Top 5 Reasons to Choose Pre-Term Fiber

FXUHD Pre-Term MPOLet’s face it. Consumer demand for information, increased bandwidth and new applications is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. In response, today’s data centers—both at the enterprise and colocation level—need to turn up networking services as quickly as possible while supporting higher speeds and cutting costs.

Today’s data centers are also looking to provide a seamless migration path from current 10 gigabit speeds to future 40 and 100 gigabit speeds, both of which utilize parallel optics transmission with multi-fiber push on (MPO) connectors as the standards-defined interface. Insertion loss is also a critical parameter that determines the maximum distance of an optical fiber channel for a given transmission rate, and the channel loss for 40 and 100 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) applications is much more stringent than it was with 10 GbE.

When looking at the big picture and all of these factors combined, pre-terminated fiber assemblies for switch-to-switch fiber connections in the backbone and storage area network make more sense than ever.

Let’s look at the top 5 reasons to choose pre-term fiber over traditional field termination.

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Windows XP End of Service – Industrial Firewalls are an Easy Fix

The End of Service (EOS) for Windows XP means it is going to be harder to keep existing industrial networks cyber secure and available.

After our series of articles on the impact of End of Service (EOS) for Windows XP you may realize that moving away from the operating system is going to be difficult and time consuming. Plus, you need a way to mitigate risk in the meantime.

Fortunately there is an easy fix for mitigating Windows XP risk now. It is as simple as installing industrial firewalls to protect your control networks from malware, whether introduced accidentally or maliciously.

Now, many vendors’ claim that using their products is “easy”. Just like programming a VCR was never as easy as it was cracked up to be, you might be suspicious of our assertion that installing industrial firewalls is easy.

MountainClimberImageFAManufacturing networks such as the one at this pharmaceutical factory can be protected from Windows XP cyber security risk through the use of industrial firewalls.

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UTP and 10GBASE-T: A Balancing Act

balanceTwo important channel transmission parameters that most are familiar with for Category 6A cabling to support 10GBase-T applications include alien crosstalk and insertion loss (IL).   Alien crosstalk is a measure of the noise coupling between adjacent channels that are in close proximity (i.e., sharing the same pathway). Insertion loss is a measure of the received signal and is dependent on the length of channel (i.e., the longer the channel, the weaker the signal).

But did you know that other unmentioned parameters related to the pair balance of cables and connectors are also good indicators of noise immunity and hence support for 10GBase-T? Read more »

Who is Erika Violet and What is She Doing in My Data Center?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACenturies before Sir Isaac Newton started studying color at the age of 23 in 1666, mankind used color as a means of identification.

Color remains the easiest way to identify, recognize and classify just about anything, and it has always been an integral part of our industry—from the colors of individual fibers to the outer jacket of a cable.

Despite what you may have heard or seen, there isn’t a new lady or a new type of optical fiber in town. But there is a new color—Erika Violet—and she has a lot to offer when it comes to identifying OM4 fiber in the data center.

History Repeating Itself Isn’t Always a Good Thing

Do you remember the orange 62.5? multimode fiber, otherwise known as OM1? When 50?m OM2 multimode fiber came on the scene, it too was orange.

When technicians see the same color cable in the same data center, it’s often assumed that they are of the same type. To truly differentiate, their only choice is to follow the cable back and carefully examine the tiny (sometimes illegible) cable legend or check their documentation. That’s precisely why the industry experienced countless issues with technicians inadvertently splicing orange OM1 to orange OM2.

One would think that we would have learned a thing or two since then. But when TIA/EIA approved the latest OM4 fiber in 2009, it remained the same color as its OM3 predecessor—Aqua.

So here we are with history repeating itself and technicians not having a way to easily differentiate between OM3 and OM4 fiber, especially when staring at the front of a panel where all the adapters look the same.

Enter Erika Violet (and Her Sister, Heather)

To solve the problem, the European market introduced a new violet color for OM4—known as Heather Violet in the UK and Erika Violet throughout much of mainland Europe. This new color has been accepted in Europe for nearly two years and adoption is on the rise.

Following the precedence set in Europe, several North American companies are now offering Erika Violet components as their new standard for OM4 fiber.

With Erika Violet cable, adapters and connector bodies now prominently displayed in pathways and at fiber panels, it’s easy to know for sure that it’s OM4. And even if fiber jumpers are color-coded per application, the connector body remains Erika Violet—mistakenly plugging in the wrong fiber jumper type is virtually impossible.

OM3OM4Why is She Really Here?

While they might look the same, OM4 fiber offers better performance than OM3. And just like we saw with orange OM1 and OM2 fiber, when OM3 and OM4 are inadvertently spliced or connected at panels, it can cause performance issues that are difficult to troubleshoot.

With today’s optical loss budgets being more of a concern than ever as we prepare for 40 and 100 Gig, using an OM3 connector when you meant to use OM4 can push your loss over the limit. Furthermore, mixing the two can cause a loss of bandwidth and result in an increased bit error rate (BER) on links.

Not everyone touching fiber in the data center these days would know to carefully look at the legend on the cable and understand what it means. But anyone can match color.

So those specifying or purchasing OM4 fiber for the data center would be wise to remember Erika Violet. In addition to still offering traditional Aqua for OM4, Belden is one of the first to now also offer its OM4 fiber cable and connectivity in Erika Violet. Just ask for her by name.



Wash-Down Cord Sets Improve Reliability for Sensor-Laden Automation Systems

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tim Senkbeil, a product manager with Belden’s Lumberg Automation brand, for his contribution to this article.

