In that respect, they're no different from any remote data center. Whether the system is on the slope of a volcano or in a remote server closet, if for one reason or another your in-band connection goes on the blink, you need some way to get back in and diagnose the issue. In the case of the Opengear ACM5004-G remote management gateway, that "some way" includes a 3G cellular router.
What sets the Opengear ACM5004-G apart is just how much Opengear has managed to cram into the tiny box: 3G Cellular, firewall, router, four external sensor connections (my kit had smoke/fire, vibration, intrusion, and water), four RS-232/422/485 ports (with Cisco-style pinouts, so a straight cable to a Cisco or other network device is all you need), and a USB port for storage, a hub, a Sierra USB modem, or a USB console like those found on newer switches.
Opengear's attention to detail shines through as you browse the massive number of configuration options and layer upon layer of configuration screens. Don't get me wrong: It's not hard to get going, but like a Swiss Army knife, this little box provides many ways to get the job done. With freely downloadable MIBs for SNMP or Nagios definitions, this is one little remote access box that's as good a fit in a network distribution closet as it is in a mountain top repeater site.
I know what some of you are mumbling. Sure, you could build a really cheap Linux box that does everything I've already mentioned. But can you do it on a system that sucks up less than 1 amp of power, runs hardened Linux, is TFTP-/FTP-/Web-updatable, has FCC blessing, and can be easily ordered to run on 48 volts?
A caveat: I was testing using the SIM from my T-Mobile phone and ran into a snag. It seems that T-Mobile firewalls block inbound access to mobile address space, so I had to set up an outbound VPN connection to make it work. It's not optimal, but it's not Opengear's fault either. Once you've made the connection, this little unit works great. With the wealth of monitoring capabilities it provides, it's my new choice for underwater observatories.
Price: $700 MSRP; vibration sensor, $43; smoke alarm, $142; water leak detector, $142.
This article, "Far-out out-of-band remote systems management," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in data center and systems management at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.