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Re: KVM question - skip this technology entirely

 Rich Braun wrote: 
> ...the console-net switches don't have to be fancy like the 
> production-net switches... 

That was my thought. In addition, if you aren't segregating your console 
control to its own segment or need the redundancy of an additional 
switch port, you could use a 2-port passive hub at each server. It'd be 
cheap and cut down on cabling. You don't really need a dedicated switch 
port for the small amount of data used by the console (if we're talking 
about servers, that are rarely accessed this way). 

(It looks like some of the cards below have two Ethernet jacks on them. 
Perhaps they're configured to act as a "pass through" - essentially a 
passive hub.) 

> As for the query about white-box console front-end solutions:  the guy who 
> recommended this at work said he likes the ones from Supermicro. 


   PMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) is a hardware-level 
   interface specification that defines a common, abstract message-based 
   interface to platform monitoring and control functions. Providing 
   peace of mind to customers, SIM (Supermicro Intelligent Management) 
   module implements IPMI 2.0 technology to provide remote access, 
   monitoring and administration for Supermicro server platforms. With 
   SIM, server administrators can view a server's hardware status 
   remotely, receive an alarm automatically if a failure occurs, and 
   power cycle a system that is non-responsive. 

A bunch are shown on that page. They mostly look like PCI cards. 

Are there generic IPMI clients for multiple platforms? 

> I don't know the price but I think it's in the $130 range (!). 

A search for "IPMI" at Newegg:

turns up a few Supermicro motherboards, and at least one IPMI card for 
$45, though it isn't currently available and doesn't match any of the 
part numbers on the Supermicro page. 

I also see several Avocent KVMs show up as being IPMI compliant (ability 
to manage servers using IPMI). 

Found one here for $85:



Different models in each case. 

> If I could do this for that kind of price, especially if it could be 
> done on any motherboard (which may not be possible)... 

Per the Supermicro page the card needs to be matched to the motherboard. 

Makes sense given that the card is extracting temperature and other data 
that is motherboard specific. It also sounds like in some cases the card 
avoids having its own Ethernet port by piggybacking on the motherboard 
Ethernet port. So it needs pretty tight integration. 

Seems it ought to be possible to have a more universal design if you 
were willing to give up on some of those features. Once that's 
accomplished, economies of scale could drive the price down. (Or 
alternatively, use open source firmware on the IPMI card, and load 
motherboard specific drivers for extracting sensor data.) 

>'d be hard to imagine ever contemplating a KVM solution again. 

Well, even at $50 per card, the break-even point isn't reached until you 
have quite a few ports. You can get an 8-port KVM for under $200 
(several choices under $100). 

On a related note, I heard mentioned on a podcast that there is "virtual 
KVM" software available, specifically Synergy[1]. It implements 
something similar to the above, with the obvious disadvantage that it 
runs on the main hardware and depends on the health of the running OS. 
Anyone used it? 



Tom Metro 
Venture Logic, Newton, MA, USA 
"Enterprise solutions through open source." 
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