In the last several years, many industrial-based businesses – such as food and beverage, oil and gas, power utilities, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and others – have focused on improving their financial standing by investing in sensor-laden automated systems that maximize productivity and streamline production.

By embedding connectivity into their industrial equipment, managers are able to monitor system performance and ensure their facility is consistently performing at a high level.

As these connected systems become more critical to businesses’ success, the need to prevent equipment failure and unplanned downtime becomes even more important than usual. If a cord set fails in an industrial setting, the losses can quickly put a major dent in overall profitability.

Repair and labor costs, as well as the costs of lost productivity and discarded materials, can add up to 15-20 times the cost of the component itself. In certain industries, a single hour of unplanned downtime can cost $20,000 – $30,000.

With thousands of dollars, as well as the physical well-being of employees and equipment at stake, businesses in industrial settings need to ensure that the cord sets used to enable connected and automated systems can withstand the extreme, hazardous conditions they’re exposed to.


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How Dragonfly Hackers and RAT Malware Threaten ICS Security

The age of malware specifically targeting industrial control systems (ICS) began in 2010 when Stuxnet was revealed to be disrupting operations at one of Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities. Since that shock, we have seen advanced malware, such as Flame and Duqu target energy companies for espionage purposes. We have also seen the unsophisticated, but highly effective, Shamoon malware massively infiltrate Saudi Aramco .

Today, I want to let you know about a new malware, coined as coming from the “Dragonfly hacking group” by Symantec. It indicates a modis operandi on the level of Stuxnet in terms of technical brilliance and strategic execution.

Aimed at energy companies, it has at least three different attack mechanisms, including taking over the software download sites at trusted ICS/SCADA suppliers. The download packages look legitimate (since they come from trusted suppliers), but when the unsuspecting user installs them on their control system, the malware comes to life.

What does this have to do with everyday ICS and SCADA security? It is yet another example of targeted attacks of organizations in the energy sector. If you are in the energy sector, or your business relies on it, you may need to factor this type of cyber threat into your security risk assessments.

Let’s take a look at Dragonfly in more detail and see what we can learn from it.


RATs (Remote Access Tools) are key components of the Dragonfly malware.
Image Credits: 
The Quinton Report and The Dragonfly Woman

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3 Steps to Selecting the Right Industrial Cables for Oil and Gas Projects

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Peter Cox, cable expert, and a Project Manager in Belden’s Industrial IT group, for his contribution to this article.

From subsea drilling 6,000 feet below the surface to pipelines that cross many landscapes to intense refining processes, the range of conditions for oil and gas installations is very broad. As a design engineer, you may be involved with many types of projects with very different requirements. How then do you approach selecting the right cable for an oil and gas application?

But won’t any cable do? Certainly not! Cable issues account for more than 70% of signal transmission issues and they are difficult to diagnose and resolve. With downtime costing thousands of dollars per hour, availability requirements demand that the right cable is specified for each use.

The good news is that despite the broad range of oil and gas applications many of them share common cable requirements. In this article I take away the voodoo and spell out the 3 easy steps to selecting the right cable.

Windows XPFigure 1: These drill rigs are an example of “harsher” environment for cable use.
Image Credit: 
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Bonded-Pair Patch Cords: Your Front Line of Defense

Patch-CordsThis week we have a post from a guest blogger! Greg Deitz is a Networking Cable Product Manager for Belden.

Frequently squeezed and bent during installation and routinely manipulated by IT personnel, patch cords are often viewed as one of the most replaceable, commoditized components in the data center.

But as the primary connection for servers in the data center and switches in the LAN, patch cords are the front line of defense against downtime.

Since a cable channel is only as good as the weakest link, you might want to give your patch cords a little more attention. Read more »

Understanding Moisture Damage

Moisture-DamageWe all know that water in an electrical system is bad news. And we do our best to keep it out by specifying waterproof cable and connectors, and following industry best practices for installation and maintenance.

So, what if water does get into a coaxial radio frequency (RF) network? Unfortunately, its presence is not always obvious and its impact can be elusive and difficult to manage. Here are some tips to help you trouble-shoot a persistent moisture problem:

Know your risks

Water doesn’t often enter your cable or connector in the ways you may expect. Read more »

Introducing the Next Generation Tofino Cyber Security Solution

When I started Tofino Security in 2006, my two goals were to make industrial cyber security easy to deploy and better suited for the real needs of mission critical networks. Our first generation products went a long way in doing that, but like any initial offerings they reflected a limited feedback loop from users in the field.

Today I am proud to say that we have integrated lessons learned over the last eight years to deliver Tofino 2.0, our next generation of industrial cyber security solutions.

Tofino 2.0 is a suite of products and services that includes:

  • A new set of security appliances—the Tofino Xenon product line
  • A new software tool—the Tofino Configurator 2.0
  • A new Deep Packet Inspection Loadable Security Module (LSM)—the Tofino EtherNet/IP Enforcer

All products are now integrated with online licensing systems, plus made-to-order manufacturing. I believe this combination makes it extremely easy for control systems professionals to deploy ready-to-go cyber security solutions that work.

While normally my articles are designed to help educate you on industrial security topics, I hope my enthusiasm for Tofino 2.0 will convince you to read further and find out how this new generation makes implementing security on the plant floor both flexible and simple.

TofinoXenonIntroducing our new Tofino Xenon family of state-of-the-art security appliances

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