter than 24-AWG cable, you can easily route cables to other equipment or to the side without cable managers or with fewer horizontal cable managers. Because of that, you can reduce the number of horizontal cable managers you need, or possibly eliminate them entirely. When routing Slim-Net 28-AWG cables in vertical managers, you’ll also gain up to 50% more space.

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Advantage 5: Conserve rack space

By eliminating horizontal cable managers, you’ll actually conserve valuable rack space. Consider how many rack units you can free up in a typical rack enabling you to add more equipment or to reserve space for future expansion. Depending on your application, you may even free up enough space to consolidate equipment from two racks into one rack.

Advantage 6: Big performance

Black Box Slim-Net 28-AWG cables meet or exceed all TIA 568-C.2 performance requirements and pass all tests. The standard currently specifies 22- to 26-AWG cable, so 28-AWG cable is not included. When the standard is revised, it will most likely include 28-AWG cable.

Another benefit of using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is that the thinner conductors actually increase NEXT and PS-NEXT because there is less copper in the jacket. Higher NEXT is a good thing in terms of cable performance. Here’s the formula for cable performance: Bandwidth = NEXT – Insertion Loss

Advantage 7: PoE

One of the most common questions about Slim-Net 28-AWG cable is if it can support Power over Ethernet (PoE).

The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Black Box cable can support all PoE levels: IEEE 802.3 af PoE, 802.3 at PoE+, and the upcoming 802.3 bt (PoE++). This makes Slim-Net cable a more economical choice for powering remote security cameras, manufacturing sensors, wireless access points, and more. The only consideration you should keep in mind is that because the cable is smaller, it should be grouped in smaller bundles to counteract any extra heat build-up and to comply with the 15°C temperature rise outlined in TSB 184.

Advantage 8: Price

Slim-Net 28-AWG cable has less copper in its conductors, so it costs less than traditional 24-/26-AWG cable. This can add up to significant savings when setting up and patching high-density telecom rooms and data centres with hundreds of cables.

Mix and match in the channel

When using Slim-Net 28-AWG cable, you’ll need to reduce the size of your channel, but not by much. For example, if you have 90 metres of 23-AWG horizontal cabling, you can run three-metre Slim-Net patch cords on each end instead of the traditional five metres. That gives you a total channel of 96 metres.

There’s no problem using Black Box’s Slim-Net cable on one end of your channel and our premium 24-AWG GigaTrue® CAT6 or GigaBase® CAT5e cable on the other end. In fact, this will give you a few extra metres in your channel.

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Summary

Black Box Slim-Net 28-AWG cables are a great alternative to traditional 24-AWG cable, especially in high-density telecom rooms and data centres where rack space is at a premium. The thinner, 4.1 mm diameter is almost half the size of a 24-AWG cable so it’s ideal for saving space, reducing clutter, and improving airflow. It’s easier to handle, so the need for cable managers can be reduced or eliminated. It also costs less than traditional cable.

With almost 50% more space between cables, you’ll like working with Slim-Net cable. It’s much easier to get your fingers in between the cables for patching; easier to identify port designations; and easier to route cables.

Guaranteed for life

Black Box offers CAT6 and CAT6A Slim-Net cable in seven lengths and seven colours. The company unconditionally guarantees the cables for life and will replace them if they fail. The entire line can be seen here.

Top 10 Products from Black Box for 2015

Taking a look back at 2015, it’s clear that Black Box provides end-to-end infrastructure, professional AV technology, and networking solutions. The variety of products that made our Top Products’ list is representative of many different walks of IT and AV. Let’s take a look at our best sellers from 2015, and how they fit your applications.

1. IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension

Transmit DVI, USB, and audio signals in real time over an Ethernet LAN with the Agility IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension System. Standard CATx cabling delivers IP traffic via the Agility transmitters and receivers up to 100 m. For longer distances, add a network switch, which will give you an additional 100 metres.

