Out-of-Band Management: the Integrated Approach to Remote IT Infrastructure Management

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1 WHITE PAPER Management: the Integrated Approach to Remote IT Management EXECUTIVE SUMMARY For decades, business imperatives for information technology (IT) have remained constant to cut costs and improve service levels and productivity. Although not new or unique, these imperatives have taken on renewed urgency in today's Internet-driven economy. IT is no longer the inwardly focused domain of technology specialists, but rather faces outward, where customers, partners, prospects and remote employees directly interact with an organization's business applications via the Web. Today, if an application is not available online, customers can quickly move to a competitor with a simple mouse click. In short, an organization's IT infrastructure has become the face of business, taking on a vital role in defining customer experiences that directly impact the corporate brand. As a result, IT performance has evolved to become vital for business survival. WHAT S INSIDE Traditional approaches to monitoring, maintaining and restoring IT assets are reviewed; out-of-band management is presented as a more efficient way to cut costs and improve service levels and productivity. Faced with this reality, many large businesses have invested in redundant systems to ensure 24/7 service availability for their customers, partners, etc. Redundant systems, however, are both costly to deploy and maintain. Out-of-band management offers businesses a costeffective, secure and efficient solution to ensure the high level of IT infrastructure performance needed to meet the demand for continual service availability, and a way to meet the perennial business imperatives to cut costs and improve productivity. IT Overview Typical IT infrastructures in many of today's large enterprises consist of one or multiple data centers and may also include remote sites or branch offices. In some cases, large enterprises deploy redundant data centers to ensure business continuity and provide consistent IT service availability in the event of a potential disaster. From an architectural perspective, data centers share a similar makeup that includes servers, storage and applications, and a network infrastructure of hubs, routers, firewalls and switches. Large enterprises may also include remote or branch office infrastructures linked to the corporate production network through a virtual private network (VPN) using Internet connections or through a wide area network (WAN) connection. Larger remote installations, such as a warehouse or large department store, may have a small version of the data center complete with racks of servers, storage and network infrastructure. Smaller remote offices may be limited to a router, firewall and hub with network connections for desktop PCs. Whether an enterprise is large and dispersed across multiple sites, or limited to a single data center, IT managers face the same challenge to deliver the highest possible level of performance and availability at minimal cost.

2 2 AVOCENT WHITE PAPER Typically, large organizations depend on complex systems management applications (such as HP OpenView, IBM Tivoli, CA Unicenter, BMC PATROL ) to monitor network performance and manage application performance and availability. Small and medium-sized enterprises may use less expensive network management applications to manage the network. These management tools depend on the production IT network to monitor performance and productivity, and perform effectively when network connections remain available. Local Versus Remote IT Management The following description illustrates the difference between local and remote IT management. If an IT asset loses its network connection, systems management applications alert the administrator that the asset is no longer available; but because these applications depend on the network infrastructure to manage assets, they cannot provide specific details about the problem, only that the asset is no longer connected. As a result, the traditional approach for restoring assets to the network requires the physical presence of a technician at the asset, regardless of whether the asset is located in the data center or at a remote site. Specifically, a technician must go to the problem device with either a crash cart or a laptop, physically plug into that asset to diagnose the problem and finally restore the IT asset to the network. This process is both expensive and time-consuming, and defines the term local IT management. Remote or out-of-band management allows the administrator to access and control IT assets through either network, serial or modem connections via the network infrastructure or a path separate from the network infrastructure. The administrator is not required to be physically present. To further clarify, remote management is possible from thousands of miles away or from 20 feet away, whether at the data center or a remote site. Remote management is therefore achieved through any connection other than a local, physical connection. Remote IT management can be realized through the use of out-of-band management tools, which provide secure, alternate paths to remotely access, monitor and manage IT assets throughout the network infrastructure. If an IT asset goes down, out-of-band management tools can remotely restore it to the network infrastructure, where it can be managed back to productivity in the shortest time possible. Outof-band management tools minimize the need for local management and site visits, dramatically reducing the time and operational costs needed to bring IT assets back online. The relationship between the network infrastructure and out-of-band management tools is typically configured similar to the topology shown in Figure 1. Figure 1.

