Out of Band Management – An Alternative Avenue for Communication with Remote Devices

One of the most difficult aspects of managing remote network devices is the challenge of communicating with remote network elements when normal network communication is either down or unavailable. When a vital network element at a remote equipment rack crashes and takes network communication down with it, sometimes the only means to address the problem is an expensive service call to the remote site in order to deal with the problem in person. In cases like this, an out of band management unit can provide network administrators with a convenient, reliable means to communicate with remote network elements regardless of whether communication via the main network is viable or not.

Typically, an out of band management unit includes a network port and/or modem and a number of serial ports which can be connected to the console ports on devices in the remote equipment rack. An out of band management unit can be deployed in a number of different ways, depending on the nature of the application that it will serve. In cases where a secondary maintenance network is available, the out of band management unit is connected to the secondary network, and then cable connected to target devices at the remote equipment rack. With this configuration, network administrators can use the secondary network in order to establish a connection to the out of band management unit and then access console port command functions on connected devices.

In cases where a secondary maintenance network is not available, the out of band management unit is connected to a dial-up modem or satellite modem and as in the previous example, cable connected to console ports on devices in the remote equipment rack. In this configuration, when communication via the main network is not available, network administrators can still access the out of band management unit via dial up or satellite modem and then issue commands to connect to the serial port of their choosing (which in turn provides access to console port functions on the device that is connected to that port. This type of configuration is also found in cases where the remote network equipment rack is so far off the beaten path that a connection to your main network is not available. In this case, administrators can dial in to the out of band management unit and then communicate with other devices in the remote equipment rack via the LAN at the remote site.

An out of band management unit provides a secure, reliable means to access console port command functions on remote network elements in cases where network communication is either down, or no direct network connection to the remote site is available. When a network device at a remote site malfunctions and impairs normal network communication, an out of band management unit provides administrators with an alternate avenue to communicate with remote network devices in order to get them up and running again. In addition to this disaster recovery role, an out of band management unit also provides a convenient means for routine communicate with devices on remote LANs when the location of the remote network equipment rack makes a normal network connection impractical or impossible.

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