True remote console capabilities directly from your KVM switch

With the large number of servers that many of you have to manage on a

day-to-day basis, the ability to remote control your servers from any

location has become a necessity. To solve this need, there are a number

of technologies available for remotely accessing a server's console. You

can use Windows 2000 Terminal Service configured for Remote Control,

PCAnywhere or a number of other third party products, or you can even

use SMS Remote Control. Now there is a new alternative - Avocent's DSR

line of KVM switches that allows access to the switch and the

corresponding consoles via TCP/IP.

Here's how it works. My personal experience has been with their DSR2161

model, though other models are available at

This switch has 16 ports for each of the servers you want to connect to

it, a local console port (referred to as analog connectivity) for the

physical mouse, monitor, and keyboard, and a standard 10/100 network

interface (referred to as digital connectivity) that allows access to

the switch across the network via TCP/IP. One unique thing is that each

of the 16 ports actually uses a CAT5 cable (up to 10 meters in length)

instead of the standard bulky KVM combination cable. Now a piece of

relatively thin CAT 5 cable can be used to connect each of your servers

to the KVM switch. This new feature makes it much easier to manage

cables under the floor of your data center, as well as within your

server racks. To allow the CAT 5 cable to plug into the back of the

server, there's a device called a DSRIQ cable that converts the CAT 5

cable to a standard monitor, keyboard and mouse connector.

The other feature that makes this switch so unique is the ability to

install a small client application called DSView on your administrators'

workstation, that allows you to remotely connect to any port on the

switch and gain "true" console access. This is very similar to

PCAnywhere or SMS Remote Control, without the overhead of additional

software being installed on your server.

Now there are a few drawbacks to this solution. First of all the DSView

remote user interface isn't as clean looking as Terminal Service Remote

Control, but it does the trick assuming you can get the mouse to

synchronize properly. The other caveat is that you may need to install

an authentication service onto another server in your environment that

manages which users/administrators have access to view or connect to

consoles on the switch. Now this software is relatively easy to

install, and domain and local users and groups are available for the

access control lists, which make it intuitive to configure.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Avocent line of KVM

switches with remote capabilities, check out their website at

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