With the Agility Controller Unit turn your IP-based Agility system of transmitters and receivers into a managed matrix switching system with this component at its center directing traffic over your LAN.

For more information, visit our Solutions pages.

2. MediaCento IPX Solution
Distribute digital video signals, including HDMI, over IP to multiple screens. This system is big in hospitality, retail, and other applications where you need to share video. Lossless HD video means crystal-clear images on every display. Check out this digital solution for the future, which comes at an analog price.

MediaCento IPX Receiver
MediaCento IPX Receiver

The MediaCento IPX solution integrates easily into your local area network. Transmit HDMI video and audio over an Ethernet network to a virtually unlimited number of screens as far as your network reaches. The MediaCento Controller adds many features to the solution, including flexible control of video walls, up to 8 x 8. In addition, the LPB2900 Series Gigabit Ethernet Managed PoE+ Switches can be outfitted with the MediaCento Controller software for HD video extension and switching. It’s the market’s first network switch that enables users to remotely control and switch AV from any source to any display. Three switches plus the software is available at Black Box.

3. GigaTrue™ CAT6 550-MHz Bulk Cable and GigaBase™ 350 CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable
ETL-Verified. HDBaseT recommended. Reliable performance. Guaranteed for life. When it comes to cabling, Black Box doesn’t fool around. Our bulk copper cabling integrates into new building projects whether you’re expanding or starting from the ground up.

All cabling solutions offer performance designed to last the lifetime of your system, whether in the data center or at the desktop — or beyond. Visit our CATx cable selector or our cabling home page for more choices.

4. Media Converters enable you to connect to different types of media within a network. To find the right media converter for your application, visit our media converter selector.

For example, look at the Multipower Miniature Media Converters. The autosensing MDI/MDI-X copper ports of these small converters means you don’t need to worry about what kind of cable to use. Easily migrate networks from Ethernet to Fast Ethernet all the way to Gigabit Ethernet. Compact in size, and still supports distances up to 10 kilometres.

5. KVM Extenders

Extend digital video signals and USB functionality over CATx or fibre cabling in order to streamline workflow, improve operator efficiency, and benefit from reliable signal distribution without interruption.

KVM extenders that support digital signals enable you to reduce noise and heat in the workplace, which improves productivity. Secure your hardware and secure your data by backracking vital workstations. A few examples are the ACX300/310 Series KVM Extenders, Wizard SRX DVI Extender for USB, and the Dual-Head DisplayPort KVM Extender over CATx. Digital signals are higher in quality, interconnectivity is more reliable, and the technology is future proof in regards to connected devices. Remain competitive by integrating KVM solutions across the enterprise.

To choose the right KVM extenders for your application, visit our KVM extender selector, or call one of our tech experts at 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269).

6. Video and multimedia extenders enable you to distribute audio and video signals for digital signage, enhance presentations, and extend video beyond the boardroom. With Black Box video extenders, you can send video and audio signals farther than with conventional cabling. Deliver pixel-perfect video and high quality audio to remote displays.

Mini CATxVGA Extender Kit
Mini CATxVGA Extender Kit
Multi DVI-D CATx Extender Receiver
Multi DVI-D CATx Extender Receiver
3D HDMI CATx Extender
3D HDMI CATx Extender

7. Copper Patch Cables, 3-Series Lockable Patch Cables
Our high standards shine through with our 3-Series patch cables. These CAT5e/6/6A cables give you three levels of security, depending on the optional locking pin you choose. Secure your network ports, but only when you need to. Guaranteed for life!

These cables offer easy Layer 1 security for many environments, including healthcare, education, finance, government, retail, transportation, and more. Choose from locked (Red), secure (Green), or protected (no pin) to get the level of security that suits your application best.

8. Console Servers

Ensure maximum uptime with out-of-band management console servers, sometimes called terminal servers. They give network managers a single-point-of control to remotely monitor, manage, and troubleshoot critical IT infrastructure from anywhere in the world. Console servers offer backdoor management for business continuity, multiple applications for multiple industries, and problem solving for distributed sites.

