How Out of Band Management Can Make a Network Administrator’s Job Easier

Most modern data centers actually include two separate networks; a main network and a secondary, maintenance network. Typically, the main network allows users to access files and communicate with other users, while the secondary maintenance network is used for out of band management, troubleshooting and testing.

The secondary maintenance network essentially provides network administrators with a means to access critical network devices without adding to, or disrupting user traffic on the main network. This type of out of band management solution ensures that even when the main network fails, network administrators will still be able to communicate with servers, routers and firewalls via the maintenance network.

Although most large network applications have always included some sort of means for alternative access to network devices, in the past, the only means to contact remote devices when the main network was down, was typically via dial-up connection. At one time, dial-up connections were often used to provide an inexpensive, relatively secure form of out of band management, allowing contact network devices when the main network was not available. More recently though, dial-up maintenance channels have become increasingly rare; this is mostly due to the fact that it’s often prohibitively expensive to run phone lines to remote network installations.

In most cases, network administrators will install devices such as console servers and remote reboot switches on the maintenance network, in order to provide out of band access to console ports and reboot functions in the event that the main network fails or is not available. This ensures that even when they can’t communicate via the main network, IT support personnel can still establish an out of band connection with a remote device in order to command functions or initiate reboot operations when a device hangs and fails to respond to commands.

These secondary, out of band maintenance networks perform an extremely important function in the data center; they allow quick response to network issues, reducing network downtime and resulting loss of revenue. In addition, a secondary maintenance network can also reduce the cost of managing a network, by allowing technicians to address network problems without the need for a costly trip to a remote network site, and providing a centralized tool for dealing with many different network issues.

A secure, well-planned maintenance network provides network engineers with an out of band management tool for dealing with remote problems. It allows technicians to establish secure connections with remote devices without actually traveling to the site in person, cutting service costs, reducing downtime and helping to ensure that your network will always be available when its needed the most.

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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