Out of Band Management in a Remote Data Center

In the past, most remote data centers depended on a single network for communication with the outside world. This worked quite well as long as the network was up and running, but if the network was down, then often there was no alternative means for network administrators to communicate with network elements in order to correct problems; the only way to communicate with a network device was to travel to the installation site and address the problem in person.

It didn’t take long for network administrators to realize that this single network strategy created a major weak spot in their network management plan; if the network was down, then there was no easy way to communicate with network elements in order to bring the network back up again. As a result, today, most modern data centers now include a secondary maintenance network in addition to their main network in order to allow out of band management of critical network elements.

In addition to out of band management, this secondary network also has many other useful purposes; it frees the main network from maintenance traffic, and allows IT personnel to test and configure network devices without disrupting the flow of traffic on the main network. However, the most important function of this secondary maintenance network is to provide an alternative means to communicate with network elements when the main network is down.

In order to provide secure, efficient out of band management, most users will install a console server or a remote reboot switch on the maintenance network. The console server can then be connected to console ports on the devices on the main network in order to allow communication and command access via secondary network when the main network is down. Likewise, power supply lines from critical network elements are then connected to the remote reboot switch in order to allow power control and reboot capability via the secondary network.

This type of approach to out of band management generally works very well, because it provides out of band access to command and power reboot functions (even when the main network is not available) and reduces down time and resulting loss of revenue. In addition to allowing communication when the main network is down, this method is also very useful for establishing connections with network devices that have ceased responding to the network port and can only be accessed via serial port.

Simply speaking, a well-conceived out of band management plan allows you to perform many of the same network maintenance tasks that could be performed if you were actually physically present at the installation site, without the need for costly service calls and long trips to remote sites.

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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