See our selection of console servers here, and find one to fit your application.

9. USB Extension

Demanding users trust Black Box USB extension products for applications like pro audio visual, industrial automation, education, medical diagnostics and imaging, remote desktop extension, security, surveillance, and military systems.

Learn more about extending USB over CATx, fibre, and IP networks, and how to deploy USB extension in applications including healthcare, manufacturing, security, and harsh environments. USB extenders are simple to use and cost-effective.

IC282A_PC
USB 1.1 and 2.0 Extender over CAT5e
IC400A_PCS2
USB Ultimate Extender over UTP
LGB304A_PCS
USB-Powered Gigabit 4-Port Switch

Use our USB guide to configure your ultimate serial solution.

10. Black Box networking products make the list with ethernet switches, industrial solutions, and console servers. Find what you need to connect and improve your network, including USB switches for increasing network speeds, such as the USB-Powered Gigabit 4-Port Switch, pictured above. Expand a small network without breaking the bank. Increase to Gigabit speeds via four autosensing 10-/100-/1000-Mbps ports. This compact and convenient switch can be powered via a PC’s USB port or the included AC adapter.

For more information about integrating and deploying infrastructure, networking, and extension products for your organisation, please contact Black Box pre-sales application engineers. Call 00800-CALLBBOX (00800-2255 2269) to talk to a technical expert today. Visit the Black Box store to see all our products, and shop for your end-to-end solution now.

Machine vision: 100% assembly line inspection

Machine vision technology—the image-based automatic inspection process—has matured greatly and is now becoming an indispensable tool in manufacturing to increase quality and profitability. USB 3.0, with its 5-Gbps throughput and ability to send power and data over the same line, has greatly contributed to this growth.

What is machine vision?
Machine vision is an image-based, automatic inspection and analysis system for applications, such as process control. It automatically takes pictures to inspect materials as they come down the assembly line.

Other machine vision applications include:

  • PCB inspection.
  • Medical vial inspection.
  • Robot guidance and orientation of components.
  • Engine parts inspection.

Machine vision uses a small industrial camera and lights mounted near an assembly line to take pictures of product as it passes. The images are then analysed by software to determine if various aspects of the product meet acceptable specifications. For instance, if a label is misplaced, the bottle will be rejected. All of this is done at incredibly high speeds—fractions of a second.

Years ago, machine vision systems were very expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in the last 15 years or so, advances in technology have brought the cost of machine vision down, making it a practical solution for 100 percent quality control. And the cost for implementing machine vision keeps decreasing as technological capabilities increase.

Machine vision is now an indispensable tool for quality assurance, sorting, and material handling in every industry, including electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, automotive, etc. It is an economical way to make sure sub-spec product is rejected. Machine vision can be used to inspect for geometry, placement, packaging, labeling, seal integrity, finish, color, pattern, bar code, and almost any other parameter you can think of.

USB 3.0 and machine vision
USB 3.0 brings a number of advantages to machine vision systems. Because of its 5-Gbps throughput, ten times more than USB 2.0, it eliminates problems of stability and low latency for image transmission and camera control. USB 3.0 enables the transmission of higher-resolution, higher-frame rate video with no loss of quality.

USB 3.0 also sends data and power on the same line. This is enough to power a camera without worrying about a separate power supply or power line.

In addition, compared to older systems, USB 3.0 is plug-and-play, making it easy to swap out cameras and other hardware, such as USB 3.0 extenders, and other devices.

Related:

USB Product Selector

How to terminate your own patch cable

Of all the components in your network, none is arguably more underrated than the RJ-45 connector. Simplicity incarnate, this transparent marvel literally defines plug-and-play connectivity—from the desktop to the data center. Yet it defies the obvious: How’d they get those wires in there? Who puts these things together? Where are the seams?
Wiring-Standards-terminate-your-own-patch-cable

So, in the spirit of demystifying one more aspect of modern-day communications, we give you this behind-the-scenes look at terminating twisted-pair cable using RJ connectors.

