Ethernet Cabling

Ethernet cabling is an important discussion, especially if you are planning on taking the Cisco exams. Three types of Ethernet cables are available:
  • Straight-through cable
  • Crossover cable
  • Rolled cable
We will look at each in the following sections.

Straight-Through Cable

The straight-through cable is used to connect
  • Host to switch or hub
  • Router to switch or hub

Four wires are used in straight-through cable to connect Ethernet devices. It is relatively simple to create this type; Figure 1 shows the four wires used in a straight-through Ethernet cable.

Notice that only pins 1, 2, 3, and 6 are used. Just connect 1 to 1, 2 to 2, 3 to 3, and 6 to 6 and you’ll be up and networking in no time. However, remember that this would be an Ethernet-only cable and wouldn’t work with voice, Token Ring, ISDN, and so on.

FIGURE 1 Straight-through Ethernet cable

Crossover Cable

The crossover cable can be used to connect
  • Switch to switch
  • Hub to hub
  • Host to host
  • Hub to switch
  • Router direct to host
The same four wires are used in this cable as in the straight-through cable; we just connect different pins together. Figure 2 shows how the four wires are used in a crossover Ethernet cable.

Notice that instead of connecting 1 to 1, 2 to 2, and so on, here we connect pins 1 to 3 and 2 to 6 on each side of the cable.

FIGURE 2 Crossover Ethernet cable

Rolled Cable

Although rolled cable isn’t used to connect any Ethernet connections together, you can use a rolled Ethernet cable to connect a host to a router console serial communication (com) port.

If you have a Cisco router or switch, you would use this cable to connect your PC running HyperTerminal to the Cisco hardware. Eight wires are used in this cable to connect serial devices, although not all eight are used to send information, just as in Ethernet networking.

Figure 3 shows the eight wires used in a rolled cable.

FIGURE 3 Rolled Ethernet cable
These are probably the easiest cables to make because you just cut the end off on one side of a straight-through cable, turn it over, and put it back on (with a new connector, of course).

Once you have the correct cable connected from your PC to the Cisco router or switch, you can start HyperTerminal to create a console connection and configure the device. Set the configuration as follows:

1. Open HyperTerminal and enter a name for the connection. It is irrelevant what you name it, but I always just use Cisco. Then click OK.
2. Choose the communications port—either COM1 or COM2, whichever is open on your PC.
3. Now set the port settings. The default values (2400bps and no flow control hardware) will not work; you must set the port settings as shown in Figure 4.

Notice that the bit rate is now set to 9600 and the flow control is set to None. At this point, you can click OK and press the Enter key and you should be connected to your Cisco device console port.

We’ve taken a look at the various RJ45 unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables. Keeping this in mind, what cable is used between the switches in Figure 5? In order for host A to ping host B, you need a crossover cable to connect the two switches together. But what types of cables are used in the network shown in Figure 6? In Figure 6, there are a variety of cables in use. For the connection between the switches, we’d obviously use a crossover cable like we saw in Figure 1. The trouble is, we have a console connection that uses a rolled cable. Plus, the connection from the router to the switch is a straight-through cable, as is true for the hosts to the switches. Keep in mind that if we had a serial connection (which we don’t), it would be a V.35 that we’d use to connect us to a WAN.

FIGURE 4 Port settings for a rolled cable connection
FIGURE 5 RJ45 UTP cable question #1
FIGURE 6 RJ45 UTP cable question #2

Ethernet at the Physical Layer

Ethernet was first implemented by a group called DIX (Digital, Intel, and Xerox). They created and implemented the first Ethernet LAN specification, which the IEEE used to create the IEEE 802.3 Committee. This was a 10Mbps network that ran on coax and then eventually twisted pair and fiber physical media.

The IEEE extended the 802.3 Committee to two new committees known as 802.3u (Fast Ethernet) and 802.3ab (Gigabit Ethernet on category 5) and then finally 802.3ae (10Gbps over fiber and coax).

Figure 1 shows the IEEE 802.3 and original Ethernet Physical layer specifications.

When designing your LAN, it’s really important to understand the different types of Ethernet media available to you. Sure, it would be great to run Gigabit Ethernet to each desktop and 10Gbps between switches, and although this might happen one day, justifying the cost of that network today would be pretty difficult. But if you mix and match the different types of Ethernet media methods currently available, you can come up with a cost-effective network solution that works great.

FIGURE 1 Ethernet Physical layer specifications
The EIA/TIA (Electronic Industries Association and the newer Telecommunications Industry Alliance) is the standards body that creates the Physical layer specifications for Ethernet.The EIA/TIA specifies that Ethernet use a registered jack (RJ) connector with a 4 5 wiring sequence on unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cabling (RJ45). However, the industry is moving toward calling this just an 8-pin modular connector.

