8-port PS/2 KVM switch Altusen KH98

We have repeatedly written about KVM switches, these extremely convenient devices for server administration. Recall that the abbreviation KVM (lucky, and the translation coincided with the transcription of the English KVM) is formed as an abbreviation for "Keyboard, Video, Mouse". It is clear that there are not enough monitors for each compact server, which can be a dozen in racks, and even if you manage to install them in the server room, then running from place to place, determining which screen belongs to which of the servers is a sure way to turn the administrator's work into a lifetime hell. KVM solutions, with the simplicity of an iPod, can switch the administrator's workplace to manage any server from among the controlled ones. In principle, such devices are no longer something that is not a wonder, but simply irreplaceable when the number of servers is large enough. However, you should not lose interest in this topic, new technologies and opportunities are captivating with their convenience. For example, the Altusen KH98 KVM switch is an 8-port model of the Health Manager category, that is, with the ability to monitor parameters such as processor temperature and system logic, voltage, fan speed… And, of course, this switch turns one workplace with a monitor and input devices into a server management center.

Ports of KVM-switches

Altusen KH98

This model can not boast of a large number of ports or a huge range of action – in the line of Altusen KVM solutions there are 32-port switches,and more "long-range" devices with computer connection via CAT5 twisted pair. The ability to connect only 8 computers directly does not limit the functionality of Altusen KH98, because such switches can be organized in a three-level cascade that combines up to 72 KVM switches and up to 512 computers. In the near future, the development of a medium-sized company should be enough.

The form factor in which the Altusen KH98 is made, standard for the Altusen KVM, is a rather thin black body, metal, as well as a strong chassis. The utilitarian design and simplicity of the design do not prevent this switch from looking quite organically on the table, under the monitor at the Desk of the administrator on duty, and at the rack with servers.

Frontal view - Altusen KH98

The front panel is decorated with a corporate logo, the name and main characteristics of the device are signed (in particular, that the switch is 8-port and support for monitoring the server status is implemented). In a row along the front panel there are 8 buttons for quick selection of one or another of the 8 ports of the device. There are two LEDs above each button. One lights up, indicating that the computer connected to this port is turned on, and the second glowing led indicates the port that is currently selected. The ability to quickly switch is a very convenient function, no matter how ergonomic the OSD menu is, it takes more time to open and select the desired function than a single click on a completely real mechanical button.

Altusen KH98 - back view

The reverse side of Altusen KH98 makes this device significantly different in appearance from network equipment and most other KVM solutions. The reason for this is the way the monitored computers are connected. Instead of using RJ-45 connectors and special adapters, 8 sets of VGA input and PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse are placed directly on the Altusen KH98 case. The ninth set of connectors has a VGA output, not an input, and is intended for the administrator console: the keyboard, mouse, and monitor are connected to the Altusen KH98. A port for updating the device's firmware is located nearby, it is equipped with a switch to protect against accidental flashing, and a special cable is included in the delivery of Altusen KH98. Next to this port is a network interface connector, more precisely, this RJ-45 is designed to work with servers that support IPMI 2.0 (intelligent platform management interface). This function allows you to add the words "Health Manager" to the Altusen KH98 name, since this interface is used for transmitting data about the "health" of the connected system and for managing key parameters. In addition, the advantages of IPMI include support for high resolutions, up to 2048x1536.

Next to the back wall of the Altusen KH98 is a standard computer equipment power connector and a switch. There are no special ports for combining switches in a circuit for this model, it is suggested to simply use one of the 8 ports and connect the same Altusen KH98 to it. With a three-level structure, there are 512 managed computers per 72 switches — which is not a small number in itself. Actually, in practice, hardly anyone would think of building such a pyramid. The fact is that Altusen KH98 is especially good for use in the same racks where the servers themselves are located, or somewhere at a very short distance — even if not the PS \ 2 cord, but at least the VGA signal cable can not be very long, each additional pair of meters is harmful to the signal. Therefore, Altusen KH98 is optimal for small corporate server rooms, where hardly 500 servers are installed.

