Raritan keeps close eye on infrastructure
Open source tools form solid base for foray into network management with CommandCenter NOC 250Follow @pvenezia
The Raritan company name is absolutely synonymous with KVM switching. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few admins use the word Raritan to describe KVM switches made by another manufacturer, and Raritan’s MasterConsole KVM switches can be found in datacenters far and wide.
That’s why its new product, the CC (CommandCenter) NOC 250, is so interesting. Nearly a year ago, Raritan acquired Oculan, a maker of network management appliances. This was a big move on Raritan’s part, pushing it beyond the KVM business and into the realm of in-band network management.
As the first Raritan-branded appliance of its type, Oculan’s expertise shows in the CC NOC 250’s strong scanning abilities. After putting the device through its paces for a few weeks, it seems to me that this first salvo is a good one, but not quite a bull’s-eye.
Open source tools, closed-source code
A 1U rackmount appliance built on a standard PC mainboard, the CC NOC 250 is equipped with a normal complement of ports for video, PS/2 keyboard, and mouse, plus a serial port and two gigabit NICs. One network interface is configured for management; the other is reserved to run in promiscuous mode, listening on a switch mirror port to track traffic flows through network aggregation points.
The CC NOC 250 is built on a custom Linux distribution, booting a relatively recent kernel, and is essentially a collection of open source tools that provide a wide array of network management functions. These tools, combined with some closed-source code, provide a solid view of a network from several perspectives: Network scan reports provide information on all discovered network devices from routers to workstations to servers; system and service availability reports show trends in service uptime; active vulnerability scans gauge the security level of the network.
The CC NOC 250 can be combined with the Raritan Secure Gateway, and it hooks into Raritan’s Dominion KVM switches directly from the Web interface to serve up several types of alerts, including e-mail notifications of network events. Thus, when a problem is detected with a server that’s connected to a Dominion KVM switch, the CC NOC 250’s warning notification e-mail contains a link that will immediately bring up the Dominion KVM console for that server. That’s handy.
Because this device is designed to function on a midsize network, I deployed the CC NOC 250 on a production network with approximately 250 workstations, 20 Windows servers, and about 60 Linux servers. The CC NOC 250’s licensing limits it to 25 Windows servers and 250 Windows workstations, so this was a good fit.
Ideally, the initial configuration is performed via a serial console session when the device is first powered up. Unfortunately, this never seemed to work properly in my testing, which is perplexing because serial console support in Linux is as old as the hills.
The first CC NOC 250 device I received had a problem booting, although I did get boot messages via the serial connection. I had better luck with the replacement appliance, although the serial connection would not function.
Thoughtfully, the bootloader on the appliance has two sets of boot modes: one with serial support and another with standard KVM support. Using the latter, I was able to configure the appliance and bring it up on the network.