Each Ethernet cable type that is specified by the EIA/TIA has inherent attenuation, which is defined as the loss of signal strength as it travels the length of a cable and is measured in decibels (dB). The cabling used in corporate and home markets is measured in categories. A higherquality cable will have a higher-rated category and lower attenuation. For example, category 5 is better than category 3 because category 5 cables have more wire twists per foot and therefore less crosstalk. Crosstalk is the unwanted signal interference from adjacent pairs in the cable.

Here are the original IEEE 802.3 standards:

10Base2 10Mbps, baseband technology, up to 185 meters in length. Known as thinnet and
can support up to 30 workstations on a single segment. Uses a physical and logical bus with
AUI connectors. The 10 means 10Mbps, Base means baseband technology (which is a signaling
method for communication on the network), and the 2 means almost 200 meters. 10Base2
Ethernet cards use BNC (British Naval Connector, Bayonet Neill Concelman, or Bayonet Nut
Connector) and T-connectors to connect to a network.

10Base5 10Mbps, baseband technology, up to 500 meters in length. Known as thicknet.
Uses a physical and logical bus with AUI connectors. Up to 2,500 meters with repeaters and
1,024 users for all segments.

10BaseT 10Mbps using category 3 UTP wiring. Unlike with the 10Base2 and 10Base5 networks,
each device must connect into a hub or switch, and you can have only one host per segment
or wire. Uses an RJ45 connector (8-pin modular connector) with a physical star topology
and a logical bus.

Each of the 802.3 standards defines an Attachment Unit Interface (AUI), which allows a one-bit-at-a-time transfer to the Physical layer from the Data Link media access method. This allows the MAC to remain constant but means the Physical layer can support any existing and new technologies. The original AUI interface was a 15-pin connector, which allowed a transceiver(transmitter/receiver) that provided a 15-pin-to-twisted-pair conversion.

The thing is, the AUI interface cannot support 100Mbps Ethernet because of the high frequencies involved. So 100BaseT needed a new interface, and the 802.3u specifications created one called the Media Independent Interface (MII), which provides 100Mbps throughput. The MII uses a nibble, defined as 4 bits. Gigabit Ethernet uses a Gigabit Media Independent Interface(GMII) and transmits 8 bits at a time.

802.3u (Fast Ethernet) is compatible with 802.3 Ethernet because they share the same physical characteristics. Fast Ethernet and Ethernet use the same maximum transmission unit (MTU), use the same MAC mechanisms, and preserve the frame format that is used by 10BaseT Ethernet.

Basically,Fast Ethernet is just based on an extension to the IEEE 802.3 specification, except that it
offers a speed increase of 10 times that of 10BaseT.

Here are the expanded IEEE Ethernet 802.3 standards:

100BaseTX (IEEE 802.3u) EIA/TIA category 5, 6, or 7 UTP two-pair wiring. One user per segment; up to 100 meters long. It uses an RJ45 connector with a physical star topology and a logical bus.

100BaseFX (IEEE 802.3u) Uses fiber cabling 62.5/125-micron multimode fiber. Point to point topology; up to 412 meters long. It uses an ST or SC connector, which are media interface connectors.

1000BaseCX (IEEE 802.3z) Copper twisted-pair called twinax (a balanced coaxial pair) that can only run up to 25 meters.

1000BaseT (IEEE 802.3ab) Category 5, four-pair UTP wiring up to 100 meters long.

1000BaseSX (IEEE 802.3z) MMF using 62.5- and 50-micron core; uses an 850 nano-meter laser and can go up to 220 meters with 62.5-micron, 550 meters with 50-micron.

1000BaseLX (IEEE 802.3z) Single-mode fiber that uses a 9-micron core and 1300 nanometer laser and can go from 3 kilometers up to 10 kilometers.

Note:If you want to implement a network medium that is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference (EMI), fiber-optic cable provides a more secure, long-distance cable that is not susceptible to EMI at high speeds.

Ethernet at the Data Link Layer

Ethernet at the Data Link layer is responsible for Ethernet addressing, commonly referred to as hardware addressing or MAC addressing. Ethernet is also responsible for framing packets received from the Network layer and preparing them for transmission on the local network through the Ethernet contention media access method.

Ethernet Addressing

Here’s where we get into how Ethernet addressing works. It uses the Media Access Control(MAC) address burned into each and every Ethernet network interface card (NIC). The MAC, or hardware, address is a 48-bit (6-byte) address written in a hexadecimal format.

Figure 1 shows the 48-bit MAC addresses and how the bits are divided.

