Console Servers

Network uptime is critical for most global corporations today for sales, operations, production, and communication activities.  Outages can be extremely costly.  While software management tools can be used for performance monitoring and some remote troubleshooting, they only work when the network is up. For a more reliable solution, large corporations turn to out-of-band management with console servers. Network engineers can use OOB with console servers to reconfigure, reboot and reimage remotely across the internet or WANs even if the primary data network is down.

Console servers are a good solution for large distributed enterprises with multiple branches— such as banks, insurance companies, hospitals, utilities, retail and school systems— that may not have IT staff on-site. Network administrators can choose from a wide range of port densities to suit the application. For example, one console server may have as many as 48 serial ports for remote management of assets in data centers. Other console servers may have just four ports and are suited for connecting LAN switches and routers in data closets.

Connection Options

Console servers can be connected to a management network separate from your data network to ensure access to your system and devices at all times. Backup paths are achieved in several ways.

• IP/Ethernet over LAN or WAN

Many console servers come equipped with dual gigabit Ethernet ports to facilitate connections over a LAN or WAN to primary and secondary networks. If a server detects any communication failure on the primary port, it switches to the second one automatically.

• Dial-up POTS

For an additional level of redundancy, some console servers come equipped with a dial-up modem to connect to your system via the POTS (plain old telephone service). However, given that access to an analog telephone line is increasingly rare and expensive, cellular options are becoming the go-to backup for system reliability.

• Cellular Wireless

Cellular solutions protect businesses from the worst case scenario: complete loss of access to your systems via LAN. Console servers with embedded cellular solutions support 4G LTE and failback on 3G cellular during LTE failures. Cellular solutions offer speeds up to 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload. They’re also cost effective—M to M data plans start as low as a few dollars per month.

Cellular modems are often used as backup for Ethernet LAN/WAN networks with automatic failover to ensure uptime. You can configure failover to be always on, with routing metrics adjusted. You can also choose for it to be on when needed, in which case your IP interface becomes active only when an outage is detected.

Console Server Application Diagram

Security Features

Maintaining the security of your network is as critical as ensuring uptime. Console servers deliver enterprise-grade security by limiting access with local and remote authentication, authorization and accounting. They also extend enterprise security policy to distributed assets. Many console servers support RADIUS, Kerberos, Active Directory, TACACS+ and other security protocols. For encryption of sensitive management traffic, console servers can support IPSec, OpenVPN, SSL, and SSH.

Network Management

Large networks could have potentially hundreds of console servers connected to thousands of servers, switches, and routers across multiple sites. To simplify management and respond more swiftly to issues, many network administrators rely on central management software. With this technology, even very large networks can be managed via a single portal from any web-enabled device.

Black Box’s console servers are managed using Virtual Central Management System (VCMS). VCMS offers centralized, secure, end-to-end OOB management and proactive alerting regardless of remote WAN or LAN health status. The VCMS portal allows you to manage large numbers of console servers over a wide geographic area, even globally, from a single screen. You can search managed devices by name, no matter how they’re connected, and sort results by geography, application or managed device type. VCMS gives you the ability to pinpoint failed devices and address issues quickly, minimizing downtime and the impact on your operations.

Another advantage of VCMS is that it offers scalable administration and automation, from day one provisioning to routine operations and disaster recovery. VCMS can be used as a central management point for configuration changes, firmware upgrades, and CLI access.

OOB Tech Alternative

Black Box console servers can be used as an alternative to the EOS Cisco ISR2900. They are easily substituted into new or existing data centers and come in port densities ranging from four to 48. Black Box offers the economical LES1500 series, LES1600 series or the advanced LES1700 series. All have Ethernet, PSTN or 4G uplinks. View the chart below to compare specifications.

Console Server Chart

Ensure Business Continuity

When business continuity is a must, out of band management with console servers deliver maximum uptime and reliability. This technology offers multiple pathways to access your network while maintaining the security of your data. Remote management and troubleshooting provide for quick disaster recovery after outages, and they eliminate the need to send personnel on-site in response to issues—saving you costs in time and travel and minimizing financial losses related to downtime. For security, OOB integrates with VPN and authentication systems and extends enterprise security policy to distributed assets. Console servers are also a scalable solution that can grow as your needs change. Regardless of the size of your network, you can access devices, monitor status and troubleshoot issues from anywhere through a single portal.

Black Box offers a range of console servers with varying port densities and connection options. Contact our technical support experts to discuss the deployment of your out-of-band management system and request a demo unit for evaluation.

Alternatives for the Cisco ISR 2900 EOL Out-Of-Band Solution

If your customers have a need for a high-density terminal server and they have always relied on the Cisco 2900 or any ISR router,  ask them to look at the Black Box LES1500, 1600 and 1700 series console servers. These devices are embedded with innovative OOB technology and are purpose-built to provide terminal/console server access. They can easily be substituted into new or existing data centers and come in various port densities ranging from 4 to 48. Black Box is designed specifically to work with Cisco equipment.

Cisco recommends the ISR4000 series as an alternative to the ISR2911 combined with NIM modules. With our LES1700 solution, you can connect up to 48 devices with an embedded PSTN modem and/or cellular. The new ISR4000 can only connect up to 32 devices in the same 1 RU configuration.

Console Server Products

Access remote equipment with device servers designed for superior security features, high-availability, and wireless operation.

Access hard-to-reach remote serial equipment as if it were local. Rugged design for operation in a wide temperature range.
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Virtual Central Management System Software provides central management of remote console servers.