The prep work.
First, gather your materials. You’ll need bulk cable, such as the bulk cable, a cable cutter and stripper, a connector, a pre-plug (optional), a crimp tool, and a continuity tester. All these items—except the cable and the pre-plugs—are in our CAT6 and CAT5e Terminations Kit.

The challenge: Do it right the first time.
You must take time to install each connector carefully, according to the specifications of the wiring system you’re installing. Then test each cable to certify that it supports the specified performance levels — in this case, the TIA specs for CATx cabling. The wiring standards illustration (above right) indicates proper T568A, T568B, and USOC pairing and pinning for twisted pair cable. T568B wiring is most commonly used in Europe for networking.

Terminate-own-patch-cable-step-1Step one
First, start with a wire stripping tool, such as the Multi-Strip (FT231A). Next, put the tool around the cable, squeeze, and carefully remove the jacketing from the cable. You’ll want to expose about one inch of the insulated wire conductors.

DO NOT remove any insulation from the conductors.

When you crimp the RJ-45 connector, the contacts inside will pierce the conductor insulation to make contact, so there’s no need to do it here.

terminate-own-patch-cable-step-twoStep two
Untwist each pair of conductors to within 1⁄8″ of the jacket with a stripping tool. Do not untwist the conductors more than 1⁄2″. Arrange the wires according to the cable spec you’re using (T568B in this case). Flatten and align the wires. Use your wire cutters and make one straight cut across all the conductors. Trim the ends to ensure they’re all of equal length. Once you cut the cable, make sure you flatten out the wires.

terminate-own-patch-cable-step-3Step three
Orient the wires so the cable’s Pin 1 connector aligns correctly with the RJ-45 connector’s Pin 1, and do the same for all pins. (To maintain the correct alignment, see “Rule of Thumb” below.) While carefully maintaining the proper position of each conductor, slide the wires into an RJ-45 connector.

All connectors must extend all the way into the conductor so they’re flush against the back and aligned underneath the contacts within the plastic connector housing. The cable jacket should also extend into the connector about 1⁄4″ for strain relief.

Rule of Thumb:
Many people miswire RJ-45 connectors because they’re careless about proper conductor alignment. Before terminating connectors, be sure they’re oriented properly so connector Pin 1 aligns with cable Pin 1, etc. To determine which RJ-45 contact is Pin 1 in CATx applications, hold the connector in front of your face as if you were going to plug it onto the tip of your nose. With the locking thumb tab up, connector Pin 1 is on the far left.

terminate-own-patch-cable-step-4Step four
Insert the connector into an RJ-45 crimp tool. Make sure you’re using the proper die for the type of connector you’re using. For instance, connectors that use a load bar require a different crimp die than connectors that don‘t feature a load bar. If you don’t use the right die, you’ll damage the connector when you try to crimp it.

Firmly squeeze the crimp tool handles together. They’ll lock in a ratcheting action as you crimp the connector. A final click indicates the connector is firmly latched, and you can release the handles.

terminate-own-patch-cable-step-fiveStep five
Check your work using a continuity tester or cable certifier rated for the cable standard you’re installing. Your tester should be able to check for shorts, opens, or miswires.

For network certification, more expensive testers can even store and download test results based on standardized minimum performance levels.

The result
The majority of RJ-45 cables are terminated by machine. But field technicians and professional cable installers crimp on modular connectors every day. You can terminate cables, too. Once you do, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the skill it takes to successfully terminate these cables inside a connector the size of a jelly bean.

For questions or to learn more about building and testing a patch cable, contact our FREE Tech Support.

