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KVM: software or hardware?

Managed KVM switching is the integrated operation of a wide range of remote management infrastructures (RMI), including analog, KVM-over-IP, serial-over-IP and/or power-over-IP switches. The term applies whether these devices are from different manufacturers/brands or from a single vendor.

To qualify as a managed switch, the hardware must support external operation, typically using RJ-45- or RS-232-style communication ports that are accessible via a wide array of communication protocols. The availability of external operation alone does not qualify a KVM as a managed switch; there also needs to be a control interface-preferably one that unifies people, processes and technology.

At minimum, a browser or command line interface is included with all remote-management hardware. Moving away from their traditional isolation to the immediate device, control interfaces of the future are emerging with unique integration models.

Today's levels of managed KVM switching range from hardware to software to a combination of both. Remote operation soft ware (ROS), for example, can feature anything from switch device enhancements to the addition of a comprehensive layer of integration and universal management to the hardware.

ROS products take an independent approach to managed KVM switching. Solutions from ATEN and Avocent require a combination of hardware and/or software, where Raritan offers a hardware-only RMI solution. Embedded remote-access solutions usually offer tools that integrate access to the RMI through a network-management layer application.

HP Software (formerly OpenView), IBM Director, Dell's OpenManage and recent acquisitions by Avocent and Raritan offer many options to integrate KVM switches with network-management software. These tools generally focus more on network management than managing the RMI layer.

Avocent offers two semimanaged switch solutions in its MergePoint product line. Each can be operated independently or integrated with other devices through Avocent's DSView software. MergePoint 5200 is a standalone appliance, while higher-numbered MergePoint models incorporate Ethernet ports.

MergePoint 5200 integrates control for Intel's intelligent platform-management interface with access to OEM KVM-over-IP devices for centralized management, such as Dell's Remote Access Card and HP's Integrated Lights-Out.

The MergePoint 5224/5240 products simplify the infrastructure requirements for OEM remote-management devices. The maintenance ports of OEM products connect directly to these models, allowing users to access all devices through the master IP address of the appliance.

Raritan's CommandCenter technology is another solution for remote-management infrastructures. CommandCenter-SecureGateway (CC-SG) supports OEM KVMover-IP devices in addition to IBM's Remote Supervisor Adapter II.

In addition to supporting digital-based KVM services, the CC-SG can integrate access management for the Paragon KVM switch. This requires another device called the Paragon System Controller.

ATEN's CC1000 Manager is software for managing an infrastructure of KVM-over-IP and power-on-the-net devices. Installed on Windows Server 2000/2003, there are four components that provide users with a unified point of browser access to computers connected to many different switches. CC1000 comes with an optional Java interface for multiplatform server environments.

Global Serv software solutions allow users to create custom integration models through a combination of support elements, configuration options and a pair of software tools: SLACi and My KVM Network. SLACi is a remote operation control interface for administrators and switch users that makes the infrastructures invisible to users. Support libraries determine what and how many switch brand(s) will be managed by the interface.

Employing SLACi as a security tool, a third-party administrator can have control over video routing and user access. System errors or user-defined events can push server control to technicians. Extended operation places switching control on the desktop of managed devices.

"Since implementing NetMRI, the IT staff has improved productivity and significantly reduced operational costs, resulting in more efficient management of this large enterprise network," Kirby adds.

The product's audit functionality provides a complete inventory of multivendor networks and detection of out-of-compliance network elements. Its analysis function detects performance, configuration and policy anomalies in real time, as compared against corporate and built-in industry best practices. NetMRI automates the data collection, analysis and the resolution of verified problems.

NetMRI simplifies the complex challenges of managing the network infrastructure so that Wells' Dairy can focus on what's important--selling ice cream across the country and around the world.

Gary Davis is a former system integrator in the KVM industry and currently a consultant to KVM hardware manufacturers. For more information:
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Focus: Testing & Monitoring; KVM Technologies Inc.
Author:Davis, Gary
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Previous Article:One scoop or two? Network-management software provides analysis on network issues before they become problems.
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