3 AVOCENT WHITE PAPER 3 An example of how out-of-band management tools may function is presented in the following scenario (see Figure 2). A device or server in the data center goes down; the network infrastructure remains operational. Using out-of-band management tools and the network infrastructure, the administrator accesses the IT asset, diagnoses the issue and, if necessary, power cycles (turns the power off and on) the device. In minutes, the asset is restored to the network where it can be managed back to productivity using a systems management application. The benefits in this case include lower labor costs, increased productivity and reduced risk. Figure 2. A further example of how out-of-band management tools are critical to remote management of IT assets is illustrated in Figure 3. A network switch connecting a rack of servers goes down, losing its connection to the network. In this case, the out-of-band management connection to the switch remains available through the network infrastructure. The administrator is alerted by the systems management application that a switch is no longer connected to the network. Using an out-of-band management tool to remotely access the switch, the administrator diagnoses the problem and restores the switch and all its connected assets back to the network infrastructure. Figure 3.

4 4 AVOCENT WHITE PAPER The following is another scenario illustrating the benefits of out-of-band management tools (Figure 4). A router that provides network and Internet access for an entire site goes down. This router provides the network infrastructure connection to all connected IT assets linked to the network and all the out-of-band management tools. Because the out-of-band management tools cannot be accessed through the network infrastructure, the administrator uses a dial-up connection for access. The administrator is then able to use out-of-band management tools to connect to the router through a serial port to quickly diagnose the problem. The administrator corrects the error and restores the router and all its assets to the network. Again, what might have taken hours and a site visit to correct took minutes. Dial-Up Path Figure 4. The benefits are clear. Operational costs are reduced and IT asset availability is increased. If redundant systems are not in place, service levels are also increased. In short, the fundamental IT imperatives to cut costs and increase service levels and productivity are achieved. Below are descriptions of various out-of-band management tools. 1. Out-of-band management software provides consolidated access, change management and configuration management for disparate out-of-band management tools like serial console servers, KVM switches, power management appliances and service processor managers. It also provides the capability to manage diverse IT assets connected to these out-of-band tools from a single consolidated view. The management software also provides the scalability needed to meet the demands of the largest enterprises. 2. Serial console servers provide remote access to the serial management ports included on some servers and other network IT assets (routers, switches, cables, firewalls, etc.) rather than depending on the network connection. 3. KVM switches or KVM over IP switches access servers through keyboard, video and mouse ports to provide access as if the administrator were physically present. 4. Intelligent power distribution units (IPDUs) provide the ability to power on and off remote equipment for operational control or recovery from software/hardware failures. 5. Service processor managers provide consolidated, centralized access to the service processors embedded on the computer's motherboard. These operate separately from the main CPU, enabling administrators to access, monitor and manage the hardware components of servers. Service processor managers also allow administrators to reboot servers whether or not the main processor or the operating system is operational. Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI), HP Integrated Lights Out (ilo) and Sun Advanced Lights Out Management (ALOM) are examples of established service processor technologies.

