Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mixing Up The Future Data Center

As we get into December, end of the year in sight, its summary and predictions time. We look back, evaluate and learn, and more excitingly we look around and try our best to foresee what the future holds for us. Data centers are no exception. Last week, at the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas, Dell VP of Enterprise Marketing and Strategy Praveen Asthana presented a very insightful look on just how mixed the Data Center of the future will be. According to Dell, the race of technologies to win over the data center won’t be won by any single discipline, but rather the result will be a hybrid, mixed environment, bridging legacy and new technologies. In the future data center virtualization, private and public clouds will live peacefully together, on top of a mixed physical and virtual infrastructure.

What this calls for is, in Dell’s words, products that are simple, that integrate well with existing IT environments and which will allow choice.

Minicom, for one, is taking a similar approach with its product development. We believe that every IT pro should enjoy the freedom to choose IT infrastructure products based on value, performance and quality, without being forced into vendor-lock in. Being open and vendor neutral, our Remote Access Management systems provide access and control to the data center’s mixed IT infrastructure in a central way, allowing choice as mentioned above. With our KVM over IP technology we offer seamless integrating with legacy analog KVM switches from hundreds of vendors, thus preventing forklift upgrades and yet again allow choice. We call this approach the Real Needs of IT.

Happy Holidays and have a great 2012!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How long does the glue on DCIM post-it notes last?

As a top IT pro in the data center, you’re probably chuckling because you actually know the answer to that question!

When it boils down to Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) monitoring your equipment is just not enough. Even the most organized IT manager has innumerable sticky notes papering their walls.  Accompanied with a host of homegrown spreadsheets dedicated to organizing the long lists of IP addresses, passwords, and multivendor equipment information you need to access and control your IT infrastructure smoothly, on a daily basis.  And that makes perfect sense – those IP addresses and passwords are things you need at your fingertips on a moment’s notice – no time to search for them when something goes wrong.

Chances are, you’ve been through this nightmare scenario before: IT is notified of an issue.  The first course of action is to open the spreadsheet, locate the name of the server, and copy and paste its IP address, password and user name info. This can require opening and closing numerous browsers and applications – something that takes dozens of mouse clicks and many minutes – before a device can be found and accessed.  Once the device is located, you’ve got to fix the problem. You may go for an RDP session and fail, attempt a KVM-over-IP connection, or even worse – need to force a reboot through the PDU, each of which starts the copy and paste process all over again. This kind of downtime adds up. Over a typical shift, the wasted minutes can easily turn to wasted hours of valuable work time just searching for the right information.

What you need in order to safe guard your DCIM system, is a central access console, a singular control panel, where you can see and capably manage all of your computing resources no matter where they are physically located –from the network closet to an off-site data center to a co-location facility in another city or state. - But make sure to choose the right solution!

Here is a checklist you should use when selecting a remote access management (RAM) solution that will strategically fit your DCIM system in place. Ask yourself if the solution does all seven of these things:
  1. Supports a wide range of vendors: Select a solution that prevents vendor lock-in; make sure it supports all the equipment acquired over the years and offers the ability to add any brand of IT equipment – PDU, IP KVM switch, console server, or other network device in an unlimited array of vendor options.
  2. Integrates in-band and out-of-band access options: A seamless combination of the two means, even if the blue screen of death appears, crashed servers can be restarted and downtime minimized with one-click KVM over IP access from the same pane of glass used for everyday maintenance.
  3. Simplifies access: What makes a remote access solution truly powerful is a combination of one user interface, one url and one set of security rules.  When it comes to remote access management as part of DCIM, simplicity is king.
  4. Provides seamless access to power control: The only way to avoid disastrous mistakes like rebooting the wrong server is to have full control of the PDU from within the remote access management solution’s user interface.
  5. Maximizes tools that have already been deployed: Don’t throw out what works!  A must-have in remote access management is the ability for the IT staff to continue to use the existing remote access tools they find most effective and comfortable under a larger, more efficient and secure remote access umbrella.
  6. Overcomes implementation challenges: Look for a solution that can be installed in hours – not a month and not a week.
  7. Increases IT efficiency while maintaining security: Select a secure remote access solution that authenticates users with the organization’s own active directory, assigning user names and passwords created according to profile and task assignment.

What this all means is that Remote Access Management and Data Center Infrastructure Management are inextricably linked! Or in other words - if you don’t have a RAM, you really don’t have DCIM.

And if that’s not enough, just think how nice your wall will look without all those post-its on it...

Monday, December 05, 2011

What do slices of a hot Pizza have to do with DCIM?

No Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is complete without a Remote Access Management system in place!
The Full DCIM Pizza

Yes, you heard right. Now, you are probably asking, what does Remote Access Management have to do with DCIM?

The answer is - A lot! Today infrastructure equipment at all levels is becoming more important and more critical to the smooth operation of data centers, in other words, it has direct impact on lowering costs, tightening security and increasing efficiency. But DCIM is not only about monitoring and planning, it is also about managing all your access control tools and methods.

