How Can an Out of Band Management Solution Minimize Network Downtime?

These days, most large, corporate networks are actually comprised of two separate networks: one main network that allows users to access emails, inventory programs, servers and so forth, and a secondary “maintenance network” which provides out of band management capabilities, allowing IT personnel to access critical network elements when the main network is down or unavailable. This secondary maintenance network actually has several purposes; it enables IT personnel to upgrade or reconfigure network elements without effecting the ability of network users to access their files and emails, and it also provides the ability to diagnose and correct equipment problems if the main network ceases to function correctly.

The reason for this secondary maintenance network quickly becomes clear whenever equipment failure causes the main network to crash. Without the presence of the maintenance network, IT personnel would be forced to correct network problems the old fashioned way: by traveling to remote installation sites, and correcting the problems in person. While the old fashioned way certainly gets the job done, it’s also a colossal waste of time, resources and money. It often took a good day’s journey to reach some of the more remote network sites, and during this time while the technicians were en route to the installation site, network functions were still unavailable and the vital network personnel who were sent to correct the problem were away from the office and unavailable to help with other problems that might arise in the mean time.

But with a secondary, maintenance network in place, IT personnel have an out of band solution for managing network problems. Instead of traveling to the remote equipment site in person, technicians can usually correct most network issues without even leaving their desks by simply logging in to a console server, and then accessing problematic network equipment on the main network via the console server.

Typically in this type of network configuration, console servers, switched PDUs and other out of band management devices reside on the secondary maintenance network, yet still provide a means to either access command functions or control reboot operations for devices such as servers, firewalls and switches that reside on the main network. Console servers on the maintenance network are connected to console ports on devices that reside on the main network in order to provide remote access to command functions. Similarly, switched PDUs on the maintenance network are connected to power supply lines on devices that reside on the main network in order to provide remote power control and reboot abilities.

In cases where a secondary maintenance network is either unavailable or unfeasible, a dial-up connection can be used to provide out of band management capabilities. In a dial-up, out of band management application, a secure, dial-up connection to the console server or switched PDU is established, which then allows IT personnel to access command functions and power control capabilities in a manner similar to the maintenance network described above. Dial-up, out of band management solutions are most often seen in cases where either the location of the network equipment site is so remote that a maintenance network connection is not available.

Redundancy is often the key to network reliability; when one network element fails, it is absolutely vital that another element is available to take its place in order to ensure that the network is continually available. Similarly, it is also vital to have a secondary, back-up means to access, diagnose and maintain network equipment when the main network fails, because this allows IT personnel to fix problems quickly, without the need for long treks to remote equipment cabinets. An intelligent, well-conceived, out of band management solution effectively ensures that you will always have a means to fix problems at remote sites immediately, without the need to wait for technicians to travel to a far-off site before they can even begin to fix the problem.

Western Telematic, Inc. (WTI) designs and manufactures remote device management products for IT applications. WTI’s Serial Console Server products, Remote Reboot products, Switched PDU products and A/B Fallback products are engineered to allow you to securely manage and troubleshoot rack equipment in remote locations.

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