KVM switch can take over a LAN remotely

The Raritan Dominion KSX 440 KVM switch can remotely manage up to 20 networked devices.

Keyboard-video-mouse switches, or KVMs, connect several computers so that a user can manipulate all of them using just one keyboard, one mouse and one monitor.

Handy as they are, these switches have always forced a user to work just one mouse cord away. The Raritan Dominion KSX 440 changes that.

It's different from other KVM switches because it connects the systems but also connects to the network. Authorized users can manage all networked systems with it, no matter how far away.

The GCN Lab tested the Dominion by connecting several PCs running Microsoft Windows, Solaris and Mac OS. We could remotely administer them pretty much as if we were sitting right in front, even triggering reboots.

Rebooting required one extra piece of hardware that Raritan provided for our tests: a fairly basic Raritan power cord and strip. We plugged all devices into the strip, which could also be controlled remotely from the main console interface.

Even if a test system completely locked up and wouldn't respond to commands, we could cause a reboot by interrupting the power to the device. We tested an eight-port power strip, but the Dominion can remotely manage up to 20 powered devices.

Raritan has given thought to everything that can go wrong. If the network goes down, the Dominion has a modem for dialing in remotely. It's not the fastest way, but Raritan did a nice job of making the interface work just the same as over a T1 line.

The management screens were simple and didn't use a lot of bandwidth, so emergency connection via modem wasn't too much of a problem.

We could even access the BIOS setup, something that many remote appliances don't allow. When we triggered a reboot, we could push a key to go to the BIOS screen in case a remote device needed some hard-core editing of its boot script file.

Setting up the Dominion was nearly plug-and-play. We simply hooked up each device and the KVM switch automatically recognized something new on that port.

The console interface was also a breeze. When we clicked on a serial port, we could view or control the device in question using a serial console. This might sound like Telnet to people with experience in that area, but it doesn't matter which piece of hardware is involved. It's only necessary to learn one basic interface.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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