Encourage collaboration with modern huddle spaces and conference rooms

Research shows collaborative environments foster innovation, improve team performance by ensuring everyone is working towards the same goal, and increase employee retention since people prefer to belong to a team and contribute to the team’s goals. Next generation workers and the need for companies to compete on a global basis will drive demand for collaboration solutions throughout the organization, according to a Wainhouse Research study.

Perhaps that’s why, in recent years, a more agile approach to meetings and working in collaborative groups has been embraced by schools and businesses of all sizes. Implementing collaboration solutions such as huddle spaces, or small-space meeting areas, in addition to larger conference rooms is one of the ways organizations are making this change.

What is a huddle space?

A huddle space is a smaller meeting space, which can take place just about anywhere. It typically accommodates six or less attendees. They range from basic spaces to well-equipped and advanced rooms. Basic huddle spaces, with either open area or private closed rooms, may be equipped with a small table, some chairs, a speakerphone, and perhaps a dry erase board. Whereas, well-equipped and advanced huddle rooms may include flat panel displays, integrated AV conferencing, and a wireless presentation system. Huddle spaces do not typically include enhancements such as ceiling speakers, acoustic wall treatment, or AV control system.

What should your huddle space include to promote collaboration?

The way huddle spaces are used varies by organization, location, vertical market, culture, etc. Whether or not a huddle space is effective depends on the given task and requirement of the space. If you’re planning for a well-equipped huddle space, you should also consider your AV technology needs as well.

In general, your huddle space should include equipment that has:

  1. Interoperability with other products you may have in the space such as screens, projectors, panels, or touchscreens.
  1. BYOD support which allows collaboration/sharing of any type of device the meeting participant has. For example, participants could bring a laptop, tablet PC, mobile phone, or netbook and connect with ease.
  1. Content sharing capabilities. For example, a presenter may need to share any number of pieces of content with other participants simultaneously.
  1. An intuitive interface, which will reduce barriers to use. The easier your equipment is to use, the more participants feel comfortable using new technology.
  1. The ability to allow an unlimited number of users to participate. While there is a practical limit to the number of people that can fit in a room or share a screen, facilities change and so do user’s needs. Try not to get locked into limiting systems which only allow 4-6 concurrent users.

In addition to many of the items needed to make a good huddle space, for your larger conference rooms you may need additional AV solutions.

What should your modern conference room include to promote collaboration?

Today’s larger meeting rooms often come with higher expectations. They will certainly start with the same type of collaboration solutions discussed earlier for huddle spaces. Additionally, they must provide support for tomorrow’s technology using today’s design. These rooms often require more types of equipment, which may require support for a wide range of video signals.

In general, your modern conference room should include equipment that has:

  1. Switching capabilities to manage video signals that need to be shown on one or more displays.
  1. Presenter control options for switching. For more efficient meetings, select a switch that automatically switches to a new source when a new user connects a device.
  1. Scaling able to work with a wide range of video signals, both current and legacy, to ensure the display is compatible with anything that needs to be presented.
  1. Reliable video distribution capabilities to send and receive audio, video, control and even power from another room or building.
  1. Video wall capability to display any source from anywhere with switching control.

When designing and outfitting the spaces, it’s important to think ahead and design for AV systems that can adapt and grow as technology changes.

Have a collaboration space that needs to be enabled by AV technology? Call a Black Box AV expert.

Additional Resources:
Content sharing: Wireless Presentation systems
See our AV and Multi Media solutions
Storage and charching of mobile devices

Part 2 – How to Set Up a Dynamic Video Wall Without a Video Wall Processor

In just seven quick steps, take our AV-over-IP video distribution system from a static video wall to a dynamic video wall with switching and control. No additional video wall processor required.

In Part 1, we covered how to set up a static video wall without a video processor. Now it’s time to turn it up a notch and learn how to set up a dynamic video wall with added control and switching.

Recall we started with the MediaCento IPX PoE Multicast 1 x 4 Kit. The kit includes a transmitter, four receivers, a PoE (Power over Ethernet) network switch, and five 2-meter (6.5-feet) locking HDMI cables. Everything you need to multicast HDMI video over an IP network and create static video walls.

