Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: Remote KVM With Minicom Smart 116 IP

We recently sent products for review on ChannelWeb - the first is the Smart 116 IP, is a single user digital KVM switch.

Review: Remote KVM With Minicom Smart 116 IP

A KVM switch may not be the most mission-critical piece of equipment, but it's sure handy to have. And they are getting even more convenient.
The KVM's job is very straightforward: share a single keyboard, video, and mouse across multiple machines. With the prevalence of LCD monitors instead of CRTs, it's not as preposterous to have a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse for each PC at the desk, but it's not the most economical use of precious workspace. The KVM cleans up the desk and makes switching from one machine to another a more efficient process. Some of the modern KVM switches work over IP networks, making it possible to switch to machines located a certain distance away.
Minicom Advanced Systems sent two products from its KVM lineup to the Test Center for review. The first, the Smart IP 116, is a single user digital KVM switch. The other, the PX, is a palm-sized KVM-over-IP device.
The Smart IP 116 resembles a plain networking switch. It's a 1U, half-sized unit weighing a slightly less than five pounds. There are 16 RJ-45 ports for connecting servers to the switch, along with a LAN port, a serial port, a RJ-11 flash port, and ports for the video, keyboard, and mouse. The keyboard and mouse ports are PS/2.
The servers are connected to the switch using a dongle with a video and USB connector (PS2 connectors are also available) on one end and a RJ45 port on the other. There's a separate model specifically for Sun hardware, but they support Windows 98 SE or later, Mac OS, Sun, SGI, and modern Linux distributions.
A CAT5 cable connects the ROCC (RICC over cable) dongle to the switch, so the servers can be up to 100 feet (30 meters) away. Power is drawn over the keyboard PS/2 port or the USB port so an additional power adapter for each device is unnecessary. This simplifies cable management, with only a single cable extending from the server to the switch.
Setup is straightforward. After connecting the servers, a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the 116 IP, it is plugged in and powered on. The LAN port should be connected to the network switch. Depending on how the switch is set up, access can be local or remote.
The Smart 116 IP grants BIOS-level control over the connected server, regardless of the connection method. For remote connections, data is encrypted through the 128-bit SSL protocol over a Web browser. To access the target server, the Web browser uses HTTPS to point to the server IP address. The screen is drawn using Active X control. Internet Explorer 6 or higher is required.
The remote session in the browser is fairly responsive, without a lot of the lag or problems with the refresh rate commonly seen in other remote access tools. The session window includes the name of the target server (which can be renamed in the Web config to a more user-friendly name) as well as a toolbar that allows the user to switch between other servers.
While the unit ships with a default IP address, it automatically picks up a new one from the network's DHCP server when powered on. For networks wanting to assign a static IP address to the Smart 116 IP, the Web-browser-based configuration interface makes this a simple process. The network settings, security settings, and firmware upgrades are all handled through this interface.
Administrators can also create users through the interface to control who has access to the servers and the level of access. The "View-only" access is convenient for situations when it's necessary to let users see what's happening for a given server, but not to give keyboard or mouse control, or to restrict which servers they can view. Regardless of access level, only one user can have control of the session, although multiple users can access the same server at the same time. Reviewers were able to use this level of access to simulate a WebEx or LiveMeeting experience where people could remotely see what was happening on a live server.
Solution providers can install this switch on a customer site to simplify how they access and manage customer servers. The user-access level can be configured to give them access to the servers, and with the remote session capability, solution providers can do most management tasks from their office without making the trip to the customer. Having BIOS-level access -- being able to restart the machine, go into the BIOS and check what is happening on the hardware level, to make changes to the configuration even before the OS (and related software) even starts -- can make a huge difference during an emergency trouble-shooting session.
While there are plenty of cheap KVM switches on the market, the $1,146 price tag on the Smart 116 IP is well worth it just for its remote connectivity. On a per-port basis, the switch costs about $72 per server, assuming all 16 ports are being used, which is a bargain.

Not mentioned in the review, is the fact that in addition to the qualities of the product on it's own, the Smart 116 IP can be managed seamlessly by the II Centralized Access & Management System.

We recently updated our white paper on how to achieve cost-efficient data center growth through centralized management that leverages your existing KVM infrastructure. You can download it free by filling out the simple form.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Product Announcement: Multi-User, Remote Access KVM Switch

We just released a couple of new KVM products, although they are basically the same product, there are different options to choose for it to perfectly serve your needs.

The new KVM switches for rack environments are a part of the "Smart" Line of KVM Switches by Minicom.

The official press release says....

The Smart 216 IP and the Smart 232 IP, multi-user, remote access KVM switches, are designed for IT managers of server rooms and data centers. The new products enable one local and two remote system administrators secure BIOS level access and control of up to 16 or 32 servers. Two additional remote users can also operate serial sessions for controlling serial devices such as routers, managed network switches or PDU’s. Like all Smart line KVM switches, the 216 IP and 232 IP offer seamless integration into Minicom’s centralized management system for remote IT – ® II.

