KVM Over IP: A New Approach to Server Management
By Robert Bernstein and Aaron Jennings (August 2002)
As new server technologies such as rack-optimized servers and blade servers are released into the market, the key differentiator among them is manageability. The DellTM Remote Console Switch 2161DS eases server management by enabling IT administrators to access and control systems over an intranet or the Internet.
Server management is the cornerstone of most data centres today. If a server fails, business can come to a halt in a matter of seconds. Now more than ever, network administrators require anytime, anywhere access to their servers. Ideally, server management should be non-intrusive to the servers and provide real-time total control at the server rack, from the office, or around the world.
The DellTM Remote Console Switch 2161DS employs AvocentTM KVM Over IPTM technology to provide this level of remote server management. Figure 1 shows a typical digital KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) configuration for a data-centre environment.
Figure 1. Dell KVM topology
Understanding the Dell Remote Console Switch
Deploying the Remote Console Switch solution requires three components: the Remote Console Switch 2161DS, the Remote Console software, and a system interface pod (SIP). A port expansion module (PEM) is optional.
Harness analog and digital technology
The Remote Console Switch 2161DS combines analog and digital technology to provide flexible, centralized control of data-centre servers. It significantly reduces cable volume, secures remote access, and provides flexible server management from anywhere at any time. The 2161DS consists of a rack-mountable KVM switch configurable for analog and digital connectivity, integrating the traditional functionality of analog KVM switches with the digital technology of KVM Over IP.
A local port provides the analog connection to access servers; a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet interface provides the digital remote connection. The analog connection accommodates access for either a data-centre crash cart or a rack-mounted monitor/keyboard/mouse solution. The remote interface digitizes the server image and then transports it via TCP/IP across a corporate intranet or through the Internet to the remote user.
The 2161DS can manage up to 128 servers using 1U of rack space, or it can be mounted in the 0U (zero unit) area of a Dell rack. It also can connect to Dell analog KVM switches to manage up to 256 servers seamlessly.
Gain point-and-click control over multiple systems
The Remote Console Switch 2161DS uses a multiplatform JavaTM application to manage, view, and control attached servers. Unlike other remote packages, the Dell software is not installed on the target servers and it provides access to the system during reboot, even at the BIOS level. To transmit KVM signals, Remote Console Switch software uses industry-standard TCP/IP connections and will confirm 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption.
A wizard guides the user through the software installation process, which includes configuration, automatic discovery of attached switches, and 2161DS naming conventions. The Remote Console Switch software then provides point-and-click control of systems connected to the 2161DS. Network administrators can control one system or as many as they can tile on a monitor screen. The ability to tile multiple systems on a single screen creates a consolidated view of all servers connected to the 2161DS. Multiple 2161DS switches can be connected worldwide, providing the network administrator with infinite scalability. When combined with the ability to tile systems on a screen, this feature allows for the simultaneous management of multiple servers in multiple locations.
To access the 2161DS using the remote software, users must provide a username and password for authentication. The 2161DS can maintain up to 64 usernames, passwords, and access permissions. Network administrators can define these access rights on a per-server or per-user basis, regardless of system configuration.
Integrate into the existing infrastructure with the SIP
The SIP connects to the KVM port of the target server and drives the analog signals over an industry-standard, Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable back to the Remote Console Switch 2161DS. The SIP allows the 2161DS cabling to be smaller in volume and less complex than traditional KVM switching solutions. This reduced cable volume not only saves valuable rack space, but also allows administrators to position attached servers more than 40 feet from the 2161DS.
Connect blade servers
The Dell PowerEdgeTM 1655MC blade server incorporates the SIP technology inside the server. This technology allows the 2161DS to connect directly to the blade server using Category 5 UTP cable, eliminating the need for bulky KVM cables and connectors.
Expand management capabilities
An optional component of the Remote Console Switch package, the PEM is an inexpensive method of increasing the system capability of a 2161DS switch. Network administrators can connect the PEM to up to eight systems and then back into a single port on the 2161DS. Connecting each of the 16 ports on the 2161DS to a PEM (connected to a maximum of eight servers) allows the 2161DS to manage up to 128 systems.
Managing existing KVM infrastructures
Installing the Dell Remote Console Switch 2161DS does not render existing Dell or Avocent KVM infrastructures obsolete; rather, it enhances those infrastructures. By connecting deployed analog KVM switches into the 2161DS, the existing KVM infrastructure benefits from the same remote capabilities that the 2161DS offers. Remote and local users can then access any server attached to the existing KVM infrastructure. The Remote Console Switch incorporates KVM Over IP technology to build a server management tool for today's enterprise infrastructures, which now reach beyond the data-centre space and into cyberspace.
Robert Bernstein (email@example.com) is a product marketing manager for racks and rack peripherals in the Dell Enterprise Systems Group. Previously, he assisted in advanced system sales in the Dell Small and Medium Business Group for eight years. He has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Texas and is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE).
Aaron Jennings (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the OEM marketing manager at Avocent, a Huntsville, Alabama-based company that helps data-centre operators manage their ever-expanding server farms. Previously, Aaron was lead product manager for the Avocent ViewPointTM large matrix switching solutions and digital remote access products. He has a B.S. in Marketing and Communications from the University of Washington.