Remote Access Management (RAM) is one of the most vital slices of the DCIM ‘Pizza’ that is not getting the full attention it deserves. So let’s cut the chase and state it clearly: All other DCIM slices, as important as they may be, are compromised if you cannot manage the access to your data center infrastructure!

Think of the ordering process of a hot, sizzling family Pizza – the pictures on the website look awesome, you can practically “smell” the Pizza over the phone. The person taking your order is sweet and polite, you get all the flavors you asked for and you even get a special price for being such a nice guy, but – all this is worthless without a fast and reliable delivery that brings the Pizza hot and sizzling to your doorstep…  

So why don’t you take a closer look at your overall DCIM strategy and make sure that you have all the slices in place, and not missing the management of your remote access!

Monday, November 28, 2011

KVM over IP Switch or HP iLO? That’s the question – Or is it??

Posted by:
Tobias Silber
8 Points To Consider When Evaluating the Best Remote
Out-Of-Band Access Solution For Your Data Center.

Lately we have been getting a lot of questions from IT managers that are consolidating their data centers on the issue of an IP KVM switch versus a service processor. While IP KVM switches and embedded service processors, such as iLO from HP, often are looked upon as competitive, the reality is however much more complex. So let’s shed some light on what needs to be taken into consideration before deciding which (or both?) solution is right for your data center.

  • Local KVM Access: In the data center, certain situations can arise where you would need to have direct server access independent of potential network disruptions. - In other words, to have local access at the rack level. While iLO can be a good option for remote administration it does not provide local access at the rack. Only an IP KVM switch provides you with this important feature, allowing you to physically connect to multiple servers from one console, at the rack.
  • Centralized Server Management: By definition iLO is a one port solution, providing remote access to a single server. An IP KVM switch on the other hand can be connected to a bank of 10s or 100s of servers, providing for a tighter control and more efficient work flow.
  • Cost: In order to benefit from the iLO vKVM features, there is a licenses fee. While the license itself can be bought from $130, the true cost of using iLO can easily total over $400 per server when you include all the hidden costs. Compare this to the price per port of an IP KVM switch at $140-170 (including dongles/cable) – and you have easily saved a few thousand dollar per rack!
  • Ethernet Ports & Cabling: iLO requires the use of additional cabling and an additional Ethernet port at each server in order to be connected to the network. These requirements are translated into more routers and switch ports, which mean more money spent (part of the hidden cost).  This is in contrast to a KVM over IP switch that consolidates a large number of servers into one ethernet (or two, for redundancy) port.
  • IP addresses: Each server equipped with an iLO requires two unique IP addresses!one for the server and one for the iLO. This can dramatically increase the number of IP addresses the organization has to purchase (another hidden cost), and not all data center can meet this challenge. An IP KVM Switch on the other hand, centralized the remote management of up to 32 servers via a single IP address.
  • Performance: The KVM over IP video performance is superior to the iLO performance with a better video refresh rate at reduced bandwidth.  To benefit from the best mouse synchronization you need the best video resolutioin support. iLO supports up to 1280x1024 video resolution whereas an IP KVM Switch goes up to HD resolutions. Users of iLO are also limited in their choice of browsers, as it only support IE for Windows and Firefox for Linux in comparison to IP KVM users that can use a whole range of remote clients.
  • Ease of Operation: To install the IP KVM Switch you will only need to connect it to the servers, power up and assign to it an IP address. The time spent on configuring a single IP KVM switch in order to access 32 servers remotely is much less than the time you will need to setup 32 individual iLO servers. Think about the time difference when the need for a firmware upgrade arises!
  • Security: Another big aspect of keeping IP addresses to a minimum is data security. The less public IP addresses out there, the easier it is for IT to keep the lid tightly closed and avoid the horror of security breaches, just because there are so many IP addresses to look after.

...And just to summarize: IP KVM switches provide centralized remote access to servers, regardless of brand, generation or OS running, whereas iLO is only relevant for HP servers. This however does not necessarily make them competing technologies for out-of-band access, but rather the contrary - HP iLO is a good complementary solution to the KVM over IP Switch in the data center.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Make IT smile!

So, you want to access your data centers remotely, butyou have a ton of servers from different brandsand they all have different control panels & passwords?

.....Now that you have many servers, you're IT managers are going "bananas" trying to keep everything under control!

Well, what can you do?Say hello to AccessIT®!!!

Why wait? schedule a live demo now >>

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Remote Access Management - top priority at your Data Center

Over the course of the last 5-10 years, IT organizations from the smallest of the SMB to the largest of the Enterprise have become dependent upon remote access tools to manage their servers and devices.

The problem, however, is that these tools were adopted by different groups within the organization, without a clear strategy (i.e., the Windows team adopted IP KVM and RDP, while the network team bought console servers and adopted SSH).