5 AVOCENT WHITE PAPER 5 Management Return on Investment One Customer's Perspective Over a 2-year period, a European telecommunications company used out-of-band management tools to deploy more than 2,000 additional IT assets within their existing IT infrastructure. These deployments took place without adding additional support staff. In this case, out-ofband management tools enabled the company to reduce operational costs and risk while increasing both IT asset and personnel productivity as illustrated by the statistics below. 92% decrease in overtime labor costs 50% decrease in deployment time 33% increase in IT assets per year with no additional staff needed The company's overall operational costs were reduced as their overtime labor costs were decreased by 92 percent. The time needed to deploy assets dropped by 50 percent, which enabled the company to win in competitive bidding situations as competitors could not match their deployment speed. Personnel productivity increases enabled the company to expand IT assets by 33 percent per year to more than 100 sites, without the need to hire additional staff. Within 16 months, the out-of-band management tools paid for themselves in decreased operational costs and risk and increased IT asset and staff productivity. Clearly using out-of-band management tools was a cost-effective, efficient and smart business decision. The Evolution of Management Technologies For decades, command line interface (CLI) has been used for remote IT management. The user types pre-defined commands and the IT asset responds in kind with actionable data in text form. All remote IT access to computing and network assets used this interface as well. s first used smart modems via a dial-up connection to access assets with password protection to provide a measure of security. When serial connections evolved, terminal servers emerged that would provide access to servers and other assets using Telnet, a text-based CLI protocol that provided a means for remote access and control. As security concerns emerged, vendors developed secure console servers that used Secure Shell (SSH) to encrypt communications between the IT or network administrator's desktop and the remotely accessed IT asset. In the mid-1990s, Windows-based servers that used a graphical user interface (GUI) instead of CLI began emerging in corporate data centers. In response to this, vendors began offering keyboard, video, mouse (KVM) switches that allowed users to use the keyboard, monitor and mouse at their workstation to access and control multiple servers. More recently, KVM over IP switches have emerged that enable users to remotely access and use KVM switches in remote locations through IP networks. Consequently, KVM over IP switches have become important tools for management of Windows-based servers. Beginning with mainframe and later UNIX-based servers, hardware vendors began placing a service processor on the server motherboard for the sole purpose of monitoring and providing access to the hardware functions, including the BIOS, unit temperature, power control, etc., even in the event of an operating system crash. While the first service processor technologies and related protocols were proprietary, such as Sun's ALOM and HP/Compaq's ilo, more recently Intel, HP, Dell, IBM and other hardware vendors collaborated to develop an open standard service processor called IPMI that is now included on many rack-mounted and blade servers built on Intel's X86 architecture. IT administrators then used a service processor manager to access, monitor and control servers. In late 2004, the first vendor-independent IPMI manager emerged. The challenge facing most organizations is the fact that they use multiple out-of-band management technologies to access and manage a wide variety of new and legacy IT assets. Each new technology adds yet another layer of complexity for IT administrators. IT executives lack the luxury of managing one technology, rather they must manage everything in their enterprise including all new and legacy IT assets and remote access technologies. The most effective way to manage all these technologies is with a comprehensive out-of-band management system that provides centralized, consolidated access to all of the out-of-band management tools and the IT assets connected to them.

6 6 AVOCENT WHITE PAPER Security Clearly out-of-band management tools provide powerful access to IT assets. This access must be limited to trusted, qualified IT personnel. Any out-of-band management tool must include security features to authenticate IT administrators and to ensure all communications remain encrypted and private. While some out-of-band management systems may provide a separate security infrastructure, this adds yet another layer of complexity, and ultimately an additional point of vulnerability for IT managers who need tools to simplify management issues, not make them more difficult. Ideally, out-of-band management tools should support industry-standard authentication, directory and encryption protocols to enable integration with existing security infrastructures. CONCLUSION Local management and site visits are people, time and money intensive. Remote or out-of-band management provides a better way a time-saving, secure and cost-effective method to ensure that IT assets remain productive and connected to the network. To achieve the IT imperatives to cut costs and improve service levels and productivity, the next-generation IT infrastructure must include out-of-band management as a fundamental component in its architecture. However, for out-of-band management to be effective, its components must function as an integrated system, which can be accessed through a single, consolidated view, rather than as just another layer of separately managed boxes. Out-of-band management tools must provide the ability to be integrated into an organization's existing security infrastructure by supporting all industry-standard security protocols and specifications. Designed and deployed correctly, out-of-band management provides the remote IT management capabilities that directly affect an organization's bottom line and provides rapid return on investment. ABOUT AVOCENT Avocent (NASDAQ: AVCT) delivers IT operations and infrastructure management solutions for enterprises worldwide, helping customers to reduce costs and simplify complex IT environments via integrated, centralized in-band and out-of-band hardware and software. Through LANDesk, Avocent also is a leading provider of systems, security, and process management solutions. Additional information is available at: LAN TEK P. O. Box 549, Yucca Valley, CA TEL FAX Avocent, the Avocent logo and The Power of Being There are registered trademarks of Avocent Corporation. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. Copyright 2006 Avocent Corporation. All rights reserved OOBM-WP

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