Exclusive: Raritan changes the KVM game
The new Raritan Dominion KX II is slick, fast, and in total controlFollow @pvenezia
Although KVM over IP has been around for years, it hasn't been perfected yet. There are plenty of players in this game, and each solution has its share of idiosyncrasies that can prove frustrating when trying to fix server problems from afar. Raritan's original Dominion KX line of KVM switches were sturdy and stable, yet somewhat cranky when used over WAN links with high latency. They were certainly functional, but left something to be desired.
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When I first received the Dominion KX II, I noted that it seemed basically identical to the first series. Flipping the unit over, however, I discovered redundant power supplies, a few more USB ports, and gigabit NICs. I plugged it into a few servers, an LCD panel, a keyboard and mouse, and fired it up. Much to my surprise, a graphical mouse-driven UI appeared. Even more surprising, it's the same UI found on the remote Web interface.
Gone are the days of the familiar Scroll Lock, Scroll Lock, double tap, and arrow-key port selection. Gone are the text-driven menus at the rack console and stand-alone client applications. This new Raritan UI is slick and fast, whether run from the local console or remotely. KVM connections are no longer limited to a single screen, but can be pulled up in multiple windows, much like RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) or terminal sessions. The mouse tracking is much, much better than any previous Raritan product, and the screen calibration is also improved.
Media here, installation there
On top of that, the new connection UI now permits the use of universal virtual media with the USB computer interface module. Thus, using only the Raritan console, it's possible to do a bare-metal server installation remotely from an ISO image or physical CD/DVD on the local system. Many servers have remote management controllers that can also handle these tasks, but some server vendors such as HP require a premium license to use virtual media and even to use graphical remote console tools. With the Dominion II, that premium need not be paid.
I tested the Dominion KX II over a variety of connections: locally wired at gigabit speeds, wireless on an 802.11b/g network, from a coffee shop across an IPSec VPN, and from a hotel wireless network across an SSL VPN. I tested the Web client on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, with Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari Web browsers. In all instances, the console loaded with surprising speed, server console connections were handled with aplomb, and the mouse tracking proved very accurate. With lower-bandwidth connections, or environments with high latency, you can shift color depth on the fly, dropping from the standard 15-bit color profile to 8-bit color or even 4-bit gray scale to improve speed and response time. These changes happen immediately and do not require closing the console window. Furthermore, all connections from the client to the Dominion KX II are encrypted via SSL.