In order to make the video wall dynamic, you’ll need to add to the existing system:

The additional sources and transmitters enable additional content to display, and the controller enables you to take full control over the IP-based transmitters and receivers.

Let’s dive right in to the MediaCento multicasting system and get the controller up and running.

Step 1: Connect Additional Transmitters to the Switch and Source
In this scenario, we have one additional source, a laptop, so we will need one additional transmitter. Connect the second transmitter to the PoE network switch using a CATx cable. Then, using a locking HDMI cable, connect source – in this case, a laptop – to the transmitter unit.

Step 2: Connect the MediaCento IPX Controller
Connect the power supply to the controller and connect it to the network switch using a CATx cable.

Step 3: Access the Controller’s Web Interface
Use the Web interface to configure the controller. Open the Web browser, and type the IP address in the address field.

Note: For more details regarding IP addresses, see the user manual included with the controller.

Step 4: Detect Units
In the Web interface, go to the Hardware tab and:

  • Click the “Detect Units” button. The controller automatically detects all receivers and transmitters on the network. In this case, the IP address of the transmitter connected to the laptop is 169.254.4.73 and the iCOMPEL media player is 169.254.2.58.
  • Optionally, rename the receivers for easier setup. Click the “Show OSD” button to show the receiver’s IP names on the displays, and then click the “Rename Device” button to rename each of the receiver’s IP addresses to a findable name. For example, C1 R1 (for column 1, row 1), C1 R2, C2 R1, and C2 R2.

web-interface-hardware

Step 5: Update Group Settings
In the Web interface, go to the Groups tab and:

  • Name this group to “2×2 Video Wall” in the Title field.
  • In the “Receivers not in Group” list, select the receivers that you want displayed in the video wall and click the > button to add them to the “Receivers in Group” list. The receivers will appear below the lists.
  • Check the Video Wall This will open the video wall settings where you can specify the number or rows and columns in the video wall as well as monitor information (i.e., bezel width and monitor height and width). It also displays a video wall table.
  • Enter 2 for the number of rows, and 2 for the number of columns. The table will change to show a 2×2 video wall table.
  • Drag and drop the receivers where you would like them displayed in the video wall table. (This is where having the receivers renamed to something more meaningful helps with setup.)

web-interface-groups

  • Click the “Save Group” button.

Step 6: Enable Full-Screen Video Wall
Still in the Web interface, go to the Custom Display tab and select which source you would like to connect to the grouping that was just created. To switch the iCOMPEL media player to show the video wall across all the screens, click the box in the 169.254.2.58 (the IP address associated with the transmitter connected to the media player) column, 2×2 Video Wall row. Then, click the “Switch” button.

web-interface-custom-display

Step 7: Switch Content to Dynamic Display
To switch the display from the video wall only to show the source from the laptop in column 1, row 1, click the box in the column with the second transmitter, 169.254.4.73, and click the “Switch” button.

web-interface-custom-display2

The screen will change to show the content from the second source. In this case, it is pulling content from a Web page.

dynamic-display

Still in the Custom Display tab, click the “Save as a New Preset” button to make the configuration available in your dashboard. The dashboard is available on the mobile application; therefore, with the preset defined you can switch and control the displays from your mobile device.

That’s it! In just seven steps we took the static 2×2 video wall and made it dynamic with switching and control. This is just a snippet of the system’s capabilities. The system can create up to 8×8 video walls with 64 screens.

Need help planning your AV solution?
Enlist the help of a seasoned AV professional. Contact a Black Box technical engineer.

PoE applications and benefits: Save money and time

PoE is a technology that works well for wireless access points, video surveillance, building management, retail video kiosks, smart signs, and retail point-of-information systems, making it possible to easily move a device with minimal disruption. Additionally, if your LAN is protected from owner failure by a UPS, the PoE devices connected to your LAN are also protected from power failure.

Using Power over Ethernet can save hundreds of dollars per Wi-Fi access point (AP) locations compared to a non-PoE solution.

In a non-PoE installation, in addition to the Ethernet backhaul link, power must be wired to the access point. Depending on factors such as AP location, distance from the AC circuit, and local safety codes, the savings from using a PoE solution can be $250-$500 per AP. In harsh, outdoor, or industrial environments, you can save $750-$1500 per AP by using Power over Ethernet.