Additional Resources:
Video: How to Terminate and Test Copper Cable
Video: Learn how to identify counterfeit cables

Ten factors to consider when choosing a cabinet or rack

The sheer number and different types of cabinets and racks can make choosing the right one for your data centre a daunting task. But, if you consider your requirements one at a time, you can zero in on the right cabinet or rack for your application.

A cabinet is an enclosure with four rails and a door (or doors) and side panels. A rack is an open, freestanding 2- or 4-post frame that doesn’t have doors or sides. The decision on whether to use a cabinet or rack depends on a number of factors.

1. Equipment

Before you choose a cabinet or rack, you need to determine what equipment you’re planning to house. This list can include servers, switches, routers, and UPSs. Consider the weight of your equipment as well. The extra stability of a cabinet might be important if you’re installing large, heavy equipment like servers. An open rack is more convenient than a cabinet if you need frequent access to all sides of the equipment.

2. Environment

With the open design, racks are a good choice in areas where security isn’t a concern such as in locked data centres and closets. And racks typically cost less than cabinets.

Cabinets, on the other hand, protect equipment in open, dusty, and industrial environments. Aesthetics can be a factor too. 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.

3. Ventilation

If your equipment needs ventilation, a rack offers more air circulation than a cabinet. Even if your cabinet is in a climate-controlled room, the equipment in it can generate a lot of heat. The requirements for additional airflow increase as more servers are mounted in a cabinet. Options to improve airflow include doors, fans, and air conditioners.

4. Size

Width: The width between the rails in both cabinets and racks is 19 inches with hole-to-hole centers measuring 18.3 inches. But there are also cabinets and racks with 23-inch rails. Most rackmount equipment is made to fit 19-inch rails but can be adapted to fit wider rails.

Rack Units: One rack unit (RU or U) equals 4.45 cm (1.75 inches) of vertical space on the rails. A device that’s 2U high takes up 8.89 cm (3.5 inches) of vertical rack space. Rack units are typically marked on the rails. The number of rack units determines how much equipment you can install.

Depth: Cabinets and four-post open racks come in different depths ranging anywhere from 61 cm to 122 cm (24 to 48 inches) to accommodate equipment of varying sizes, particularly extra-deep servers. The rails on some cabinets and 4-post open racks are also adjustable to different depths.

When you consider the width, height, and depth of a cabinet or rack, clarify whether they are inside or outside dimensions.

5. Weight

Cabinets and racks vary in terms of the amount of weight capacity. Some cabinets can hold 500 kg or more. Carefully consider the weight of your equipment and decide where you want to mount it before choosing a cabinet or rack.

6. Rails

The vertical rails in cabinets and racks have holes for mounting equipment. Two-post racks typically have threaded 12-24 or 10-32 tapped holes. Four-post racks and cabinets often have M6 square holes for mounting servers.

7. Moisture, dust, shock, vibration

When housing electronic components outside of a protected data centre, look for a cabinet with an IP rating. IP standards are designed for corrosion resistance, protection from rain, submersion, liquids, dust, falling objects, and other hazards. Cabinets and racks can also be bolted to the floor for extra stability.

8. Power provisioning

There are multiple options for powering rackmounted equipment. Power strips can be mounted vertically or horizontally. Power Distribution Units (PDUs) and Power Managers have additional capabilities such as remote management and metering. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) typically mount in the bottom of a cabinet or rack because of their weight.

9. Cable management

Most cabinets and racks have built-in cable management troughs and cable rings for routing cable. For a complete overview of our cable management solutions, visit our online store.

10. The extras

The type of shelving you choose depends on the equipment you plan to mount. There are multiple options: solid, vented, stationary, and pull-out shelves. And there are shelves built to hold specific pieces of equipment, such as servers or keyboards. Other extras include fans, waterfall brackets, and grounding bars.

For more information on our cabinets and racks, visit our online store, or contact our free Tech Support.

Cable Basics: Fiber Optic Cable Construction

Fiber optic cable provides one of the most effective means today for safe, and long-distance communications, and it offers a number of advantages over copper. Fiber optic cable construction consists of a core, cladding, coating, strengthening fibers, and a cable jacket.

