Out-of-Band Management in the Test & Dev Lab

The forces of globalization have disrupted the network lab big time. No longer are engineers and product developers reliant on being in the room or down the hall. Thanks to the latest generation of Out-of-Band (OOB) management products, they can be working from home or on another continent, running tests on all kinds of equipment at any hour of the day or night.

How can the newest console servers lower your TCO, enhance lab productivity and delight the dev/test staff within your organization? Read on.

Make it Simple

The rising complexity of multi-layer, multi-vendor, multi-architecture WAN and data center environments has led to a backlash. The result? The growing popularity of software-defined networking. Layers of abstraction and automation above all of the complexity now let you get away from manual coding and cumbersome workflows.

The network testing lab has similarly become ever more complex. It’s packed with more and more equipment and software from diverse vendors. So, in a trend towards simplification, the newest OOB management platforms emphasize ease of configurability and automation. Look for zero-touch provisioning for the device setup. Expect to be able to quickly and easily deploy and configure new, multi-vendor environments in the lab.

Have you been using homemade systems and spreadsheets to keep track of lab equipment and connection topologies? Has it been a few years since you’ve looked at what’s running the backbone of your facilities? Are your console servers providing the features and functionality required to keep up with demand?

Perhaps it’s time to take another look.

Always-on Fast Access

Test and Evaluation Lab Network DiagramToday’s testing lab never sleeps. It must be available to your staff 24 x 7. If your company develops network infrastructure, the combination of components that must be tested can number in the thousands. So you don’t want a management platform getting in your way. It must be highly available and fast.

Remote testers must be able to swiftly reboot, reconfigure and load different versions of software, and recover from error conditions. Or quickly power cycle a device if it locks up. Or provide a relentless battery of tests to try to reveal vulnerabilities and flaws.

Out-of-band management consoles provide this kind of robust, high-performance and always-available functionality. And their embedded memory allows multiple firmware and other configurations to be stored, alleviating the need to upload them each time.

Concurrency and Scale

By any measure, the digital world is growing. There’s more of everything. And in the lab there are dozens and dozens of diverse types of hardware products and software. Different combinations of these result in thousands of possible configurations that sometimes must be tested.

So the OOB management solution you use must be able to keep track of everything so that remote testers can spin up and take down different configurations, as needed. The solution should enable and manage concurrent tests by different personnel, even on the same gear. It should be able to monitor equipment utilization and reservations and to alert administrators if equipment is sitting idle.

Out-of-band consoles now feature lots of high-density ports―as many as 100, which allow a wide variety of configurations―to let you manage more devices. They have powerful CPUs that let you run multiple sessions in parallel. Some of the newest console servers also provide both serial as well as USB console ports in acknowledgement of more and more devices introducing USB connections, due to the smaller form factor and its plug-and-play capability.

OOB of the Future

In the future, look to the Internet of Things to further transform OOB management in the lab. With dev/test teams working from different locations, one of the remaining hurdles to full, virtual remote control is the need to physically move or re-cable gear. So in the future, perhaps robotic equipment will play an increasing role.

And web cams could also contribute to testing, verifying through visual observation if a fan is spinning or an LED panel is blinking.

But there’s no need to wait for the future. Opengear console servers for out-of-band management in the testing lab are a good example of how far the industry has advanced. Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at what’s possible.

⇒ Learn more about Console Servers for the Lab Environment