Over time, the vast majority of IT departments have taken on in-band (i.e., RDP, VNC, SSH) and out-of-band (PDU, KVM, console) tools, as well as the service processors (ILO, DRAC, IPMI), each with their own IP addresses, passwords, usernames and more.

Today, IT managers face the challenge in managing all of these methods of access to their critical infrastructure. They *might* have a spreadsheet with all of the pathways. Others have all of this critical information on a white board, on post its or worse, in the “head” of the administrators.

This presents major issues with operational efficiency and data center security. With regard to efficiency, using a spreadsheet (or worse) means that each time an administrator is notified of an issue, he must first locate the server/device with the issue, copy and paste the IP, password and username for the selected tool just to gain access. If the first tool is ineffectual (RDP when Windows is down), he must do the same for the 2nd tool and if, for instance, the solution is powering down the server, he must do it a 3rd time for the PDU. This is not only a slow, painstaking process, but one that opens the door to human error.

The 2nd major issue with the current state of remote access management is security. When all of the passwords, IPs and usernames to an organization’s critical infrastructure are in a spreadsheet or in someone’s head, you are just begging for trouble. These pathways allow access to the most sensitive data in an organization, but they are not currently being treated that way. To ensure the security of a data center’s servers and devices, a RAM solution that locks down this critical information must be adopted.

With Minicom's AccessIT®, a data center can drastically increase how quickly his users can access and remediate issues on their servers and devices, all while utilizing the tools and hardware currently deployed, all while improving security and locking down remote access.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Why Remote Access Management? Security and Efficiency

The benefits of remote server access

Post by Eran Kessel (VP Marketing & Products) - Years ago, the idea of operating and maintaining data centers remotely, or with “lights out” in the server room, seemed radical. Now it’s standard procedure. Why? Because of three compelling advantages:
1. Increased data security—with remote access, the data center can be secured from unwanted visitors.
2. Improved operational efficiency—with remote access, your IT staff can fix problems from their computer screen—they don’t have to be onsite. Remote access means doing more with less.
3. Better cooling/power efficiency—one of the major causes of cooling inefficiency is service staff who open doors and wander around. With remote access, server rooms are sealed tight.

Remote Access Management™: maximizing the benefits, minimizing the risks
Despite the above, many companies are not maximizing their benefits. Worse, they may have actually created new security risks. This comes from the fact that remote server access tools have been adopted gradually, one at a time, often supplied by the manufacturers of the data center’s existing equipment. To maximize the benefits of remote server access, while minimizing the risks, companies need a strategy and a dedicated software solution for Remote Access Management.

What are the new security risks?
A critical security risk lies in access management: the vast majority of organizations store their passwords, user names, IP addresses, server names and more in a single spreadsheet or homegrown database. This provides IT personnel with almost unrestricted access to security-critical data, even data that has no relevance to their tasks. Windows admins can see how to access Unix machines, network admins can see how to access servers etc. There is no benefit to this, and considerable security risk. All an employee, intern or consultant needs to do is download the spreadsheet to a flash drive, and they can carry a corporation’s secrets out of the building.

The solution: task-appropriate access
To improve corporate security, a Remote Access Management solution should limit servers and IT tools to task-appropriate access, e.g. Windows admins should be able to access Windows servers only. An admin that only require RDP access should not have access to power and KVM.

Measuring operational efficiency: resolving critical issues faster
When a server goes down, resolution speed is what matters. With a spreadsheet or custom database, speed is a problem: first, the IT admin is notified of the issue. Then they have to open the spreadsheet, locate the name of the server, and copy and paste its IP address and password and username info. Dozens of mouse clicks and many minutes can pass before a device can be found. If, for example, an attempted RDP solution fails, the operator may try a KVM fix, and the copy and paste process begins again.

Over a typical shift, the wasted minutes can add up to wasted hours of valuable work time.

The solution: a minimum 6x faster server access and resolution
Minicom compared the mouse-clicks required to access a server with RDP and a spreadsheet, vs RDP and our AccessIT dashboard.
The spreadsheet took 37 clicks simply to access a server. AccessIT software cut the number of clicks to six. And that was a best-case situation. For each service attempt—KVM, iLO, PDU—the number of clicks, and the server downtime—jumps drastically.

A proven solution: AccessIT® from Minicom
AccessIT from Minicom was designed from the ground up to meet IT managers’ mission-critical requirements for secure web-based, centralized remote access management.

AccessIT provides fast, secure, trouble-free access to every aspect of a data center’s infrastructure, and streamlines access to remote access tools such as RDP and KVM. It supports all major manufacturers of KVM switches, PDUs and console servers, and supports the industry’s leading in-band and out-of-band remote access services, including RDP, VNC, VMWare, SSH, Telnet, HP iLO, KVM IP, and any proprietary web-based or customized applications.

For complete details, and to read how major customers have deployed Minicom solutions,