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Home > Insider Blogs > Media Converter Troubleshooting

Susan Stanley - Media Converter Troubleshooting

Susan Stanley How Troubleshooting features on media converters can assist the technician in quickly identifying equipment failures. When Ethernet network equipment is functioning properly, all is well with the universe. However, failures are bound to occur, and when they do, the technician is the go-to person. The technician who understands Ethernet [protocol] and how Ethernet equipment works is an invaluable asset to any company. Ethernet equipment in today’s marketplace meets the 802.3 standards, unlike in the early 90s, when non-standard features created chaos for different manufacturer’s devices connecting to each other. With the ratification of standards for Ethernet, cross compatibility became possible and also reliable. So when network equipment fails to perform or just fails period, standards are no longer a consideration. As I have stated over the years, 90% of failures in an Ethernet network are due to a mismatch of speed and/or duplex. Products physically fail only a small percentage of time, but how does one monitor and manage those occurrences? Failures are pretty easy to detect when a port LED does not reflect connectivity, but how do you determine where the fault is emanating from? Ethernet equipment like switches and routers, which are Layer 2 and Layer 3 devices, will usually provide management of some kind, to report faults on a network. Layer 1 devices, namely media converters, are not as sophisticated. They don’t provide a robust Command Line Interface (CLI) or management. However, those Layer 1 devices are the glue that connects the higher Layer devices across the network. Media converters provide the necessary conversion of two unlike interfaces, typically copper to fiber interfaces. While media converters initially were designed to connect copper to copper, or copper to coax interfaces, once copper-based switches were connected over a fiber segment of some distance, the need for indicating a fault on the interfaces became important very quickly. Network folks weren’t looking for management, but they did want a way to physically observe a link-up or link-down condition. Soon, media converters offered troubleshooting features such as TX LinkLoss, (Twisted Pair LinkLoss) and FX LinkLoss, (Fiber LinkLoss). The troubleshooting features were available via a DIP Switch on the media converter. This allowed two things: the ability to leave it disabled while establishing connection to link partner; secondly, to enable the feature so that it could report a fault to the link partner, by extinguishing a designated port. As an example, if FX LinkLoss is enabled on a media converter, when the fiber segment suffers a break, the fault will be reported to the copper interface. The fiber interface and the copper interface LEDs both extinguish. The network technician knows there is a problem on the fiber segment. Without the FX LinkLoss enabled, the fiber interface will extinguish, but not report it to the copper interface, so no one knows of the failure until the customer calls in reporting a down network. Not all network equipment is located in a convenient place. Often, they are end points in remote huts, connecting back over several miles to the Central Office; observing a fault gets the technician a chance to begin troubleshooting before the phone calls roll in. TX and FX LinkLoss are just a couple of examples of fault indicators on media converters. Over time, newer troubleshooting features such as Fiber Alert and Link Fault Pass Through have been implemented on media converters. In fact, fault LED indicators are not new to the Telco world of products, and the Telco media converters offer LOS (Loss of Signal), ER (error) and others. Ethernet media converters followed suit, to assist the technician and reduce down-time. Media converters have not remained at the Layer 1 of the OSI; one can find many Layer 2/3 media converters, which are equipped with intelligence and as a result, supported by SNMP Management. The troubleshooting features offered on an intelligent media converter can now be configured and monitored via remote management, without physically being on site. Although DIP Switches are still available on them, the software allows a more flexible way to set up the features and provide reports of failures (via Traps). IMC Networks offers an updated White Paper on the troubleshooting features for our media converter product lines; while there are various troubleshooting features, they are product-specific; to ensure the features are available and set up properly, please refer to the product manuals located on the website. Download the troubleshooting guide.

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