Meet Remote Access Needs With KVM
A data center consolidation project enables a VAR to provide the city of Seattle with remote access capability via KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switches.
The city of Seattle had three remote sites, with servers located at each location. When the city decided to undertake a data center consolidation project, it turned to Avocent (Huntsville, AL), one of its primary networking vendors. Avocent, in turn, called in integrator Enterprise Control Systems, Inc. (ECS) (Renton, WA).
"The city of Seattle was already using KVM [keyboard, video, mouse] switch technology, but it was older legacy KVM technology," says Kevin Baldwin, president of ECS. "The city was undertaking a data center consolidation project and, in the process, was bringing servers from those remote locations together into one large data center site. We have worked very closely with both Avocent and the city of Seattle. When additional expertise was needed with this project, we got the call."
KVM Provides Remote Access To Servers
Having servers at three remote sites also required personnel to manage them. Along with consolidating the servers into one data center, the city was looking into ways to better manage the servers, specifically with new KVM technology that was on the market. Seattle had been using Avocent analog products, and wanted to incorporate some of the new digital products. They called Avocent, and the manufacturer gave them a presentation on the KVM over IP (Internet protocol) product. "The city of Seattle is security-conscious," says Baldwin. "To increase security, the city wanted to minimize traffic coming in and out of the data center. This is where the KVM over IP products came into play."
The city had been using an analog matrix switch. Three or four years ago when it was installed, the technology was cutting edge. But newer IP-based products allow end users to have control over the servers while at a remote location. "The administrator can sit at his desk in a different location and have full console control over the servers in the data center," says Baldwin. The DSR product line from Avocent allows users to control 16 servers with a single switch that fits in a 1-U space. The city also did not want to outgrow the solution in two years. With the DSR product line, they can infinitely scale the solution.
However, the remote access capability was the most attractive feature. KVM over IP allows users to access the servers from any location. Users can reboot the server, and, as the server comes back up, they can debug it as well. It gives the user the same control as if he were in front of the server with a keyboard, monitor, and mouse connected to it. "Users can't do this with software, because most software resides on the server," says Baldwin. "When the server goes down, so does the software application. The Avocent solution is not on the server."
Digital Solutions Replace Analog
In deciding which KVM switches to use, ECS chooses Avocent. "There are a few legitimate competitors out there, but Avocent had the foresight to develop what I consider the only enterprise-level IP-based switch on the market," says Baldwin. "Other manufacturers have good products, but most are still living in the analog world. Their IP products are just a front end to their analog solution. They are taking a traditional analog matrix switch and putting an IP gateway on the front end. They are mixing two technologies, while Avocent has a pure digital solution."
For the city of Seattle, ECS used 16-port, rack-mounted switches. The switch gets an IP address for the servers. The switch is plugged into the network and is managed through a couple of different software components. In addition to the remote access capability, the DSR product line also features a local analog port on the switch. This enables a user in the data center to walk up to a rack and have analog access to those servers as well. That feature was appealing to the city.
"Our biggest challenge was timing," says Baldwin. "A lot of work is involved in a data center consolidation project. We had to coordinate with all the other contractors, and timing was a huge issue. The servers had to be moved on a tight deadline. We had to make sure everything was coordinated so the switches were ready to go when the servers came in. We were given four days to get the switches in and more than 400 servers hooked up and running."