Remote system management is an increasingly important issue facing many businesses today. As corporate consolidation integrates additional locations within the same infrastructure, IT professionals face a more demanding environment. Recent surveys show that as many as 95 percent of branch offices operate without on-site IT personnel (1). Additionally, other surveys indicate that while spending on corporate IT staff still constitutes the largest component of most IT budgets, it continues to decline—from 42 percent in 2005 to 37 percent this past year. (2) These trends require IT professionals to do more with less and determine more effective ways to perform critical tasks.
These changes in IT staffing often result in non-technical personnel performing standard tasks, such as data backup, patch management, and system maintenance. Not only do these tasks detract from an employee’s primary responsibilities, it is difficult to assure that best practices and procedures are followed. In addition, failure to perform these tasks could result in vulnerabilities related to data loss and security.
In addressing the challenges and risks associated with remote site management, many IT professionals are implementing ‘intelligent’ management solutions. These solutions provide systems administrators with remote, bios-level access to all of their servers, network devices, and other critical equipment.
Remote management solutions offer significant benefits, including:
Reducing downtime and allowing administrators to bring equipment back online quickly
Decreasing operating costs by eliminating or reducing the need for IT staff or third-party service calls
Centralizing datacenter control, improving security and providing easier and more efficient processes to perform system administration, maintenance, and upgrades
Improving physical site security and monitoring, minimizing capital loss due to vandalism or theft of equipment (3)
Remote management solutions generally combine remote management, intelligent power, and environmental monitoring. Below are example solutions from Avocent and Raritan that enable IT professionals to easily integrate their remote locations into their centralized management process, as well as standalone solutions offered by other vendors.
Integrated Remote Management Solutions
Remote Management: Avocent’s DSView 3 software provides an integrated platform for managing KVM switches, service processor aggregation appliances, and serial devices. Avocent’s DSR switches provide remote bios-level server and serial device control, and its service processor aggregation appliances, the OnBoard and the MergePoint, can be used to remotely manage devices with integrated onboard technologies.
Power: Avocent’s Cyclades AlterPath PM intelligent power distribution units enable remote power management and control of servers and network devices. AlterPath PM devices can be used with DSR switches and Cyclades console servers and integrate with DSView 3, combining system access and power control into a single interface. These devices come in both 208 and 110 models, with many variations in number of outlets and amperage available.
Console: Avocent’s Cyclades ACS console servers are available in single and dual power supply options. When combined with integrated power management and centralized administration, these devices provide secure and consolidated out-of-band infrastructure management. ACS console servers use a Linux operating system, are accessible both in-band and out-of-band, and have detailed logging capabilities and numerous security features.
Remote Management: Raritan’s CommandCenter Secure Gateway Appliance provides centralized management of servers and IT devices managed by Raritan Dominion series switches and console servers, as well as IT equipment with service processors and embedded technologies. The CommandCenter can also integrate remote power strips connected to Raritan Dominion products. The CommandCenter features 128-bit encryption and third-party authentication through Active Directory, TACACS+, LDAP, and RADIUS, and provides strong password support.
Power: Raritan’s remote power switches enable the remote monitoring, reboot, and shutdown of all connected devices. Using the Command Center, they integrate with Dominion KX switches and SX console servers, as well as other Raritan products, such as the Paragon II and IP Reach switches. These devices feature relay-controlled AC power receptacles, which allow administrators to monitor variables such as voltage, power, and temperature.
Console: Raritan’s Dominion SX and XRO devices provide out-of-band remote KVM access and serial device control, power control, and feature a modem for access if a network goes down. Dominion XRO devices allow 1 digital and 1 local user to control 1-3 servers and 4-8 serial devices and integrate with the CommandCenter Secure Gateway Appliance.
Centralized KVM Over IP Management –Minicom
Minicom’s KVM.net device allows administrators to leverage their existing investments by providing front-end out-of-band KVM over IP management for mixed server environments. KVM.net provides secure, centralized management with a Linux-based GUI, and is a scalable system that features automatic discovery of all IP devices attached to the system. The device provides authentication and authorization mechanisms for secure access to servers, “non-blocking” access, and the capability to group users and servers.
NetBotz provides robust standalone environmental monitoring solutions. For smaller spaces with limited future expandability needs, the Netbotz 320 provides integrated environmental monitoring (temperature, humidity, dew point, airflow, door, and audio) with a web interface that provides immediate sensor readings, real-time camera images, and immediate configuration. The NetBotz 420 offers similar functions for small to medium-sized spaces that require comprehensive monitoring with moderate expandability potential. For larger spaces, the docked camera pods and sensor pods of the WallBotz 500 can be placed up to 340 feet from a base station, allowing coverage of multiple rooms or cabinets. An add-on CCTV adapter allows a CCTV camera to be used as well.
Intelligent Power—Server Technology
Server Technology’s remote power management solutions allow administrators to cycle power to non-responsive systems from any location via a web interface. These products also leverage leading advances in power distribution, such as 3-Phase power, branch circuit protection, and intelligent power-up sequencing. Server Technology also offers environmental monitoring devices that work with its power solutions, such as onboard probes that integrate with the Power Tower XL, allowing administrators to view temperature, humidity, water sensors, and dry contact closure sensors from its Enterprise View software, the same interface used to manage and monitor power.
Which of These Solutions Is Right For You?
42U provides complete remote management solutions, including KVM over IP, intelligent power, environmental monitoring, rack cooling, and rackmount solutions. The team at 42U specializes in assessing needs, creating solutions, and supporting clients, to ensure that IT professionals maximize their use of current technologies to improve overall business performance. A 42U sales engineer can help you sort through potential remote management solutions and select the one most appropriate for your organization’s particular needs and environment.
(1) (2006) Gareiss, R. “Branch Office Support: A Distant Reality”, Network World, http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/branch/2006/1120branch1.html
(2) (2007) Rothberg, D. “Companies Will Spend More on The Channel, Less on Staff in 2007”, eWeek,
(3) (2005) Hack, T. “Optimizing Remote Site Equipment Configuration, Monitoring, and Control.” Remote Site and Equipment Management, http://www.remotemagazine.com/images/EasternResearchJune2005.pdf