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The Matrix KVM switch fits neatly into a 1U server slot and supports thousand of systems through its 32 ports, inset.

What do you do when you need to monitor and control 4,096 computers, updating large groups of them at the same time? For that, you need a Matrix.

The Matrix enterprise-level KVM switch from Aten Technology Inc. is one of the most advanced devices of its type we've seen. When most people think of a KVM switch, they think of the original models that gave users control over the keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) functions of several systems at once. I've had an eight-port switch in my office for years, which lets me switch between test systems and the one I use to write reviews at the touch of a button. I can click back anytime to see how a test is going and then return to writing. And I only need one mouse, one keyboard and one monitor.

KVMs began to grow up a few years ago when they added IP monitoring capabilities. By attaching a network line, you could connect to your KVM anywhere and see what the connected computers were doing. Some even allowed remote resets if systems locked up.

The 32-port Matrix KM0432 is another generation beyond that.

The sheer number of ports, and the fact that it fits in just 1U of space on a standard server rack, is impressive. By daisy chaining, you can link up to 4,096 systems.

In the lab, we connected 12 systems to the unit, many with different operating systems. The first thing we noticed was that the Matrix has auto signal compensation, and actually does it correctly. This means the systems that are connected to the unit can be up to 1,000 feet away with no loss of video signal. We had to string together quite a few cables, but were able to put 650 feet between one unit and the KVM.

Staying alive

Another thing we liked with this KVM is the 'keep alive' feature, which ensures that the keyboard and mouse work under difficult conditions. With standard KVMs, you sometimes lose connectivity when switching between sources. During a power failure, for instance, you have at best a fifty-fifty chance of the keyboard maintaining a connection to most KVMs. With the Matrix, even when we induced a power failure, we were unable to force a loss of connectivity.

We also liked the ability to hot swap new systems into the network without turning off the switch. We connected and disconnected a client hundreds of times without powering down the switch. This did not affect the Matrix, the other clients on the network or the floating client.

Finally, another advantage to the Matrix is that because it is a network device, you can set it up to receive firmware upgrades automatically. So if a patch is ever issued or new functionality added, the Matrix can receive and install the upgrade without user intervention.

Whether you have a small network that needs monitoring or one with thousands of PCs, the KM0432 is a great way to get the job done.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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