PoE Mid-Span Injectors add power to Ethernet for powering PoE powered devices ranging from wireless access points to IP cameras. PoE enables you to easily move equipment from room to room without costly, time-consuming rewiring.

Power over Ethernet is also the answer if you’re doing a high-density phone conversion from keyed phones to VoIP phones. There’s a much lower installation cost—all you need to do is provide the Ethernet connection. We have a variety of PoE PSE equipment including switches,media converters, and injectors.

Plus, using PoE can improve VoIP phone system availability. Power over Ethernet PSE gear can be located in data centers with uninterruptible power supplies and battery backup. This arrangement means that your PD VoIP phones will remain working if there’s a power failure. On the other hand, wall-powered phones will stop working when the power goes out.

Additional resources:
Video: Power over Ethernet explained

Oil & Gas Networking and Control Room Solutions

Industrial connectivity and KVM control room solutions for upstream, midstream, and downstream environments.

As the oil and gas industry continues to grow, more and more well sites, pumping stations, pipelines, processing plants, and refineries are being built. Along the entire route, safe, reliable networking and industrial automation are critical to smooth operations, efficiency, and productivity.

In 2014, the United States produced 9.2 million barrels of crude oil a day. The U.S. is now the largest producer of oil and gas, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia due to production from the Marcellus Shale. However, reservoirs of oil are becoming more difficult to access and increasingly less productive. To keep pace global consumptions, oil companies must constantly look for new sources of petroleum, as well as improve the production of existing wells.

Read more about industry solutions  for the oil and gas industry at our website.

Digital KVM Control and Monitoring Solutions for the Energy Industry: Automation, processes, and workflow

Black Box is committed to helping our customers succeed as they transition to the digital media environment. We help clients in the energy industry design and deploy mission-critical solutions.

In drilling operations, KVM systems provide high-quality and instant access to video and control signals from multiple sources to multiple users. In oil and gas exploration, rapid access to graphical data and processes throughout a seismic survey and the ability to respond quickly to status changes are crucial for safe and efficient operation. Remote monitoring solutions in control rooms provide users with better overview, quicker access to data, and failover connectivity. With KVM solutions, users can switch and extend real-time HD video and USB HID over LAN/WAN for remote monitoring.

Black Box KVM Solutions

  • KVM and hybrid KVM peripheral switching platforms
  • Virtual desktop remote management
  • Signal conversion and signal distribution
  • KVM extension to improve ergonomics by reducing heat and noise in the workplace
  • KVM extension over fiber for long distances

Benefits for you:

  • Updating current analog systems to faster and more reliable digital KVM.
  • Remote monitoring operations reduce risk for injuries in dangerous areas.
  • Reduced risk for downtime and accidental environmental disasters.
  • Asset Integrity Management (AIM)
  • Maximize human capital by running parallel tasks with fewer users who have instantaneous access to critical resources.

Learn more about high-performance KVM solutions for the oil and gas industries.

If you have a control room project coming up, contact your local Black Box office.

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.

6 Reasons to switch to digital KVM

Analog technology can’t keep up in the digital marketplace. Digital video is sharper and digital KVM is faster. Don’t get left behind in the digital revolution.

1. The VGA standard is being discontinued.
The VGA standard will not be supported going into 2015. Analog KVM and video won’t work any longer either. VGA sources and displays are getting increasingly difficult to find. We recently heard from a client who had to buy VGA parts on eBay.

2. Digital technology is distinctly better.
Digital technology improves users’ experiences by providing crystal-clear images at any supported distance. HD video is delivered pixel by pixel to digital displays at higher resolutions and increased color depth.

3. Digital systems are bigger and better.Broadcast Booth
New larger matrices and IP-based systems increase flexibility and enable connecting to a much higher number of endpoints. Thousands of devices can be incorporated into one unified system. On a digital matrix system, I/O ports are interchangeable, making changes and adds as simple as plugging a device into a port.

4. HD video switching is faster than it’s ever been.
Digital systems provide instantaneous HD video switching with no delay. Digital KVM switching is much faster, too, nearly instant rather than having to wait several seconds for video to show up.

5. Digital KVM improves the user experience.
Digital KVM systems feature improved USB support and compatibility with most other USB devices on the market: touchscreens, flash drives, tablet computers, as well as the workhorses, keyboards and mice.

