By Sanjay Motwani, Regional Director, Asia Pacific, Raritan APAC
IT managers have a lot on their plates when it comes to managing servers both in-house and remotely, especially if they work in environments where they need access to multiple systems regardless of whether they are onsite or at a separate location. Most of the companies are shifting to web-centric computing to support their extended enterprises. This shift has led to the phenomenon of data center sprawl – the proliferation of large, multiplatform, heterogeneous IT infrastructures with geographically distributed applications and human resources. Managing all of these servers and peripherals have become even more of a challenge as issues of security, reliability, and serviceability have grown in importance for IT managers and CIOs.
Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions to consider for remote server management that is unique from one another but can also be used together in certain situations to cover all the bases.
Availability of Multiple Options
With remote server management, there are many different options available. KVM switches aggregate the monitor, keyboard, and mouse cabling into a central console that includes a switching box, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. It is commonly used in smaller data centers that require direct physical interaction with servers or in environments that have strict security constraints. The next step up from KVM is embedded management, which is where server vendors embed a chipset that monitors the health and state of the system. Using these embedded processors, IT teams no longer have to install their own agents, but can actually use the onboard tool to configure settings, update firmware, and detect any fault. One can also connect these processors back to the centralized system for alerts and monitoring reports.
For true remote management, advanced solutions like virtual network consoles (VNC) or remote desktop protocols (RDP) are also available.With RDP, one can connect to their servers through the network and get the classic window into that system.
VNC gives the operating system view and also digs deeper into the server to the lower-level functions either onsite or offsite. For example,one can use a VNC tool to get to the dedicated private server at the hosting site or can use it to get to one of the physical servers that are running the virtual machines in their own environment.
KVM Offers Benefits Other Alternatives Can’t Yet Match
Although it is helpful to consider RDP, VNC, and embedded processors they perform some management and diagnostics tasks from a distance, there still isn’t a solid replacement for traditional KVM as an onsite and remote access tool. KVM neither use the server’s own network connection to access the server nor rely on software agents or underlying operating system and networking.
Today IP-enabled KVM switches and serial console servers give data center managers and administrators the equivalent of “at the rack” BIOS-level access to thousands of servers and other devices anytime and anywhere.
If there is a server hardware malfunction or something that impacts the server’s ability to connect via the network, one still has the direct KVM connection to run diagnostics and get it back up and running quickly.
In addition to offering that out-of-band connection to the server, there are many other benefits to KVM as well. For example, KVM switches offer heterogeneous access to servers from multiple vendors allowing one to get the same console experience regardless of the vendor. And although some other remote server management tools are relatively powerful, they still cannot quite match some of the in-depth features of long-standing KVM solutions.
Factors to consider while choosing the right tool
Before choosing any server management solution, it is important to understand the business needs and how often one visits the computer room or spends time in managing the servers.
For true remote access and management, there are plenty of options available like RDP, VNC, or other alternatives. It is always possible to set up a hybrid solution with the benefits of KVM and the flexibility of VNC or RDP. Organizations can pick and choose which solution they wish to use with which server, or can have a true hybrid setup where they will have the option of using either one, depending on the situation.
Know the environment: One has to start by understanding your business needs and analyzing your environment. Most data centers could benefit from KVM, but it might not be the only solution to implement.
Time consideration:IT administrators have quite a bit to worry about, so due emphasis should be paid on implementing truly remote solutions, such as virtual network consoles (VNC) or remote desktop protocol (RDP), to at least give them the option of handling situations from their desk or while away from the facility rather than having to physically go the server every time there is an issue.
Compare and combine: It is always advisable to IT administrators to use multiple solutions at the same time. One type of solution may not always provide desired effectiveness.
Re-evaluate: Implementation of any solution does not mean to stick with it forever. Test out different options and find the system that works best for you.
To Sum up:
With every passing year, data center platform will only continue to evolve as it grows.New infrastructure components will keep on adding which will make it critical to be able to control this environment and management whenever needed, whether remote or onsite. Managing IT infrastructures to optimize ROI requires not just a collection of KVMs and serial console servers but also an integrated set of tools besides a management architecture. Together they bring in efficiency, lesser complexities, and better productivity.