Using a Console Access Server to Collect Data from Network Devices

Console Access Server units can perform a number of valuable tasks in a remote network equipment installation. In addition to providing secure, reliable out of band access to console port command functions when the main network is not available, console access servers can also be used to collect error messages and other data, generated by connected network devices.

Many different types of network devices generate error and status messages which are sent out via console port. In addition, some network devices can also be configured to send sensor data and other information via console port. In many network applications, these error messages, status messages and other data are collected by network administrators, either for use in diagnostic/troubleshooting features, or for database/statistical analysis purposes. Rather than dedicating a PC or other device to collect this data as it is generated, an existing console access server at the network equipment site can often serve double duty; providing both out of band management capabilities and data buffering capabilities.

Data collected from console ports on various network devices can be stored in buffer memory at each serial port on the console access server unit. Once collected, this data can either be immediately forwarded to the appropriate personnel, or stored and held for later retrieval. Ideally, the console access server should provide network administrators with several different methods for transferring captured data to support personnel. For example, a console access server should support the ability to send captured data via email, text message, SNMP trap or SYSLOG message. Support for several different notification methods enables the console access server to adapt to the requirements of various users and support personnel.

When data is stored in the serial port buffer on the console access server for later retrieval, its important for the console access server to be able to notify personnel before the amount of store data exceeds buffer capacity. This allows administrators and support personnel to retrieve buffered data before it is over-written by newer data. In most cases, a console access server will include a buffer threshold alarm which allows administrators to define a threshold level that will trigger alarm notification. Additionally, many buffer threshold alarms offer the capability to automatically send buffered data when the defined buffer threshold value is reached.

In most out of band management applications, the principle purpose of a console access server is to provide out of band management access to remote network devices when the main network is down. In addition to this vital capability, console access servers can often other features that help to make life easier for network administrators. When a console access server includes serial port buffering capabilities and a buffer threshold alarm, this provides network administrators with an additional tool for tracking error and status messages from attached network devices, or capturing information from network based data collection applications.

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