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KVM Battle Part II – Raritan vs. Avocent

I’ve had so many email requests regarding the outcome of the KVM testing at the American Kennel Club (see: Part 1) that I decided to post a follow-up to detail the conclusion of the testing and selection.

To cut to the chase in the end we went with Avocent and here’s why: We needed to support remote power cycling to 3-phase 208V power distribution units.  Raritan did not have a 3-phase 208V PDU that could be controlled to the individual outlet level through their web based “Command Center” interface.  Once again the “Command Center” is actually a 1U server appliance that must be purchased seperately for the environment.  Avocents DSVie3 is a licensed and installed service based component.  We spun up a 2003 server on ESX to host it.

Avocent Cyclades PDU’s were originally Server Technology PDU’s (and were OEM’ed that way by Avocent before the application of the Cyclades brand) and therefore Avocents DSView3 was immediately compaitble with the Server Tech serial interfaces which can be daisy chained three PDU’s deep.  We daisy chained two Server Tech 208V PDU’s per rack to the Avocent serial switches and tied per outler outlet interfaces to the Avocent IP switch ports specific to each server.   This gave us the ability to remotely power cycle A or B power to any server remotely.

In Raritan’s defense their Command Center does support individual PDU outlet to server association.  It also supports power cycling to individual outlets.  What they do not support well is 208V PDU’s which is quickly becoming the standard of data centers everywhere.  My guess is they will have this fixed soon.

Raritans Command Center also did not support as many types of authentication to the Command Center gateway.  AD and LDAP are supported if that’s all you want.  We were impressed that Avocent DSView3 supported RSA Secure ID token based authentication which we were already running for VPN access.  There is a bit more licensing involved with Avocent than Raritan and it can get frustrating to configure and activate on-line.  If you’re someone without the 208V power requirements and hate the act of on-line licensing you may find Raritan is in line with your requirements except for one thing….

The mouse latency.  This is where you will hear most complaints about IP KVM remote consoles.  Both manufacturers supported ALOM ports for SUN, and IP serial interfaces where required.  Where Raritan really fell short in out opinion was the cursor control during remote sessions through the Command Center gateway.  It was better to go to each switch individually where the latency controls made the cursor usable but not exciting.  With DSView3 we did not have such a horrifying experience.  There was latency but it was tolerable and fairly adjustable.  Raritans Command Center fell short on performance as far as we were concerned.  Now take in to account that we were working under the “cost be damned” project control doctrine.    If cost is a factor you’ll find yourself taking a much harder look at Raritan.  Neither of these units would serve well as a day-to-day remote administration tool.  MS Remote Desktop, Citrix sessions and PuTTY will not be replaced any time soon by any IP KVM on the market today.

2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Drew February 12th, 2009 12:01 pm

    Did you have any problems getting DSView to recognize the Server Tech CDU’s? We have been working with Avocent support to get DSView to recognize Server Tech CDU’s installed on a Cyclades 5048 and 6048, but no luck yet.

  2. Todd February 16th, 2009 10:01 am

    “Did you have any problems getting DSView to recognize the Server Tech CDU’s?”

    Yes. There is a license for serial connections on the CDU’s to be seen on the Avocent appliances (before DSView can see them). Part of the configuration has to be done logged in to the serial KVM. This is where the licenses need to be added.

    Chip Carew at the AKC may have a record of this license purchase and could provide the specific name. John Ricker was also involved in the procurement of these licenses but I don’t know if he’s with the AKC anymore.

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