FIGURE 1 Ethernet addressing using MAC addresses
The organizationally unique identifier (OUI) is assigned by the IEEE to an organization.

It’s composed of 24 bits, or 3 bytes. The organization, in turn, assigns a globally administered address (24 bits, or 3 bytes) that is unique (supposedly, again—no guarantees) to each and every adapter it manufactures. Look closely at the figure. The high-order bit is the Individual/ Group (I/G) bit. When it has a value of 0, we can assume that the address is the MAC address of a device and may well appear in the source portion of the MAC header. When it is a 1, we can assume that the address represents either a broadcast or multicast address in Ethernet or a broadcast or functional address in TR and FDDI (who really knows about FDDI?).

The next bit is the global/local bit, or just G/L bit (also known as U/L, where U means universal). When set to 0, this bit represents a globally administered address (as by the IEEE). When the bit is a 1, it represents a locally governed and administered address (as in what DECnet used to do).

The low-order 24 bits of an Ethernet address represent a locally administered or manufacturer assigned code. This portion commonly starts with 24 0s for the first card made and continues in order until there are 24 1s for the last (16,777,216th) card made. You’ll find that many manufacturers use these same six hex digits as the last six characters of their serial number on the same card.

Ethernet Frames

The Data Link layer is responsible for combining bits into bytes and bytes into frames. Frames are used at the Data Link layer to encapsulate packets handed down from the Network layer for transmission on a type of media access.

The function of Ethernet stations is to pass data frames between each other using a group of bits known as a MAC frame format. This provides error detection from a cyclic redundancy check (CRC). But remember—this is error detection, not error correction. The 802.3 frames and Ethernet frame are shown in Figure 2

Note:Encapsulating a frame within a different type of frame is called tunneling.

FIGURE 2  802.3 and Ethernet frame formats
Following are the details of the different fields in the 802.3 and Ethernet frame types:

Preamble An alternating 1,0 pattern provides a 5MHz clock at the start of each packet, which allows the receiving devices to lock the incoming bit stream.

Start Frame Delimiter (SFD)/Synch The preamble is seven octets and the SFD is one octet(synch). The SFD is 10101011, where the last pair of 1s allows the receiver to come into the alternating 1,0 pattern somewhere in the middle and still sync up and detect the beginning of the data.

Destination Address (DA) This transmits a 48-bit value using the least significant bit(LSB) first. The DA is used by receiving stations to determine whether an incoming packet is addressed to a particular node. The destination address can be an individual address or a broadcast or multicast MAC address. Remember that a broadcast is all 1s (or Fs in hex) and is sent to all devices but a multicast is sent only to a similar subset of nodes on a network.

Source Address (SA) The SA is a 48-bit MAC address used to identify the transmitting device, and it uses the LSB first. Broadcast and multicast address formats are illegal within the SA field.

Length or Type 802.3 uses a Length field, but the Ethernet frame uses a Type field to identify the Network layer protocol. 802.3 cannot identify the upper-layer protocol and must be used with a proprietary LAN—IPX, for example.

Data This is a packet sent down to the Data Link layer from the Network layer. The size can vary from 64 to 1,500 bytes.

Frame Check Sequence (FCS) FCS is a field at the end of the frame that’s used to store the CRC.

Let’s pause here for a minute and take a look at some frames caught on our trusty OmniPeek network analyzer. You can see that the frame below has only three fields: Destination, Source, and Type (shown as Protocol Type on this analyzer):

Destination: 00:60:f5:00:1f:27
Source: 00:60:f5:00:1f:2c
Protocol Type: 08-00 IP

This is an Ethernet_II frame. Notice that the type field is IP, or 08-00 (mostly just referred to as 0x800) in hexadecimal.

The next frame has the same fields, so it must be an Ethernet_II frame too:

Destination: ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff Ethernet Broadcast

Source: 02:07:01:22:de:a4
Protocol Type: 08-00 IP

Did you notice that this frame was a broadcast? You can tell because the destination hardware address is all 1s in binary, or all Fs in hexadecimal.

Let’s take a look at one more Ethernet_II frame. I’ll talk about this next example again when we use IPv6 in this blog, but you can see that the Ethernet frame is the same Ethernet_II frame we use with the IPv4 routed protocol but the type field has 0x86dd when we are carrying IPv6 data, and when we have IPv4 data, we use 0x0800 in the protocol field:

Destination: IPv6-Neighbor-Discovery_00:01:00:03 (33:33:00:01:00:03)
Source: Aopen_3e:7f:dd (00:01:80:3e:7f:dd)
Type: IPv6 (0x86dd)

This is the beauty of the Ethernet_II frame. Because of the protocol field, we can run any Network layer routed protocol and it will carry the data because it can identify the Network layer protocol.