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42U Server Management: 5 Easy Steps to Beef up your KVM Architecture

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Discover how to clean up your server room or desk top by examining 5 easy steps to beef up your current KVM solution.

With several diverse KVM solutions currently available, this article will take a look at simple options to utilize current KVM switch technology to upgrade your data center environment.

1. Start Over

On your current low-end KVM, are you losing keyboards and mice on the return trip back to port 1 from port 4? Have you RMA’d the same switch 3 times to no avail? If so, you need to retire the old, low-end KVM to the back of your closet and start over.

Face it, rebooting an entire 16-port solution is not worth your time and hassle. Your simple SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) KVM switch is simply not enough in today’s modern data center.

Where should the investigation begin for a KVM replacement? Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind while researching new KVM solutions:

Suggestions:

Plan for port expansion now since you have the opportunity to buy a new KVM. If 16-ports were simply not enough, now is the perfect time to expand your KVM architecture. Expanding to fit your current and future needs will be a lot easier than cascading multiple unlike KVM manufacturers down the road. Also, consider moving towards a CAT5 based KVM solution. CAT5 KVM switches are easier to manage and are becoming more common as most KVM manufacturers will have an option to choose from. More on CAT5 KVM switches below.

2. Add Remote IP Management

Late night trips to the data center to fix one server have become a thing of the past because of one simple product. KVM over IP front-end devices such as Raritan’s IP-Reach will connect directly to a computer or a KVM switch and permits remote users to gain secure BIOS-level access to manage mission-critical servers.

Remote IP management with products like Raritan’s IP-Reach and Minicom’s IP Extender is conducted through a standard internet browser session. Front-end IP products work their magic by allowing remote users to gain full K, V, M access of the attached computer(s) from any location with internet access.

Suggestions:

Consider video quality on the remote end by choosing a high-end remote IP device. Lower end front-end IP devices will offer a lesser compression algorithm leading to mouse latency and droppings. High-end remote IP management devices will offer a 16-bit palate which will increase resolution quality and usability.

Internal modem support for fail-safe back-up is standard on some front-end IP management devices. Low-end IP boxes will not offer this feature which will leave users with network issues without a connection. Internal and external modem support will offer true IP redundancy.

3. Introduce CAT5

CAT5 technology integrated with KVM switches will not only dramatically reduce cable clutter, additional features such as a powerful on-screen display control will provide users with added features normally unavailable with basic KVM switches.

The major difference between standard and CAT5 based KVM switches is the cable interface which connects to the computers to the KVM switch. CAT5 KVM switches use simple adapters called dongles. Dongles purely convert keyboard, mouse and monitor signals to a CAT5 or RJ-45 connection. Users will then take a standard CAT5 cable and connect the dongle to a port on the KVM switch. Length of the CAT5 cable varies with manufacturers; however, high-end CAT5 KVM switches such as the Raritan Paragon II will allow users to extend computers up to 1000ft away from the KVM switch.

Suggestions:

Distance limitations regarding how far users and computers can be extended will vary across the board with CAT5 KVM manufacturers. Considering Minicom’s Smart CAT5 KVM series, users are limited to placing computers only 33ft away from the switch. Please take into account how far computers are placed away from switch before deciding on a CAT5 KVM switch.

Also, please keep in mind that CAT5 KVM switches will not support audio functionality at this time.

4. Add Remote Power Control

If you have already invested in an IP solution or are thinking about upgrading to an IP KVM Switch, why not have a complete lights out’ environment in your data center by adding a simple remote reboot power management solution?

Remote KVM over IP access will only permit users to warm reboot computers. In order to cycle power to hung servers, killing power remotely is the only option for a total cold reboot.

Remote reboot can be as simple as adding the single port Dataprobe iBoot remote power brick or as complex as chaining together Server Technology’s Power Tower XL and XM for 32-ports worth or control.

Remote Reboot management and control for the two aforementioned products is accomplished through a standard secure internet browser session. Although, alternate remote access options such as Telnet of Serial control are available in select models.

Suggestions:

If more than 16-ports are needed, please consider total Amperage of the combined attached servers. Most 16-port power strips will integrate 20 Amp receptacles and plugs in order to support higher power draws. Calculate power consumption rate first before investing in a high port density power strip to ensure that the internal circuitry can handle the load.

5. Convert Existing KVM Architecture to a Digital Solution

There comes a point in time when multiple 8 and 16-port KVM switches need to be upgraded and converted to one main KVM management solution. Managing separate KVM environments has become too costly because, for one, modern data centers continue to see a reduction of data center employees versus the growing number of computers IT managers are forced to administer. By choosing the best and most effective KVM solution for IT employees and managers to operate, organizing packed data centers around a digital KVM solution is a painless way to relieve pressure for under-staffed and over-worked IT personnel.

The Avocent DSR CAT5 KVM switch will not only provide a centralized access point for managing multiple data centers, the Avocent solution will allow users to operate these data centers in a total lights-out environment. The Avocent DSR will permit simultaneous users to view and control servers (PC and Serial devices), reboot servers remotely, and monitor environmental conditions all from a web browser interface from anywhere in the world.

Performing simple measures starting with these 5 examples will better control the modern and expanding data center. Beefing up the KVM infrastructure will not only make your job easier, upgrading to new KVM technology will save you time and money let alone making those late night trips to reboot a server a thing of the past.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Directnet, Inc.

Robert Pavlokovic is an expert in the KVM and Server Management Industry and is the technical writer for server and data center management topics. He also has a strong background in product testing and evaluation. He writes professionally for 42U (www.42U.com), KVM Switches Online (www.kvm-switches-online.com), Server Racks Online (www.server-rack-online.com), DirectNET (www.directnet.us). He provides consultation on enterprise solutions for server management equipment and is also the lead product trainer. Robert Pavlokovic comes from a strong 3-year sales and engineering background for enterprise server management solutions.

42U Server Management: 5 Easy Steps to Beef up your KVM Architecture
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