6. Higher resolutions mean better images.
Increased bandwidth gives users the capability to work with images at higher detail levels as well as fit more content on the desktop for a more efficient workflow. Future-proof systems accommodate support for WQXGA (2560 x 1600) and 4K/UHD (3840 x 2160). Wherever users need pixel-perfect image transmission, they can now get it, via CATx or fiber cabling. Plus, send USB, serial, and digital audio signals.

Black Box Digital KVM Switch chosen Best of Show at InfoComm 2015

AV Technology named the DCX3000 Matrix Digital KVM Switch from Black Box a Best of Show Winner at InfoComm 2015. This innovative product was demonstrated at the show, which took place in Orlando, FL, June 17–19.

Small size and big performance set the DCX3000 apart from otherBlack-Box-InfoComm-2015-Booth digital matrix switches in its class. Created for smaller organizations that need to upgrade to digital KVM signal switching and extension, the DCX3000 reaches 30 endpoints over CATx cable. Go up to 10 m from the workstation to the KVM switch and up to 50 m from the switch to the CPU.

The DCX3000 Matrix Digital KVM Switch features zero latency and zero compression of the signal transmission. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) is simplified for ease of use. In fact, according to the judges at AV Technology, this was an award-winning feature. “The unique thumbnail preview provides a simplified graphical user interface, making it easier to view multiple screens than text-based, on-screen menus,” according to one of the judges.

Digital KVM matrix switching gives multiple users access to the same systems in real time for monitoring and controlling processes. Learn more about migrating to digital KVM.

View the full list of winners of the AV Technology Best of Show Awards. AVT bases awards in part on the ability to see and test the products it selects on the trade show floor. The decision to award a product a Best of Show designation is also based on a combination of the following criteria: perceived value, ROI and TCO, richness of the feature set, ease-of-use, reliability, versatility, and overall network impact. According the AV Technology, “The Best of Show Awards support our objective of meeting the needs of the tech manager community by spotlighting products that genuinely solve problems, offer value, and consider the operator’s PoV.”

View Black Box’s Garrett Swindell giving a brief demonstration of the GUI of the DCX3000 in the video link below. AV Technology is able to talk to product managers and team members, such as Garrett, that help develop and test products.

Additional resources
More about the solution: DCX3000 explained in details
Video: DCX3000 setup and applications

 

Updating the Company that Updates the Home

As the world’s largest appliance maker, Whirlpool Corporation knows a thing or two about innovations. But the company recently looked at its factories’ mixed networking devices and realised that their backend infrastructure needed some innovating too. An unstable wireless network set-up was costing the company money, was difficult to troubleshoot and simply could not keep up with new technologies.

Whirlpool turned to Cisco and the appliance company’s service provider, Black Box Network Services, to come up with a plan to update their network architecture.

Beginning with five pilot sites—including one of Whirlpool’s largest plants—Cisco employed designs to modernise the network. The products included in the plans were:

  • Cisco Catalyst 3750X switch
  • Cisco Catalyst 2960X Series switches
  • Cisco FlexStack and StackWise cabling
  • Cisco Aironet 3600 Series Access Point with Cisco CleanAir technology
  • Cisco 5500 Series wireless controller

Additionally, network traffic was collected and analysed by Cisco IOS Netflow, while Cisco Prime centrally managed the entire network.

Operations at the five test plants have soared as information now moves faster than ever. Networks are better equipped for video, which is speeding up innovation design and time to market. Issues can be dealt with quickly, before business can be impacted.

Whirlpool workers have been happy with the changes.

“Some engineers say they never realised how bad the old network was,” said Whirlpool program manager Greg Fisbeck. “Jobs that used to take a half an hour now take just a few minutes.”

Whirlpool was so pleased with the initiative in the five pilot plants that it will be upgrading their remaining 80 plants worldwide at a clip of 20 locations a year.

To learn more about the Whirlpool Corporation solution, please visit the case study page.

8 Critical features next-generation KVM switching and extension systems should offer

Here’s a checklist to use as you shop for a future-proof, high-performance digital KVM switch or switching and extension systems. It’s easy to remember as FAR-PARSS.

