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June 29, 2007 • Vol.29 Issue 26
Page(s) 1 in print issue

Is The Death Of Traditional KVM Near?
Don’t Bet On It Anytime Soon
As new technologies enter the marketplace, older ones tend to fade off into the sunset, but don’t close the door on traditional KVM technologies just yet. While some server manufacturers have begun to integrate KVM functions directly on the motherboard, thus prompting a premature death knell, the demand for traditional KVM products remains strong.

“I don’t think the traditional KVM is dead at all, as I find it to be very strong in ongoing markets, especially in the 2-port and 4-port switches where you don’t necessarily need IP KVM or the need to support servers remotely,” says Adrian Dickens, founder and managing director for Adder Technology (www.Processor.com/Adder), a UK-based KVM manufacturer. Richard Dominach, Raritan’s (www.Processor.com/Raritan1) KVM over IP product manager, agrees: “I think the current state of the traditional KVM is indeed healthy. Customers are making good use of KVM and related technologies.”

Leading manufacturers, such as ATEN (www.Processor.com/ATEN-USA), believe the traditional KVM market continues to expand and evolve in both the SME and enterprise markets thanks to better connections (either locally or remotely), superior video quality, longer distances, and an integrated solution for users to manage most of their devices in server rooms.

Challenges

IP-based and embedded KVM continue to pose operational challenges, leaving data center managers sticking with their tried-and-true equipment. According to Dominach, the biggest complaint from users has been the lack of mouse synchronization with KVM over IP. “Getting them to sync and keeping them in sync has been difficult, and that’s cut across all brands and manufacturers of KVM over IP,” he says. Raritan has responded with its new technology, Absolute Mouse Synchronization, that maintains constant mouse synchronization and centralized control. In general, Dominach has found that users want the same performance from KVM over IP as with traditional external KVM solutions providing direct connections. “We’ve worked to make the KVM over LAN indistinguishable from a direct connection,” he says.

Another issue raised by IP-based KVM products is IP address management. Dominach notes that most data center managers are trying to reduce the number of addresses they need to manage, but KVM over IP requires an additional IP address for each server, adding to the headache.

Another limiting factor often cited regarding embedded KVM technologies is they are typically proprietary and difficult to upgrade. “It’s kind of a management nightmare as opposed to traditional KVM switches, which are much easier to manage and upgrade,” says Dominach. Because the embedded systems are inside the servers, data centers are stuck with that solution for the life of the server, while a traditional KVM switch can be easily upgraded. Proprietary onboard KVMs will also result in multiple interfaces.

Looking Ahead

Adder has manufactured KVM switches for more than 10 years, leading Dickens to witness the market reaching an interesting tipping point where the higher-end installations that connect multiple computers (16 machines or more) are moving to a totally IP-based solution, regardless of whether it’s traditional or embedded. This shift has resulted in the integration of IP channels on to Adder’s traditional KVM switches, giving users both local and remote access.

Recognizing the trend toward embedded KVM offering access to any machine, Adder recently introduced AdderLink ipeps (IP engine per server), which is a palm-sized unit powered via USB or PS/2 interface that delivers remote KVM over IP to individual machines. It offers a similar feature-rich experience found in rack-mounted solutions.

Similarly, Raritan includes a local port on its KVM over IP products for local access at the rack. While most local port interfaces are older-style on-screen displays with control keys, Raritan uses the same browser-based interface on the local port as for remote access. “You have the same full set of management functions available from the local port, and that’s something that’s never been done,” says Dominach.

Another new innovation Raritan has integrated into its Dominion KX2 KVM over IP switches is virtual media capabilities. This lets remote users mount a local media device, such as a CD drive, to a server in the data center, further expanding the value of the KVM switch.

Additional features popping up in the traditional KVM world include simple, yet practical ideas such as dual power supplies and the integration of remote power control. “Right now, power is a big issue in data centers. In terms of managing costs, it’s critical to manage infrastructure, so we’re providing more features that make it easier to monitor power at a strip-level, server-level, and outlet-level,” says Dominach.

by Sandra Kay Miller


Choosing The Right Solution

Deciding which KVM solution to deploy in your data center doesn't have to be a complex decision. To maintain flexibility, many IT managers are turning to an assortment of access control technologiesKVM, power, environmental monitoring, and controlsthat can be managed via a standard interface.

i-Tech Company (www.Processor.com/i-TechCompany) carries all the leading KVM solutions and can help you choose what’s right for your organization. Additionally, the company offers environmental controls and monitoring solutions; power distribution equipment; LCD monitors, flat panels, and industrial displays; and embedded components and server cabinets.

KVM Switches Online (www.kvm-switches-online.com) offers the KVM Configurator, an interactive tool that lets users plug in info such as the number of ports needed, type of peripheral support, and video and audio requirements. A list of vendors and their corresponding products is then returned, making shopping for exactly what is needed fast and easy.

Rose Electronics (www.Processor.com/Rose-Co) offers a wide variety of products, including traditional KVM equipment, as well as digital KVM IP devices, KVM switches, KVM extenders, and accessories.

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