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How KVM over IP makes remote systems management easier

How can KVM over IP best serve my remote systems management efforts?

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IT systems management often requires an administrator to perform installation, setup and configuration tasks on specific servers, but rather than install a separate keyboard, video device and mouse (KVM) at every server, those input devices have traditionally been shared through a hardware-based device, such as a KVM switch. But as systems management grows to involve large numbers of remote servers across multiple remote sites, it's now often impractical to dispatch a technician to those remote systems.

In traditional KVM switching, cables are used to connect the keyboard, video and PS/2 or USB mouse ports or each system to a central electromechanical switch box. The administrator would then access a local workstation and select the system to be controlled through the switch box. The keyboard, video and mouse would actually connect to that server through the switching device and administration could take place. This approach worked for many years, but it required administrators to be present in the data center in close proximity to the systems sharing the KVM switch. Instead, KVM functions are now available across network connections, allowing an administrator to access any system from his own workstation or laptop.

KVM over IP -- sometimes called KVM over Ethernet or KVM over LAN -- is a server management technology intended to support user input and output on a system across a network connection. This eliminates cumbersome and limited KVM hardware switches, and allows administrators to configure and monitor a multitude of local or remote systems using almost any Web browser with standard ActiveX or Java plug-ins. In effect, KVM over IP can allow the administrator to handle many systems management tasks within local and remote data centers without even leaving their office. This eliminates travel time and expense to remote sites and vastly improves support response times.

KVM over IP is integrated into the servers and does not need to be installed or updated. Consequently, KVM over IP is typically available throughout the entire system boot process, so remote technicians can even access the system's BIOS to make crucial changes to the hardware setup if necessary.

As servers proliferate and multiple data center sites become commonplace, remote server management and configuration tasks will depend on KVM over IP technology, which allows administrators to take control of individual servers as if they were there in person. KVM over IP is commonly available in modern servers -- especially with IPMI 2.0 and later implementations -- so future technology refresh cycles should allow any organization to adopt this remote system control scheme.

This was first published in April 2013

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