The Buffer Threshold Alarm – A Handy Feature for Serial Switches Used in Data Collection Applications

It’s not uncommon to find serial switch units used for other purposes, besides out of band management applications. For example, serial switch units are often used to collect error messages, status reports and other data that network devices generate and then send out via console port. In data collection applications like this, it’s helpful if the serial switch includes a buffer threshold alarm, to notify network administrators when data has accumulated in a serial port buffer.

In a typical data collection application, one or more serial ports on the serial switch unit are configured as buffer ports. These buffer ports are then cable connected to console ports on target network devices in order to collect and store any data that is sent out via the console port. In some applications, each piece of data is immediately forwarded to a network administrator, engineer or IT support tech for immediate examination and diagnosis. I other cases, data is stored in the port buffer and allowed to accumulate until it is needed.

In applications where console port error messages, status messages and other data is stored at the buffer port, it’s useful for the serial switch to include a buffer threshold alarm, which can be configured to notify the appropriate personnel when a user-specified amount of data has accumulated in the serial port buffer. A buffer threshold alarm is especially helpful in cases where each port buffer has a set amount of memory for data storage, and data needs to be retrieved before it is overwritten by new data.

A full-featured buffer threshold alarm should provide the ability to set the threshold level that will trigger an alarm, allow for the definition of several key personnel who will be notified in the event of an alarm, and support the ability to provide notification via several different common communication protocols (e.g., SNMP Trap, email, text message, SYSLOG, etc.) In addition, it can also be handy if the serial switch buffer threshold alarm includes the ability to resend notification if any of the assigned recipients fail to respond. Another convenient feature to look for in a serial switch buffer threshold alarm is the ability to send a secondary “all clear” message when the serial switch determines that the amount of data in the serial port buffer has dropped below the assigned alarm threshold value.

An intelligently designed, full-featured serial switch can do a whole lot more than merely provide secure, out of band access to console port command functions on remote network elements. Ideally, a serial switch should be able to provide network engineers with a detailed picture of conditions at remote network installation sites. This “detailed picture” should include factors like rack temperature levels, power conditions, device response status and other relevant information. A buffer threshold alarm is just one of many useful serial switch features that network engineers should look for when selecting a serial switch to fit the demands of their individual network application.

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