Fiber optic cable constructionCore
This is the physical medium that transports optical data signals from an attached light source to a receiving device. The core is a single continuous strand of extruded silica glass or plastic that’s measured in microns (µm) 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 two most common multimode sizes are 50 and 62.5 microns. Single-mode cores are 8.5–9 microns.

The cores of OM1 and OM2 multimode cable are made differently than the cores of laser-optimized OM3 and OM4 cable. OM1 and OM2 have a small defect in the core called an index depression. This enables them to be used with LED light sources. OM3 and OM4 are manufactured without the center defect to enable them to be used directly with VCSELS for greater speeds and distance.

Cladding
This is the thin layer that surrounds the fiber core and serves as a boundary that contains the light waves and causes the refraction, enabling light to travel the length of the fiber segment. Typical fiber cladding is 125 microns.

Coating
This is a layer of plastic that surrounds the core and cladding to reinforce and protect the fiber core. Coatings are measured in microns 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 aramid yarn (Kevlar®) to wire strands to gel-filled sleeves.

Cable jacket
Just like copper cable, fiber cable comes with PVC and Low Smoke Zero Halogen jackets. Whether you choose PVC- or Low Smoke Zero Halogen cable depends on where you are going to use the cable. PVC cable is typically used for patch connections in the data center, wiring closet, and at the desktop. Low Smoke Zero Halogen cable is used when you need to route a cable through the buildings air plenum. Low Smoke Zero Halogen cable has a flame-resistant jacket to inhibit the spread of fire.

Fiber cable and connector colors
To easily recognize what type of fiber cable you have in the data center, the cable jackets, connectors, and connector bodies are color-coded.

OM1 62.5-/125-Micron Multimode Fiber
Jacket: Orange
Connector: Beige
Connector Body: Beige

OM2 50-/125-Micron Multimode Fiber
Jacket: Orange
Connector: Black
Connector Body: Black

OM3 Laser-Optimized 50-/125-Micron Multimode Fiber
Jacket: Aqua
Connector: Aqua
Connector Body: Black

OM4 Laser-Optimized 50-/125-Micron Multimode Fiber
Jacket: Aqua/Violet
Connector: Black
Connector Body: Aqua/Violet

OS2 8.5-Micron Single-Mode Fiber
Jacket: Yellow
Connector: APC: Green, MPO: Black; UPC: Blue
Connector Body: APC: Green; UPC: Blue

Additional Resources:
White Paper: Fiber Optic Technology
Blog post: 8 advantages to choosing fiber over copper cable
Webinar: High-Density Fiber Connectivity for Data Centers

Myths of Managed Services

Studies Find that Managed Services Help Drive IT Success

Get the Facts

The myths that surround the use of Managed Services (MS) to support IT business continuity oftentimes are fueled by misconception. As these services are adopted by more companies, the advantages become clear. Companies are:

  • Minimising the cost of legacy IT infrastructure from multiple vendors
  • Promoting the adoption of new and sophisticated technology for business continuity, and
  • Allocating limited resources to maximising overall impact on the organization

Consider this:

  • 74% of enterprises anticipate increased demand on IT
  • 30% of IT budget has become strategic; operational expense is reduced by 13%
  • 48% of companies are expanding adoption of MS
  • Companies who use MS see a reduction of 25% in IT costs

6 Myths of working with a Managed Service Provider

IT business leaders know that demand on their current IT systems, and the need for additional capacity and functionality, will continue to increase. By outsourcing IT responsibilities, IT business leaders can shift their focus from daily task management to driving strategic thought leadership.

In fact, studies show that world-class companies commit 30 percent more of their IT budgets to advancing business processes—and nearly 13 percent less on day-to-day operations—than their less successful counterparts. These companies seek a Managed Service partner to support both IT infrastructure and platform and application needs, and to mitigate challenges associated with:

  • Staffing: 42% of CIOs are concerned they are missing IT expertise
  • Technology adoption: 51% of CIOs are concerned about enterprise adoption of new technology
  • CAPEX versus OPEX business models: 50% of OPEX budget is lost to failed IT projects

Are Managed Services Right for You?

