The process of shopping for a serial switch product to serve as an out of band management solution can often be confusing. When you compare the various features and capabilities offered by the many different makes of serial switch products on the market, it’s fairly easy to see that they all offer a wide range of similar features related to out of band access, connectivity, security, event monitoring and alarm functions. It’s not that difficult to find a serial switch product that supports the capabilities needed by your out of band management application, but at first glance, it’s almost impossible to determine which serial switch product offers the highest levels of quality and reliability.
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When most network administrators hear the phrase, “serial switch,” they will generally think of an out of band management unit that provides alternative access to vital network elements when communication via the main network is unavailable. But in addition to providing a channel for secure, reliable out of band management, often, a full featured serial switch product can also serve double duty in helping with the task of collecting error messages and other data collected from attached network devices.
Most network administrators who are responsible for managing remote network equipment racks know the value of a good serial switch. A well-designed serial switch not only provides out of band management capabilities for communicating with remote network elements when the main network is down, but also enables network administrators to keep a closer watch on conditions and events at remote network equipment racks without the expense of stationing onsite personnel at the remote site, or the inconvenience of traveling to the remote site in person in order to deal with finicky equipment or to check on conditions at the remote rack.
In addition to providing a solution for out of band management applications, serial switches are often used to provide a means for communication between various devices in a remote equipment rack. Often, two rack mount devices are connected to RS232 serial ports on the serial switch and then the serial switch is configured to create a connection between the two devices. This provides a convenient means to allow switching to back-up devices in the event that one of the connected serial devices malfunctions, but it can also create problems for devices such as Sun servers that respond to break commands by initiating a reboot cycle. One simple way to eliminate this problem is to choose a serial switch that supports break command blocking.
When selecting a serial switch for an out of band management application, there are many different features that network administrators typically look for. Some administrators need a serial switch with more alarm and notification features, other administrators are looking for a serial switch with plenty of security features and still other administrators are looking for a serial switch with data buffering capabilities. But there’s one important feature that should be of interest to all network administrators who need the out of band access capabilities provided by a serial switch; a strong, long-term warranty.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell when there’s been a temporary power outage at a remote network equipment installation site. A temporary power interruption might seem like its not a big deal, but it’s definitely something that a network administrator should know about. Even if all of the devices at the remote site recovered gracefully after power was restored, a temporary power outage could be a good indication of more power problems in the future. That’s why a serial switch with a power cycle alarm can be such a useful asset for network administrators who are concerned about power supply stability at remote network equipment sites.
The Buffer Threshold Alarm – A Handy Feature for Serial Switches Used in Data Collection ApplicationsThursday, May 5th, 2011
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.
When power to a serial switch is interrupted, this usually means that power to the rest of the equipment rack has also been interrupted. When power outages occur at remote network sites, network administrators often have no way of knowing about it unless the power outage affects network communication and users complain. Although a serial switch is designed mainly for out of band communication with console ports on remote devices, it can also be useful if the serial switch can notify administrators when power to an equipment rack is temporarily lost.