Flexibility
Any enterprise-wide KVM system should be flexible enough to input and output many types of video and peripherals, especially if you are in broadcast or command and control. Video signals such as DVI, HDMI, and VGA should be supported with resolutions ranging from 1080p to 4K. Other signal types to look for are audio, USB 1.1 or 2.0 for peripherals like keyboards and mice, and serial signals for industrial applications.

A flexible system should also be scalable for future growth. Calculate the total number of video sources and displays you have, and try to plan for growth. The KVM switches need to support current and future users with enough ports so that users do not have to create silos of servers and users. Look for a KVM system that can replace a video-only router with a high-performance digital KVM matrix switching system. A management controller enables central administration of the system. Does the management controller use a graphical user interface, or a text-based OSD?

Accuracy
When a KVM system can support video resolutions of 1920 x 1080 at 60 Hz or 3840 x 2160 at 60 Hz, test to make sure video does not lag or drop frames with rapidly changing content. Not all analog KVM systems or IP-based systems are up to the task, although most digital systems, including digital IP-based systems, can support fast, high-definition video.

Responsiveness
Test keyboard and mouse setup to make sure there is no latency. A true USB emulation KVM switch is responsive and consistent; an unresponsive K/M jars the operator out of his/her workflow.

Productivity
Optimally, a high-performance digital KVM system improves users’ productivity. In a matrix setting, all resources and displays can be connected and switched between by multiple users. Collaboration is enhanced by the ability to view and control the same resources simultaneously.

Accessibility
Calculate the longest distance between your endpoints, and make sure the KVM system can work over CATx or fiber cabling – or a mix of both – to reach all your targets. With digital matrix KVM systems, multiple users should have real-time access to targets.

Reliability
New generation KVM systems will support redundancy options such as multiple power supply units for 24/7 uptime. Be sure to eliminate single points of failure. Make sure the system you select can support routing transmitters and receivers through two separate core KVM switches for full redundancy.

Speed
Many digital KVM switching systems support video-switching speeds of under a half second. Anything longer interrupts an operator’s workflow as he or she switches between resources and may be noticeable to a viewer. Does your KVM solution support custom keyboard shortcuts (also called hotkey shortcuts) that can be set for switching a local display as well as remote displays, such as other user terminals for collaboration or a video wall?

Security
Lastly, KVM switching and extension systems need to be secure. Be sure administrators can assign specific access rights to specific resources. Remote configuration and maintenance of the KVM system enables an admin to securely log onto a system.

When you can mark off all eight of these categories, you’ll have maximized your ROI.

View our webinar about how digital KVM benefits the broadcasting industry.

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

USB and KVM Go Hand-in-Hand for Plug and Play Functionality

Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a technology that enables users to interact with a specific device for a specific function. USB supports a multitude of devices, ranging from simple devices such as keyboards, and mice, to more complicated devices such as game controllers, digital cameras, printers, network adapters, external storage — the list goes on. Use varies from basic functions, such as typing, all the way to transferring large files to/from external storage devices.

Several different USB modes are available today:

  • USB Low Speed (1.5 Mbit/s)
  • USB Full Speed (12 Mbit/s), also known as USB HID
  • USB High Speed (480 Mbit/s), also known as USB 2.0
  • USB SuperSpeed (5 Gbit/s), also known as USB 3.0
  • USB SuperSpeed+ (10 Gbit/s)

USB is used most commonly for keyboard and mouse input, or alternatively, keyboard and touchscreen input instead of mouse. These devices are classified as Human Interface Devices (HID). USB HID is designed to enable a user to interact with a system by using a USB keyboard and pointing device that use very little bandwidth, typically way less than 12 Mbit/s. On KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switches you will find that most will have two USB HID ports for a keyboard and mouse, and additional ports for USB High Speed devices to connect other, faster devices like printers or storage.

