Admins reboot Senate systems from afar

Many seasoned systems administrators know the power and pain of the reboot.

Many, if not most, user problems can be solved by a simple reboot, and most systems require a power cycle after a major update of the software. But when you have hardware scattered around an office, or across the country. it can be a pain to go to each location just to punch the restart button.

Dataprobe has come up with a power strip that can be rebooted over a network.

And that can be a time saver for administrators whose equipment is scattered hither and yon.

For example, audiovisual technical consultant K2 Audio has found the strips to be handy in supporting the Senate Hearing Room Audio Network.

The Senate's hearing rooms are wired to record meetings. Microphones in the rooms connect to an audio interface box that converts analog inputs from the microphone into digital form, so it can be relayed back through the system for storage and real-time listening.

Each room has about six of these boxes. Each room also has an uninterruptible power supply to ensure any temporary power outages don't lead to long reboot times of the cameras and other equipment, said Rodrigo Ordonez, K2 design consultant.

A two-second lapse in power can result in a three-minute wait for the equipment to come back online.

Occasionally, the boxes ' which are on an Ethernet network ' need firmware upgrades, which can be done remotely. But after the firmware is installed, the equipment must be rebooted.

And it is impossible to reboot the equipment without being in the room.

'It's a kind of a problem to go to every room for anything that happens,' Ordonez said.

So K2 invested in iBootBar power strips from Dataprobe. The iBootBar is a simple power strip with an Ethernet port. A more expensive model also comes with an optional telephone jack for modem use, too. The port lets administrators log in to the power strip, via a Web page and shut off and restart power for each outlet on that strip.

Instead of going from room to room to reboot equipment after a firmware upgrade, administrators can reboot the equipment from the maintenance shop.

Although somewhat expensive for a power strip ' prices start at $485 ' the iBootBar can be handy in many circumstances, said Dataprobe President David Weiss. Equipment that isn't being used can be shut off remotely for security and energy savings.

The power strips have a command line interface, with support for Telnet and Simple Network Management Protocol, so administrators could write scripts to automate when the units shut down, start up or reboot.

The modem unit supports dual-tone multifrequency, so administrators could work with the power strip using only a telephone.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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