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Re: KVM question - skip this technology entirely

 Regarding KVM solutions, how about *none*? 

I inherited a network of about 150 Linux boxes that have a mix of no console 
port, a Raritan Dominion port, or an Avocent port.  Most of the boxes came 
from Dell and contain a card called the "Dell Remote Assistant Card" (DRAC) 
but none of those had ever been plugged in; I only vaguely knew what those 
were for. 

What I hate about the Raritan:  unless you pay for a super-duper-high price 
for multi-user support (on top of an already-expensive box), only one person 
can use a given chassis.  Unless you buy their management server, each box is 
separate so you have to remember which of N Raritan boxes your target machine 
is connected to.  And most vexing of all, the device has a nasty piece of 
key-bounce logic that inserts unwanted keystrokes into your input stream if 
you type faster than 25wpm. 

What I hate about the Avocent:  we have a stripped-down version so I'm sure 
their higher end ones are better, but as with the Raritan they are separate 
non-centrally-managed units and the ones we have don't provide remote access 
so you have to walk into the computer room to use it. 

What I like about the DRAC:  each one is its own separate thing with its own 
separate IP address so you can develop your own DNS/DHCP-based central 
management environment and make everything work the way you want.  If you've 
been around since the old DEC days, think of the front-end processor that 
you'd find on the larger systems:  it was usually a PDP-11 that you'd use to 
boot up and otherwise control a VAX or PDP10.  Same idea:  this is a front-end 
processor that stays powered up all the time and provides you with far more 
capability than a KVM switch.  Need to power down half your servers to save 
electricity during the off-peak period?  Write a script and you can do that. 
Need to push the reset button because you inevitably have to run some silly 
Windows box that periodically gets hosed in a location 30 or 3000 miles from 
you?  No problem. 

HP has a similar (but better-coded) product called the ILO (Intelligent Lights 
Out).  These big-name brands cost $300 per server.  There are white-box 
equivalents on the market for a whole lot less. 

By the time you buy a remote KVM switch with its cabling, and run all the 
requisite cables, you're looking at more money and labor for the KVM solution 
than the console front-end solution. 

I look forward to the day I finally have the time to finish yanking out our 
Raritans so you can find me posting them on eBay. 


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