The USB HID ports found on most KVM switches analyze the incoming data flow from the attached USB keyboard / mouse to look for a sequence of key strokes that prompt the KVM switch to take a particular action (such as bringing up an OSD, switching CPU ports, enabling scanning, etc.). Since this USB HID traffic is being monitored at lower rates, it is nearly impossible to plug a USB High Speed device into the HID port and expect that the high-speed device will function properly. The USB HID ports on a KVM switch only expects to see a USB keyboard and USB mouse — nothing more. Each USB device, including the keyboard / mouse, has properties associated to it that include but are not limited to:

  • Device description
  • Vendor ID
  • Product ID
  • Device class

It is very important in a KVM application that these USB device properties are correctly transferred to the host computer. The proper drivers / software need to be loaded upon USB enumeration. USB enumeration is done between the time of plugging the USB device into the target computer / server, and the time that it is recognized; enumeration time can vary between 1 and 16 seconds depending on the OS and USB device. If the device properties are not properly transferred to the computer / server, then the chances of the device working is slim to none.

On Black Box KVM products, we “trick” the computer / server into thinking a generic USB keyboard and a generic USB mouse are always connected whether or not they are plugged into the KVM console. This feature is called USB emulation. USB emulation will ghost the generic keyboard and mouse on the KVM switch so the user can quickly switch computer ports without having to re-enumerate the USB devices every time they establish a new connection. We also have proprietary firmware in our KVM hardware that can properly negotiate the communication between the console keyboard and mouse and the attached computer or server. USB emulation is geared more towards wired devices instead of wireless devices; however, in some cases wireless keyboards and mice will work when connected to the KVM switch.

You may find some wireless keyboards and mice do not work with KVM switches due to a composite wireless transmitter trying to send both keyboard / mouse packets into a single USB HID port on the KVM switch. It depends on the wireless device manufacturer, how they prepare their USB packets before transmission, and the way they follow the USB specification. One thing to keep in mind is that not all USB HID devices will work on a KVM device as it would on a regular computer because of the way the device negotiates with the switch and the usage of the USB device properties (vendor ID, product ID, device class, etc.). The KVM switch does not have all of the supporting drivers like a regular operating system, so with it being pre-coded into the firmware, you will sometimes see compatibility issues with a very small percentage of USB HID devices in the market.

The next most common usage of USB is related to transferring files to and from a computer / server system from a thumb drive or external storage device. This type of application typically uses USB High Speed at 480 Mbit/s, and on newer systems USB SuperSpeed so that the file(s) can be transferred faster. Black Box offers KVM switches that can support these types of devices; however these USB High Speed ports do not monitor the USB data flow for keyboard hotkeys. If you attempt to control the KVM switch functions using keyboard hotkeys while the device is plugged into the USB High Speed port, it will never work. You have to use the USB HID ports for this.

Additional Resources
White Paper: USB True Emulation for KVM Switches
White Paper: Extending the Benefits of USB
USB Product Selector: Extenders, Hubs, Converters, Cables

Part 1 – How To Set Up a Static Video Wall Without a Video Wall Processor

Easy to set up. How many times have we heard that phrase in the AV world? And, how can a system with multiple devices, cables, and displays be a simple installation? Well, I’m here to prove it is. In just six quick steps, take our AV-over-IP video distribution system from a packaged box to an impressive, eye-catching video wall. And, there’s no need for an additional video wall processor to do the job.

Start with the MediaCento IPX PoE Multicast 1 x 4 Kit. The kit includes a transmitter, four receivers, a PoE (Power over Ethernet) network switch, and five 2-meter locking HDMI cables. Everything you need to multicast HDMI video over an IP network and create video walls. The system is perfect for:

  • A digital signage application with screens in a different building or store.
  • Distributing high-quality medical imaging video across a hospital campus.
  • Streaming video to classrooms in schools.
  • Sharing video in command and control room setups, or in corporate training settings.

Now it’s time to share how fast you can have the above up and running.

Step 1: Plug in the Switch
Plug in the PoE network switch to a power outlet.

Step 2: Connect Transmitter and Receivers to the Switch
Connect the transmitter and four receivers to the PoE network switch using CATx cables. The PoE switch eliminates the need for external power supplies, making the installation even easier and more cost effective. Plus, PoE power offers reliability, flexibility, safety, and scalability.

Step 3: Connect Source to the Transmitter
Using the included locking HDMI cable, connect source (i.e., digital signage player, PC, Blu-ray player, DVD player, etc.) to the transmitter unit. Make sure the receivers are on the same channel as the transmitter. If so, the units will automatically connect and video will pass through showing the same video on each screen.

