Out of Band. When all else fails, no midnight drive

Sometimes it is not the cost of having something that is important. Sometimes the cost of not having is far greater.
Back in the dim and distant past I was a server support engineer. Once a month I would have my week of being on call for the organization. A global company with around 5,000 staff in the UK where I lived at the time. Every week I would get the midnight call to deal with a hung server in a remote office. One particular server would hang every <REDACTED> week. The problem was that this server had no remote management capability. The business unit who bought it saved $500 by not buying the card. So at 1 am I would get in my car and drive an hour to the office, an office I never visited during daylight. Once there security would escort me to the datacenter and I’d power cycle the server. Then I’d drive an hour home and go back to bed. Lots of other servers might hang during the week. Most of them had ILO or DRAC or RSA cards that allowed me to reset them without leaving home. Paying me overtime (lucky contractor) to reset this one server cost the company $200 per month for two years, all to save $500.


This experience has made me a big fan of Out Of Band (OOB) management. So I was very interested in what OpenGear had to say at TFDx at Cisco Live! When OpenGrear says OOB they don’t just mean outside of the operating system running on the box. They often have a completely independent network just for OOB management. A built in 4G connection also allows a fallback if the main network is lost. If, for example, a digger goes through a cable in the street. OpenGear provides both an Ethernet OOB network and a series of Serial ports, to connect to management ports on network devices. They also support a range of environmental sensors. These can identify whether the cupboard under the stairs (where the branch servers live) is overheating.

Disclosure: Tech Field Day (TFD) have paid for my flights to attend events in June. TFD have not requested this blog post nor will they see it before it is published. TFD also paid for my lunch before the briefing at Cisco Live! and at least one bagel at the event.

Did your ears prick up when they said 4G backup network? A lot of customers’ ears did, OpenGear got requests for that 4G backup to be available for the production network. Now OpenGear has a device that will seamlessly provide 4G failover for your existing WAN. It sits as a bump in the wire between your internal router and the internal network. If the router cannot reach the outside world the OpenGear box will take over and use its 4G connection. In the live and very remote demo we saw a continuous ping failover in a few seconds and then failback just as fast. You can find the video of the OpenGear presentation on this page at the TechFieldDay site.

© 2015, Alastair. All rights reserved.

About Alastair

I am a professional geek, working in IT Infrastructure. Mostly I help to communicate and educate around the use of current technology and the direction of future technologies.
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