“These new products help round out Minicom’s Smart KVM line and position it as a major player in mid to high range server room and data center environments,” says Minicom’s Vice-President of Marketing Eran Kessel.

The Smart 216 IP and Smart 232 IP are rack-mountable, 1U sized switches that feature Minicom KVM over CAT5 technology that directly connects the switch to each server in the room, eliminating cable clutter and providing up to 30m/100ft of distance between server and switch. They also have built-in web servers enabling two remote users seamless access to target servers via a single IP address.

“The versatile, high-performance Smart 216 IP and Smart 232 IP provide solutions for many of the challenges facing distributed server rooms and data centers,” says KVM Product Manager Benny Hayumi.

Protected access is guaranteed via industry standard security protocols. Minicom utilizes the advanced 128-bit SSL protocol to guard your corporate data through every kind of remote access device. This technology efficiently prevents unauthorized access and security breaches.
Highlights of this product:

  • Control of up to 16/32 servers by two remote users and one local user

  • Control of two serial devices by two additional remote users

  •® II enabled

  • Seamless power control

  • Supports USB keyboard and mouse

  • ROC technology - up to 30m/100ft between computer and switch

  • Rack-mountable, space-saving

  • High industry standard security

  • Multi-platform capable

  • Easy configuration and installation
The new products have just been released from development and are available for orders and shipping immediately. Contact your local Minicom office for more details about any of our products and to set up a free online product demo.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Reducing Travel Costs with Remote Server Access

In the current recession and with the recent steep climb in oil prices, companies are looking for ways to reduce their travel expenses. Travel also causes damage to the environment. A single passenger flying business class from New York to London will cause the emission of 3.5 tons of CO2 increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming.

Due to the high cost of travel, many IT professionals are forced to limit both maintenance and repair efforts to a few scheduled onsite visits. Important work may be left undone for days or weeks. If the problem requires specialized hardware or software, work can be delayed even further – whether the visit is across the city or across the world.

There is however a way to keep IT assets running smoothly by remotely maintaining your computers via remote access. Instead of hopping into a car or plane to maintain or fix remote computers, IT staff can access the computers and work on them from the comfort of their own office, saving their company thousands of dollars in the process.

Taking it to the next level, using a KVM IP hardware solution allows accessing your servers at the deeper BIOS level, something software solutions are unable to accomplish. Remote access uses digital access to (keyboard, video, mouse) KVM switches via the TCP/IP (internet) protocol in order to allow administrators to manage systems from anywhere in the world.

This KVM access enables a number of unique missions to be performed of which remote software solutions are incapable, such as: booting from another hard disk if the main hard disk is broken; bypassing faulty hardware components; entering the Windows recovery console; entering ‘safe mode’ without networking; reconfiguring low level drivers; remotely booting to another operating system (dual boot); recovering and restoring the hard drive from a previous image etc.

According to an Intel Corporation study on trouble tickets and spending[1], approximately 5 percent of technical desktop computer-related support incidents represent slightly over 50 percent of total support costs, largely due to the costs of labor and travel. Certainly, any way to cut the cost of remote diagnosis/service—even just one of every four or five incidents—can mean significant budget savings, as well as returning users to business as usual. reports that most IT help desk managers surveyed said that having instant access to accurate diagnostic information would make it faster (66 percent) and easier (62 percent) to resolve problems[2].

Due to spiraling travel costs, remote IT access has evolved from a luxury into a necessity. IT managers can simply no longer afford to be without it. Using remote access solutions, your computers and intelligent devices can be monitored and maintained from anywhere in the world. Problems can thereby be diagnosed more accurately and fixed in less time and at lower cost. Please visit our website for free informative resources such as white papers, case studies, podcasts and webinars on the subjects of KVM and Digital Signage.

By Kenneth Dukofsky, Marketing Communications Manager of Minicom Advanced Systems

The writer Kenneth Dukofsky is the Marketing Communications Manager of Minicom Advanced Systems. Minicom manufactures KVM server and computer management solutions that facilitate the control of the enterprise and corporate IT environments. Additionally, Minicom is an innovative manufacturer of distribution and extension solutions that provide the Digital Signage Last Mile™ player-to-screens stage of connectivity for Digital Signage systems. Minicom is an Intel Capital portfolio company and was named a Deloitte Technology Fast 500 company. Founded in 1988 Minicom has an international presence in over 70 countries, with headquarters in Israel and regional offices in North America and Europe.

[1] Intel IT Trouble Tickets & Spending, Intel Corp., 2003
[2] 66% of IT Help Desk Managers Not Completely Satisfied with Help Desk Technology Investment, Reports SupportSoft