Step 4: Connect the Screens/Monitors to Receivers
Using the remaining four locking HDMI cables, connect the screens/monitors to each of the four receivers. NOTE: Sources connected to receiver units will show IP address before connecting.

At this point you will have videos on all screens. To get a video wall, you’ll need to access the transmitter settings on the Web, which we’ll do in the next steps.

Video wall example running content from digital signage media player with video and RSS feed.
Video wall example running content from digital signage media player with video and RSS feed.
 

Step 5: Access the Transmitter’s Web Interface
Use the Web interface to view information about the device, upload a firmware file to the device, and configure video wall transformers. The Web interface won’t give network information or screen previews.

To access the transmitter without an IP address, open a Web browser and insert the address: http://ast-gatewayXXXX.local. The four digits after ast-gateway depend on the position of the rotary switch you’ve set. Please refer to the following table. For example, if the position is set up as 7, then the address should be http://ast-gateway1110.local.

Rotary Switch Table

Step 6: Update Settings in the Web Interface
In the Web interface, go to the Video Wall tab and:

  • Set the bezel and gap information (dimensions of screen’s inside and outside width and height), video wall size, select single host mode, and apply to all units.
  • Next, apply the specific video wall section to each receiver (i.e., top left would be row 0, column 0). To help locate which screen is which, select the “Show OSD” checkbox.
Video wall after changes made in the Web interface. Each display assigned to a receiver.
Video wall after changes made in the Web interface. Each display assigned to a receiver.

In part two of this blog post we’ll turn this static video wall into a dynamic video wall with control and switching.

Black Box ISTE 2015 Recap

ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia
ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia

Are cloud services and 3D printing the next wave in EdTech? After just a few days at ISTE 2015 I’ve noticed a prevalence of 3D printing and cloud services. 3D printing is an exciting new technology to bring into the classroom. Many learning concepts can be hard to visualize. By enabling students to take their work and create a tangible, physical object that they can manipulate the learning experience improves significantly. It used to be that you had to pay thousands of dollars for the ability to do this, but the influx of competitors has made the opportunity more affordable. It’s a win for students and educators.

Black-Box-ISTE-2015Cloud services have been around for quite some time, but they really seem to be coming into their own. From classroom and device management to collaboration and presentation tools, almost everything you need can now be handled from the cloud. It’s a great way to involve parents and allow students to continue to work from home. The ability to collaborate with other students around the world is also a fantastic opportunity that I wish I could have experienced. However, with the movement towards cloud services comes increased pressure on schools to improve their infrastructure and bandwidth. Luckily, many funding resources like the e-rate program have noticed this trend and are pushing more and more money towards network infrastructure upgrades.

As your school moves toward more cloud-based options and brings in e-learning devices such as iPads or Chromebooks to enhance student learning, you’ll need a secure place to store and charge the devices. You may even need to transport the devices from classroom to classroom.

Black Box has you covered with storage and charging solutions for the entire e-learning device spectrum – from small iPad minis to larger 15.6” Chromebooks. At ISTE 2015, we showed the attendees our deluxe and standard charging carts for popular e-learning devices. Most were excited about the safety-first design (no pinch points, no ledges for children to climb on, no sharp edges, and internal electrical components) and the low-cost options. And, many IT administrators I spoke with were excited to see the rack mount rails on our deluxe charging cart. The flexible rack mounting system means that you won’t have to replace your carts every time you change or upgrade your electronic devices. As technology changes, the carts can be easily reconfigured to fit your needs.

As the new fiscal year starts, get in touch with one of our education specialists! Contact Black Box  to discuss your needs. Ask about our custom designs, too.

Additional resources
White Paper: 12 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Tablet and Laptop Cart
ISTE: 10 Ways to Get Started with 3D Printing
ISTE: The 9 Hottest Topics at ISTE 2015

Why yes, Virtual Appliances can help your Digital Signage Enterprise

Simplified IT operations? Check. Faster response to changing business demands? Check. Reduced power consumption? Check.

Virtualization offers something for every user. It has provided efficiencies and capabilities that were once deemed impossible when constrained within a physical world.

The architecture of today’s x86 servers allows them to run only one operating system at a time. Server virtualization unlocks the traditional one-to-one architecture of x86 servers by abstracting the operating system and applications from the physical hardware, enabling a more cost-efficient, agile, and simplified server environment.

