Image Credit: Patton Electronics
Network multiplexers (selectors) combine two or more data inputs into a single output. They are used with a variety of signal types (e.g., video, optical, digital, or analog) and support different transport mechanisms (e.g., wired, wireless, and fiber optic). Like other types of network equipment, they also support specific network protocols such as Ethernet and Frame Relay.
How Network Multiplexers Work
The way a network multiplexer works is a function of its type. In general, however, they combine multiple network signals into one signal. At a minimum, multiplexers have a single output and a single input control. The number of input controls is based on the relationship between inputs and outputs. For example, network multiplexers with a 2:1 I/O relationship would generally have one input control, while a 32:8 I/O multiplexer would probably require twelve (8:4).
Types of Network Multiplexers
Network multiplexers are classified according to the size of the network they support: LAN, WAN or MAN. The GlobalSpec SpecSearch database lets industrial buyers select products in this way, and also lists specifications and features.
Product and Performance Specifications
Product specifications for networking multiplexers include form factor (chip, board, or module), the number of concurrent connections, and the number of ports. Data rate, operating temperature, and the number of media access control (MAC) addresses are important to consider for performance. In addition specifying the number of ports, industrial buyers also need to select the proper interface.
Features and Applications
Like other types of network equipment, most multiplexers are designed for use in computer rooms and are stackable or rack-mountable. Hardened products are also available. Features range from alarms and LED indicators to IP addressing and full duplexing. Before selecting products, network administrators should clearly define their application’s requirements.