Csu Dsu

February 24th, 2004

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What's the difference between a console and a rollover cable in networking?

I'm studying CCNA and I'm still fuzzy on this. Are they the same cables or are they different? I'm talking about where one end goes into the serial connection on the computer and the other end goes into the console port on the Cisco router. I've asked more knowledgeable friends, and they look at me like I'm an idiot. I know that if you plug a straight through cable from the computer to a switch, it goes in the ethernet port in the computer and an open port on the front of the switch. No problem.

Also, routers connect to each other out in the world (WAN connections) with serial connections, but they use crossover cables for this, don't they? Crossover cables don't have serial plugs on the ends. What am I missing?

Lastly, I was going to connect my laptop to a router at home, but all the console/rollover cables I've seen are female on the end, and the serial port on the laptop is also female. This *is* a serial port on the laptop, right? Would this only mean I need an adapter?

A console port uses a rollover cable and a special connector. The rollover cable is just a 8 wire cable in which pin 1 on one end goes to pin 8 on the other, pin 2 to pin 7, etc. The special connector is just a DB 9 (serial) female that has a RJ45 connector on the back where the rollover cable is inserted. It uses special wiring and tends to be specific to Cisco gear although there might be some exceptions. I suspect you might hear 'console cable' and it would refer to both the rollover cable and the connector as a whole.

A crossover cable is usually referring to a cable with a 568A wiring on one end and a 568B on the other and refers to UTP connections for Ethernet. (http://www.utm.edu/staff/leeb/568/568.htm) It has nothing to do with rollover cables as they are very different creatures.

As for serial connections, it is possible to get a crossover serial connector to connect to routers over a single cable but more often than not in the real world, a router will connect to a CSU/DSU over the serial cable and the CSU/DSU will connect over a circuit to a carrier (telco). The crossover serial cables are good for labs, though.

Serial ports on laptops/desktops should be male and will require a female DB9 or DB25 connector. A DB25 female port on a laptop is a parallel port. Many lower-end laptops don't come with serial ports anymore. You can get USB serial adapters, though. Something like this: http://keyspan.com/products/usb/USA19HS/

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