Most major server vendors have realized the need for remote out-of-band server management tools for quite some time. Hewlett-Packard, née Compaq, has put at least six years of development into its ILO (Integrated Lights-Out) controllers, Dell has its DRAC (Dell Remote Access Controller), and Sun offers ALOM (Advanced Lights Out Management) and ILOM (Integrated Lights Out Management) controllers as well. In most cases, these controllers aren’t an option -- they’re standard components. Unfortunately, most of these controllers are never configured or used, but as their capabilities increase and they reach saturation, this may change. That doesn’t mean that IP KVM switches and other remote-access gear won’t be necessary because you can’t control switchable power strips, handle modem communications, or deal with serial-console devices with an embedded out-of-band management card in a server.
That said, several IP KVM vendors are working on ways to leverage embedded management controllers by interfacing them with their own KVM products, extending the reach of the IP KVM while providing the rest of the feature set to truly and completely remotely manage a small infrastructure.
Also on the horizon are wireless remote management tools that can do security and performance monitoring and administration over Wi-Fi, quite a big deal if your remote sites are retail stores with wireless registers.
Building out and maintaining any number of remote sites is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. After you’ve finished the job, it’s generally time to start back at the beginning. If in the next pass you drop in the current crop of remote admin gear, however, you might be able to fire up a laptop, not your frequent-flyer account, when that time comes around again.