Data Buffering – Yet Another Useful Feature Provided by a Serial Switch

In most applications, a serial switch is used to provide secure, out of band access to command functions on remote network elements, allowing diagnosis and troubleshooting of problems at remote network sites when the main network is not available. In addition to this crucial out of band management function, in some applications serial switches are also used to collect data and error messages that remote network elements send out via console port. In cases where the serial switch is used to buffer console port data, a buffer threshold alarm can prove to be an extremely helpful feature for administrators who need to collect this buffered data for use in analytical and diagnostic programs.

Servers, routers, sensing devices and other network elements often generate data via their console ports. In some cases, this data consists of error or alarm messages; in other cases status reports, diagnostic information and sensor readings are transmitted via the console port. In many applications this data is ignored or lost, but in many other cases, network administrators can use this data for statistical analysis, error tracking, process evaluation and to study trends and look for potential weak spots in network infrastructure.

In a typical application where a serial switch is employed to collect this type of data, the serial switch serves as a centralized collection point where data from a number of different network elements is aggregated and stored while it awaits retrieval by administrators or tech support staff. In cases like this, data from individual network elements is collected in a serial switch port buffers, that are cable connected to each device. A buffer threshold alarm is an extremely handy feature in this type of application, because it allows technical personnel to be notified when a user-specified amount of data has been collected by each buffer.

When data in a serial switch port buffer reaches the user-defined threshold value, the serial switch can then notify the appropriate personnel via text message, email, SYSLOG message or SNMP trap. In some serial switch products, the data at the port buffer can also be automatically sent out via SNMP Trap or other means, allowing monitoring personnel to receive each generated data item in “real time,” providing an extremely accurate and up-to-the-minute picture of precisely what is going on at a remote network equipment site.

Although the most popular use for a serial switch unit is obviously out of band management, there are also a wide variety of other network applications that can benefit from the secure, reliable, centralized communication capabilities that are provided by a serial switch. The capability to buffer data from connected devices, notify operators when data is received and automatically package data and send it out to the appropriate personnel provides just one example of the many useful features that network planners should look for when selecting a serial switch product that will fit the needs of their specific out of band management application.

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