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Slack-ing Off at Tech Field Day

Rob Waldie demo Lighthouse 5 at Tech Field Day Cisco LiveAt Tech Field Day Cisco Live, delegates saw a demo of Lighthouse 5, showing off the capabilities of Opengear’s brand new Centralized Management software. Each of the delegates is an enthusiastic participant in the wider tech community, and several of them live-tweeted throughout the session, giving an instant view of their reactions.

Marcio Saito, CTO of Opengear, set the stage with an overview of out-of-band management, and the evolution of console servers.

The needs of network engineers have changed as IT infrastructure moves toward hyperscale deployments. With a more cross-disciplinary NetDevOps role, along with a looser coupling of the hardware and software components, companies are looking for less complex design, with low touch and less vendor-specific technology.

Rob Waldie, a Distinguished Engineer at Opengear, then described how the new Lighthouse 5 platform will help users not only with ongoing network resiliency, but also in simplifying the automation and provisioning of their IT infrastructure. With the Lighthouse VPN, Zero touch enrollment, and support for third-party console servers, the capabilities of out-of-band now go beyond monitoring and remediation. Smart Groups and Tagging mean that one instance can now be used to manage thousands of nodes, in hundreds of locations.

But delegates really got excited when he revealed  the RESTful API that comes along with Lighthouse 5.

To show the flexibility that this brings to console management, Rob demonstrated a zero touch enrollment of a virtual data center using Slack. With the help of a Lighthouse chatbot, he walked through the provisioning, configuration, discovery and enrollment of a number of virtual devices, all within the Slack channel.

The demo highlighted that Lighthouse 5 is a Centralized Management platform that’s been designed and built specifically for NetOps. The RESTful API lets advanced users tap in to any existing application in their current workflow, and manage their infrastructure within the toolset they are familiar with.

We’ll leave the last word to the delegates:


For more details on Lighthouse 5 Centralized Management, and the full video of the TFD demo, click here

Thanks to the team at Gestalt Media for setting up Tech Field Day – Tom Hollingsworth @networkingnerd and Stephen Foskett @SFoskett.

And to the delegates: Ryan Adzima @radzima; Amy Arnold @AmyEngineer ; Teren Bryson @SomeClown; Jeff Fry @fryguy_pa ; Jordan Martin @bcjordo; Scott McDermott @scottm32768; Richard McIntosh @802Tophat; Eric Stover @Eric_Stover

British Airways: A Cautionary Tale in Data Center Management

BA Data Center failure grounds flightsAn IT engineer on contract to an enterprise data center disconnects and then reconnects the power supply. He isn’t authorized to do so. Whoops. No big deal, right? Wrong.

Last month such a scenario played out at a British Airways data center near Heathrow Airport. A power surge then damaged servers providing major applications for online check-in, baggage handling and customer contact systems.

The resulting outage caused the cancellation of 479 flights and impacted 75,000 customers. Estimated cost to British Airways: 100 to 150 million Euros. Estimated damage to British Airway’s reputation: sky high.

Today, many people in data centers have physical access to all sorts of equipment. Locking it down and enabling remote, out-of-band (OOB) management by trusted personnel is a great way to secure it from intentional or accidental misuse.

Human Error is No Longer a Viable Excuse

Following the British Airways debacle, industry experts weighed in to criticize the excuse that the outage was the result of human error. The Uptime Institute’s president, Lee Kirby, said human error is “an overarching label that describes the outcomes of poor management choices.” He pointed to the redundancy requirements in Tier 3 data centers as an antidote to this kind of mishap.

But increasingly, especially with the growth of edge networks serving the Internet of Things, out-of-band management is gaining in popularity as a way to securely and cost-efficiently control infrastructure wherever configurable network devices exist.

Remote Management in Action

Providing out-of-band access to critical infrastructure for reconfiguration or repair isn’t new. It was introduced in the 1980s. Terminal servers and routers with serial ports were used to access infrastructure remotely. Later, reverse telnet and reverse Secure Shell (SSH) enabled administrators to access gear via serial over Ethernet redirection with CLI and terminal access to device consoles.

Secura data centre uses opengear console servers How can out-of-band access provide secure and cost-effective management in the data center? Cloud hosting provider Secura provides a great case study in the Data Center Journal. With infrastructure in three different Tier 3 data centers in the U.K., the company needed access to it 24 x 7. Sending engineers out for every update, patch or configuration change would have been inefficient and costly. So the company chose console servers with Smart OOB technology.

The out-of-band gear provides monitoring, diagnostics and remediation features to maximize network uptime through efficient recovery from any infrastructure fault condition. Secura has since reduced onsite visits by several days each quarter, more than paying for the solution. If problems arise, the out-of-band management solution is already deployed to quickly help troubleshoot devices.

What OOB Management in the Data Center Can Provide

With more and more workers meeting, working and accessing company resources remotely, it’s no wonder that out-of-band management is becoming ever more popular. Add to that security concerns within the physical data center and in edge networks and the benefits of secure OOB management are clear.

For more information on Out-of-band management in the data center, check out Opengear’s eBook “How Resilient is Your Data Center.”

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