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.