Avocent Promises Better Management Through Service Processors

By Dan Muse (Send Email)
Posted Feb 12, 2007


Service processors may not be a new thing, but putting them to use for better server management is gaining new-found momentum, according to Avocent Corp. The company's new MergePoint 5224 and 5240 gateway appliances are designed to provide secure management of multiple servers in remote locations.

Service processors, sometimes called management processors, are independent of the CPU and are designed to help system administrators better monitor and troubleshoot servers by providing power control, console access, server hardware monitoring and alerts, and other views into a system.

The processors are ideal for remote service management, Ivan Passos, director of product management for Avocent, said. "With the need for lights-out management, server vendors are starting to emphasize service processors."

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In a move to help IT managers better manager their server infrastructure through service processors, Avocent Corp. today announced the MergePoint 5224 and 5240 appliances, which are designed to provide transparent access to any service processor in its native interface, integrate with existing security infrastructure and support entire feature sets of any service processor.


MergePoint 5224  2.0
The Avocent MergePoint 5224 is designed to make it easier to manage multiple service processors.

"Customers care about more than just the cost of the server. They also care about the cost of management. They're finding OpEx can be higher CapEx," Passos said. "Server vendors also need every way to differentiate themselves from white box vendors," he added.

Avocent claims that nearly all servers shipped in the last few years have service processors embedded within them and are based on the IPMI standard or proprietary technologies, including HP's iLO, Dell's DRAC, IBM's RSA II and Sun's ALOM.

"The small dedicated processors are always available even if the server locks up. It gets power from other resources so even if the server is dead, you can you can bring it down and bring it back up," Passos said.

The 24-Ethernet port MergePoint 5224 and 40-Ethernet port MergePoint 5240 are designed to let IT administrators manage multiple types of service processors from a single console via the company's centralized management software.

While all modern servers have service processors, "they are just not used because of deployment challenges that make IT managers hesitate," Passos said. "No one wants to have to manage every service processor. And because you need an Ethernet port for each service processors, costs can escalate. You also have to deal with security," Passos said.

"Service processors are very nimble and they have to stay simple so they don't break." But because of that they don't support an inherent security features set, making it's a challenge to integrate them with a security infrastructure.

"5224 and 5240 look like a simple Ethernet switch, but they are not simple Ethernet switches," Passos said. Because it's an appliance it's isolated from the network, but it's easy to integrate with security systems to provide authentication, authorization and accounting.

Avocent's goal is to offer server admins the capability to manage any type of service processor with a single gateway appliance. Because server vendors approach service processors using proprietary (but similar) approaches, the MergePoint 5200 family of products are designed to speaks in the local language of nearly any service processor, using what describes as "a universal translator" to consolidate server management.

While the appliance's Web interface lets you control service processors from any vendor, if you want to connect to one server's interface, you can use Avocent's DirectCommand capability for direct access. However, Passos said, before you use server-specific remote capabilities, the user needs to "get authentication before accessing a service processor own Web-based interface."

The MergePoint 5224 starts at $2,995 and the 5240 starts at $3,995. The prices can vary depending on power supply configuration, Passos said.

To cluster several MergePoint devices, you need Avocent's DSView 3 software. The software is designed to allow centralized access and control of servers, embedded technologies, routers and hubs, power-control devices and environmental monitoring equipment. Pricing starts at $5,000 (which includes a five-user license). To add additional users (i.e., server admins) the pricing is as follows: one user, $795; five users, $2,995 and 10 users, $5,495.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel, EarthWeb's Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

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