Even with the addition of a 12-port or 24-port switch, it’s possible to confine the infrastructure of an entire small office into 3U. This results in less hardware to worry about, less power consumption when running on a UPS, and less heat generation. It also means less hardware to worry about replacing, should it be necessary. The days of a small office requiring separate routers, switches, wireless gear, and so on are numbered, if not already gone.
Building the bigger branch
A larger branch office is an animal of a different color. Here, one or more servers may be present, and the networking requirements are generally much heavier. The bigger branch really requires a dedicated data room, but that’s not always an option. In this case, a half-rack such as the APC NetShelter VX is a good bet. The VX is a 25U, fully enclosed, well-vented, and lockable rack that should provide ample room for growth while supporting current needs. Teamed with an APC Smart-UPS XL 2200 VA and the APC Switched Rack PDU (power distribution unit), the basic needs of the office infrastructure are taken care of, and servers or network gear can be power cycled remotely when necessary.
If the rack is going to be home to one or two servers, then cooling becomes an issue. If at all possible, install the rack in a naturally cool and well-ventilated location, and standard office air-conditioning will do the trick.
Bring it on home
When these building blocks are in place, the focus should be on remote administration. For either a small or larger branch office, your remote admin solution should go well beyond KVM-over-IP devices and into the realm of true remote out-of-band management.
For network devices, the Uplogix Envoy is a good example of the new wave of remote admin solutions. The Envoy provides a simple way to remotely manage devices via their serial consoles, backing up normal network access with dial-in and dial-back modem access. It even goes the extra mile by providing a significant level of automated recovery procedures that can bring a network back up without requiring the intervention of an administrator.
When managing remote servers, the stakes are higher. A simple fact of life is that servers are less stable than solid-state network hardware, so they must be treated with greater care. Recently, KVM-over-IP has struck a balance of functionality and price that makes these units deployable in just about any situation. Good options range from Raritan’s KX101, a single-server solution, to Raritan’s KSX series, which provides support for eight servers and eight serially connected network devices, and Avocent’s DSR1031, which has similar characteristics. These devices are meant to be used in conjunction with a larger deployment of KVM switches at headquarters but are aimed squarely at the branch-office market.
Although the IP KVM market is approaching maturity, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Anyone who has used a KVM over IP for any length of time can tell you that video and mouse handling could be smoother. New features are cropping up, too. The Avocent DSR1031, for instance, provides USB data paths via IP, allowing an administrator to map a local USB device to a remote server. This feature can be used to boot and rebuild a remote server from a USB image local to the admin, or to quickly and easily build a data path to a server that’s hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Coming soon to a SOBO near you