Connecting KVM switches in daisy chains

The Altusen KH98 package includes the following:
  • the Altusen KH98 KVM switch itself
  • power cable
  • firmware update cable
  • rubber supports
  • 19" rack mounting hardware
  • user manual
  • quick installation guide
  • registration card

To be honest, it would be nice to find cables for connecting to PS/2 and VGA ports in the box, but it is still unwise to blame them for their absence – everyone needs their own quantity, and it would be wrong to force everyone to pay for 8 sets. We proceed to a more detailed study of the characteristics of Altusen KH98.

Technical characteristics of Altusen KH98

  • Direct control of 8 computers from a single PS/2 console.
  • Centralized management-control of up to 512 computers from a single workstation when cascading.
  • Server health monitoring-receiving PET messages, monitoring up to 512 servers that support IPMI from a single console (IPMI over LAN technology).
  • Remote maintenance – enabling / disabling and restarting servers that support IPMI.
  • Strong password protection: user and administrator accounts.
  • Independent of software, switching the console between computers by pressing a single button on the front panel of the KH98, control using "hot keys" and a convenient on-screen menu.
  • Automatic scanning mode – allows continuous monitoring of user-selected systems.
  • Hot-plug capability-adding and disconnecting computers does not require disconnecting the KH98 power.
  • PS/2 mouse emulation at system boot.
  • High image quality-supports resolutions up to 1920 x 1440 @ 60Hz; DDC; DDC2; DDC2B.
  • Compatible with various operating systems: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, LINUX, and FreeBSD.

Work with Altusen KH98

The most difficult part of preparing Altusen KH98 for work is choosing the location for this wonderful device. It's not that the switch is too cumbersome or that the KVM solution is capricious and requires some special conditions. On the contrary, the switch is compact, unpretentious and can be installed almost anywhere. But the administrator who will sit in a workplace that controls up to 512 servers is not so unpretentious: it is hot and noisy in the server room, and it is risky to put him somewhere where ordinary people and even office visitors are located. Of course, the latter is a joke and a common stereotype, but if not all servers in your household support IPMI, then the administrator's workplace should be located in close proximity to the wards, the ideal option is the next room. Then switching will be very simple, and in the case of using IPMI over LAN, you can manage servers and monitor their health from anywhere where there is a corporate network.

We connect the monitor, keyboard and mouse to Altusen KH98, turn on the device's power and, with a short beep, the switch reports that it is ready for operation. During the first activation, it will prompt you to specify a user name and password, ignore the security should not, after all, this console is controlled literally everything!

Authorisation

We set the account parameters and go to the main menu of the switch.using this menu, you can change the settings of the KVM solution itself, as well as switch between ports and view the list of enabled computers. If you use a single Altusen KH98, rather than a cascade, it is most convenient to switch between servers by simply pressing the keys on the front panel of the Altusen KH98.
The main menu looks like this:

It contains a list of all available ports, and the computers that are enabled are marked with an icon. At the top of the menu is a list of available commands. this is a standard gentleman's set of modern Altusen KVM solutions. Therefore, to avoid repetition, see the description of the menu system in a recent survey of 16-port KVM switch Altusen KH1516, by the way, this switch is an example of network KVM – other than Altusen KH98 concept.

Conclusion

To sum up, I would like to focus on the concept. In essence, Altusen KH98 provides a unique combination. This switch supports a state-of-the-art specialized IPMI interface and allows you to control literally every sneeze of any of the servers via the network. At the same time, the main 8 ports of the device are real PS/2, which allow you to connect at least the 386th computer (okay, let it be the first Pentium) and do not require a network at all. You don't need any adapters, converters, just cables and a place to install Altusen KH98. Considering that it is possible to turn on/off the power supply of systems via IPMI, this KVM switch will allow the administrator to feel like a natural deity, both at a long and short distance of interaction with computers. Given the not very high cost and cascading capabilities of Altusen KH98, we can call this switch a good solution, purchased with a margin for the future.

Eugene Volnov
27/08.2007


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