Think about the following questions:

  • What are your biggest challenges—staffing, infrastructure, applications, platforms, devices, security?
  • What percentage of time is spent on day-to-day tasks?
  • Are you evaluating different deployment scenarios, such as leveraging OPEX or the Cloud?
  • Do you feel you have the expertise and staff to design, deploy, and support enterprise technology?
  • Have you considered third-party resources or partners to supplement your existing team or to manage specific components of your IT infrastructure?
  • Are you contributing to the enterprise in a strategic way, or are time-consuming tasks detracting you from moving the organisation forward?

A Managed Services partner offers the solutions you need to address these questions by providing objectivity, an expanded resource pool of expertise, and cost-effective strategies that align with overall corporate needs. IT services are available in varying degrees. Some companies seek support with one specific IT challenge, such as on-site maintenance; others outsource all IT functions, known as IT as a Service.

Separate fact from fiction. Download: 6 Myths of Working with a Managed Service Provider or visit us at: www.black-box.eu/services/managed-services

Cable basics: Shielded vs unshielded cables

One of the most obvious advantages copper offers is that it is less expensive than fiber cable and much easier to terminate in the field. The type of cable you choose depends on the environment and application.

Twisted pair cable used in networking applications typically consists of four pairs of 22–28 AWG copper wires, each covered by insulators and twisted together. There are two types of twisted pair cable, unshielded and shielded.

Shielded vs. unshielded cable

Unshielded twisted pair

This is the most widely used cable. Known as balanced twisted pair, UTP consists of twisted pairs (usually four) in a PVC or LSZH jacket. When installing UTP cable, make sure you use trained technicians. Field terminations, bend radius, pulling tension, and cinching can all loosen pair twists and degrade performance. Also take note of any sources of EMI. Choose UTP for electrically quiet environments.

Shielded twisted pair

Over the past twenty years, the need for speed in networking has driven new cabling specifications and technologies at an ever-accelerating rate. Alongside the development of each generation of Ethernet are corresponding developments in cabling technologies. Part of that development is the increased use of shielded cable. It’s becoming more common in high-speed networks, especially when it comes to minimizing ANEXT in 10-GbE runs.

Shielded cable was traditionally used to extend distances and to minimize EMI over the length of the cable run. It still is. Sources of EMI, commonly referred to as noise, include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and printers.

Shielded cable can be less balanced than UTP cable because of the shield. The metal sheaths in the cable need to be grounded to cancel the effect of EMI on the conductors. Shielded cable is also more expensive, less flexible, and can be more difficult to install than UTP cable because of the grounding and bonding that’s required for a good installation.

Most shielded cable is heavier and thicker than UTP, so it fills conduits quicker. Keep that in mind as you plan your cable pathways.

Types of shields.

There are a number of different types of shielded twisted pair cable and the terminology has evolved over the years.

There are two common shields: foil sheaths and metal braids. Foil gives a 100% shield while a braid provides 40% to 95% coverage because of the holes in the braid. But, a braided shield offers better overall protection because it’s denser than foil and absorbs more EMI. A braided shield also performs better at lower frequencies. Foil, being thinner, rejects less interference, but provides better protection over a wider range of frequencies. For these reasons, combination foil and braid shields are sometimes used for the best protection. Shields can surround all the twisted pairs and/or the individual twisted pairs.

Shielding acronyms

Unshielded vs. Shielded Cable
Unshielded vs. Shielded Cable

Shielding acronyms have evolved over the years after confusion as to what FTP is versus STP and S/FTP. Now, the letter for the outer shield (under the cable jacket) is noted first. The letter after the slash denotes any shield on the individual twisted pairs.