Using server virtualization, multiple operating systems can run on a single physical server as virtual machines, each with access to the underlying server’s computing resources.

Server virtualization unleashes the potential of today’s powerful x86 servers. Most servers operate at less than 15% of capacity. Not only is this highly inefficient, it also introduces server sprawl, increased electric costs, increased cooling costs, rack capacity issues, peripheral needs, and other IT complexities that could include specialized staffing.

What is a virtual appliance?
A virtual appliance is a pre-configured virtual machine image that is ready to be run directly on a hypervisor. Virtual appliances:

  • Can be deployed in existing infrastructure under existing service level agreements.
  • Don’t have the hardware limitations imposed by traditional appliances.
  • Are easier to backup, move, and replicate.
  • Make policy compliance and auditing easier.
  • Have less security vulnerabilities and easier remediation in some cases.

Just look at these benefits
There are many reasons to use a virtual appliance. Here are some key benefits to consider:

1. Reduce Costs
Reduce hardware and operating costs by as much as 50% and energy costs by as much as 80%, saving more than $3,000 per year for each virtualized server workload.

2. Save time.
Reduce the time it takes to provision new servers by as much as 70%. Set up usually involves decompressing the virtual appliance file and loading the resulting virtual image into the virtual server. It’s that simple.

3. Improve reliability and decrease downtime.
Offices today must prepare for disaster. Should your system fail, the built-in disaster recovery of virtual appliances ensure backed up data is immediately redeployed on another virtual machine with little or no downtime.

4. Virtual appliances often run just the bare necessities.
This allows you to efficiently deliver IT services on demand – independent of hardware, operating systems, applications, or infrastructure providers.

A closer look: physical appliance vs. virtual appliance
Now it’s time to decide which solution best suites your environment – physical appliance or virtual appliance?

The following table differentiates between the two types of appliances. Understanding their differences is an important step to knowing which appliance best meets your needs.

Physical Appliance Virtual Appliance
Real hardware limitations (number of cores, amount of RAM, HDD capacity, and number of network ports). Virtually no limitation – can allocate resources dynamically from an overall pool.
Require dedicated administrative portals, user access lists, IP addresses, out of band management, and other administrative resources. Generally deployed into an environment where these resources already exist and can be leveraged.
Rely on traditional storage devices (HDD, SSD, and Flash) for backup purposes and typically require some user intervention to configure and perform. Generally connected to high availability, high reliability backup storage networks with automated mirroring performed real time.
Typically limited to a single network port and cannot perform load balancing to control availability in peak use times. Can allocate multiple NICs (Network Interface Cards) and rules for managing availability at the Hypervisor management level.
Introduces a new hardware platform and possibly a new service level agreement (SLA) for support. Leverage existing hardware and SLAs that are already in place and consistent with policies.

Virtualization applied to digital signage
Virtualization is particularly attractive for digital signage and other situations where there is limited and well defined interaction on the client side, and content management on the server side. Moving away from hardware brings more reliability, flexibility, and affordability to organizations such as airports, banks, retailers, K-12 schools, and universities that need to deliver dynamic information.

By running the digital signage content management software in a virtual environment, organizations can easily manage all of their digital signage players from a local network location or remotely. This gives organizations quick access to individual logs, schedules, content, and playlists.

Explore technology solutions
Black Box offers digital signage solutions as physical or virtual appliances – you decide which application works best for your enterprise. Their iCOMPEL digital signage solution is designed on a Linux OS. This gives you 24/7 uptime, highly recoverable storage method and file system, and minimal vulnerability to viruses, malware, and other security threats.

See Black Box’s virtual content management system for digital signage – iCOMPEL Content Commander Virtual Machine. And, check out the Black Box virtual management and monitoring system for multiple subscribers – iCOMPEL Deployment Manager Virtual Machine. Both support up to 100 subscriber units. For larger deployments, models with support for up to 500, 1000, and 1500 units are available.

Need help planning your next digital signage solution?
Enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Contact your local Black Box office, or comment below.

Additional resources
White Paper: Roadmap to Digital Signage Success
White Paper: 7 Questions You to Need to Ask when Choosing a Signage System