Network Labs for Test, Development and Validation

Whether you’re running a lab to develop new hardware, validate firmware upgrades, or test devices before shipment, the equipment required to maintain robust, always-available service must be far more reliable than standard networking devices.

As test labs become more and more complex, and engineering groups are increasingly situated remotely, the need for reliable remote access to the equipment is becoming critical. Automated test routines and 24/7 usage require the ability to access, data log, and remediate a wide range of devices from multiple locations. Out-of-band management and data logging via console servers is a critical component of this lab infrastructure.

Network Lab - Test Development Validation

Firmware Validation

The most common application for network labs is validating firmware upgrades, and regression testing on various versions of operating systems. In these cases, any action or output must be logged and available for analysis – console errors, results, edge cases, random re-boots, last gasp trace and more. The console server can connect to a wide range of devices via serial, USB and/or ethernet ports, and support multiple versions of firmware through large embedded memory. There is also support for power-cycling a frozen test device via a preconfigured alert that controls a supported PDU.

Automated Product Testing

Electronic devices require extensive testing before shipment, to ensure end users receive a fully functional cellphone, router or handheld device out of the box. For these Devices Under Test (DUT), it’s unrealistic for an operator to run each one through its paces in the QA process, so the testing is automated in large batches. A console server can connect to as many as 96 devices at one time (CM7196A)  and can be programmed to simulate operator input via a series of standard tests. Input/outputs, alerts and pass/fail results are all logged in real time and available to the QA team for final verification. Cascading allows multiple console servers to be clustered, with a single unit acting as the master across thousands of serial ports. This ability to test large batches of devices in parallel, with minimal operator intervention, can lead to significant savings, and more efficient high-density testing.

Data Collection for Lab Equipment

Critical equipment in medical labs and testing facilities require vast quantities of data to be logged and analyzed on a 24 hr basis. This is typically managed by vertical CAD software packages, with logging software accessing the lab equipment via the serial ports (or increasingly via USB or ethernet). This is enabled through a console (terminal) server, which can be connected to a multiple types of  lab equipment for blood testing, environmental analysis, or other functional devices. For small labs or those in remote locations, a cellular-enabled console server can be configured with 4 or 8 serial ports. In larger installations, servers with 16, 32, 48 or 96 ports might be more appropriate.