Pimp my datacenter: OSI Security Devices

The OSI Omnilock card key system, programmable via Pocket PC, provides maximum security at minimal cost

APC’s NetBotz surveillance system can spot any hooligans invading our precious HIG 319 sanctum, but it can’t keep them out. That’s where OSI Security Devices’ Omnilock 2000 comes in. This high-security physical access system met two key requirements for our specific situation.

First, it satisfied all of Brian’s high-security paranoia -- and this from a guy who used to do high-end crypto work for Uncle Sam’s various three-letter agencies. Making Brian happy, in this case, includes using Proximity card tokens scanned by the door and referred back to a central authenticator, as well as door-mount combination codes for sticky situations. Each door lock is programmed via a Pocket PC device, which then transfers the access control information to the central administration console. There's also an encrypted wireless option available for feeding everything back to a central console.

Which brings us to the second advantage of the Omnilock 2000 for the university: It’s cheaper in the long haul because you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom on running conduit to keep the data circuits between the locks and the access management server from prying fingers. The locks can be bolted onto most existing office doors without having to bore holes in walls or extend expensive conduit throughout your facility. (In some cities, the cost of conduit can be upward of 75 percent of the cost of the total project.) That means no expensive retooling of your datacenter’s access doors -- just a lock swap-out and some programming time.

[ Watch the video: Brian Chee on the Omnilock system. Return to the "Pimp my datacenter" intro for the background on our datacenter makeover and links to more cool and cutting-edge datacenter gear. Read about our project's hurdles, and tips for avoiding them, in "Five lessons of a datacenter overhaul." ]

A wireless version of the Omnilock 2000 has been in use on the doors of Brian's Advanced Network Computing Lab for two years now, and while nearly identical, it differs in that it connects back to a central database server (Microsoft SQL Server) through an encrypted wireless management system. When we first started with WAMS (Wireless Access Management System), we bled with the OSI development team during the beta test period. Like all software development projects, the situation improved in leaps and jumps, with battery life increasing dramatically as the team got better at RF power management. With battery life now in excess of a year, WAMS is as flexible as any card key system on the market, but with the significant advantage of no conduit required.

The OSI Wireless Access Management System can be installed on a small Windows XP workstation and scale up to dedicated SQL servers as you grow. Most important, an Omnilock 2000 can be upgraded to WAMS through a simple board swap in the lock casing. A feature to note is that the access rules are downloaded to each lock, so if wireless connectivity is lost, you don’t lose access, nor do the locks fail open as with some systems. This combination of features is sure to save SOEST a huge number of billable hours in the coming years. And anything that can cut expensive labor out of the university budget is an instant star in our book.

The total cost of the OSI Omniock 2000 used in our project was approximately $1,500.

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