U/FTP (Unshielded/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable does not have an overall outer shield. It does have foil shields on each of the four pairs. Formerly called FTP.

F/UTP (Foiled/Unshielded Twisted Pair). This cable has an overall foil shield surrounding all the pairs. Formerly called FTP. Here are examples of CAT6 and CAT5e F/UTP cable.

Sc/FTP (Screened/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable features an overall braided or screened shield underneath the cable jacket. It has individual foil shields on each twisted pair. Formerly called S/FTP. Here’s an example of Sc/FTP cable.

F/FTP (Foiled/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable features an overall foil shield underneath the cable jacket. It has individual foil shields on each twisted pair. Formerly called S/FTP.

Sc/FTP and F/FTP cables offer the best protection from external noise and ANEXT.

Additional resources

8 Advantages to choosing fiber over copper cable

White Paper CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know

8 advantages to choosing fiber over copper cable

Fiber optic cable is one of the most popular mediums for both new cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications. Fiber offers a number of advantages over copper.

  1. Greater bandwidth

Fiber provides more bandwidth than copper and has standardized performance up to 10 Gbps and beyond. More bandwidth means fiber can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper wire. Keep in mind that fiber speeds are dependent on the type of cable used. Single-mode fiber offers the greatest bandwidth and no bandwidth requirements.

Laser-optimized OM3 50-micron cable has an EMB of 2000 MHz/km. Laser-optimized OM4 50-micron cables has an EMB of 4700 MHz/km.

  1. Speed and distance

Because the fiber optic signal is made of light, very little signal loss occurs during transmission, and data can move at higher speeds and greater distances. Fiber does not have the 100-meter (328-ft.) distance limitation of unshielded twisted pair copper (without a booster). Fiber distances depend on the style of cable, wavelength and network. Distances can range from 550 meters (984.2 ft.) for 10-Gbps multimode and up to 40 kilometers (24.8 mi.) for single-mode cable.

  1. Security

Your data is safe with fiber cable. 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.

Fiber networks also enable you to put all your electronics and hardware in one central location, instead of having wiring closets with equipment throughout the building.

  1. Immunity and reliability

Fiber provides extremely reliable data transmission. It’s completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable. The core is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through. It’s immune to electrometric interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. You can run fiber cable next to industrial equipment without worry. Fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper and can be submerged in water.

  1. Design

Fiber is lightweight, thin, and more durable than copper cable. To get higher speeds using copper cable, you need to use a higher grade of cable, which typically have larger outside diameters, weight more, and take up more space in cable trays. With fiber cable, there is very little different in diameter or weight. Plus, fiber optic cable has pulling specifications that are up to 10 times greater than copper cable, depending on the specific cable. Its small size makes it easier to handle, and it takes up much less space in cabling ducts. And, fiber is easier to test than copper cable.

  1. Migration

The proliferation and lower costs of media converters are making copper to fiber migration much easier. The converters provide seamless links and enable the use of existing hardware. Fiber can be incorporated into network in planned upgrades. In addition, with the advent of 12- and 24-strand MPO cassettes, cables, and hardware, planning for future 40- and 100-GbE networks is easier.

  1. Field termination.

Although fiber is still more difficult to terminate than copper, advancements in technology have made terminating and using fiber in the field easier. Quick fusion splicers enables with auto-alignments enable fast splicing in the field. Auto-aligning pins ensure accuracy. And the use of pig-tails and pre-terminated cable make field connections quick and easy.

  1. Cost

The cost for fiber cable, components, and hardware has steadily decreased. Overall, fiber cable is more expensive than copper cable in the short run, but it may be less expensive in the long run. Fiber typically costs less to maintain, has less downtime, and requires less networking hardware. In addition, advances in field termination technology has reduced the cost of fiber installation as well.

Here are some resources if you’re interested in more information about fiber:

White Paper: Fiber Optic Technology

Video: MTP Connector Rackmount Solutions