Review: An IP KVM for Servers Not Out of the Closet
At a Glance
If you thought you could get advanced features like remote media mounting, remote power reset, and ultraquick screen refreshes in only the big KVM boxes, think again. The $385 Lantronix SpiderDuo stuffs these features, advanced authentication (LDAP, RADIUS, Active Directory), and a pass-through port for local console access all into a portable package that can support as many as eight remote users without a dedicated KVM server. We carry it around the data center for a quick and easy way to set up new boxes.
As part of the Pimp My Data Center project at the University of Hawai'i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, we put the original Lantronix Spider into a closet to control a tiny server providing local services. The Spider's features held up well against the big boys (Avocent andRaritan), though its plastic body felt a bit rickety and the lack of a local console annoyed us. Even with those flaws, the Spider became an essential part of our data center toolkit.
[ Which is the better blade system? InfoWorld ran the Intel Westmere-packing Dell PowerEdge M100e, HP BladeSystem c7000, and IBM BladeCenter H blade server systems through a virtualization gauntlet. See the results in "Blade server review: Dell, HP, IBM battle for the virtual data center." ]
After the article was published, a number of readers asked why we didn't use a free alternative like VNC or Remote Desktop. Unfortunately, those tools will work some of the time, but not when you're trying to modify a BIOS setting or when your server is sitting at the "Press F2 to continue" prompt because you've lost a redundant drive. The Spider provides full keyboard control whenever you need it.
Because the Spider is supereasy to move, it's also ideal for local projects, such as setting up a blade chassis. While we use an Avocent DSView IP KVM system for our college's data centers, we go with the original Spider to set up new servers. Because it's preconfigured, we can literally plug it in and get the heck out of the noise. From the comfort of our office, we can remotely mount a CD/DVD off our desktop PC and sysgen anything.
The most welcome improvement in the SpiderDuo is the pass-through console port. Now when we're using the IP KVM in the data center, we don't lose local console capabilities for that quick command to remount a drive array. The SpiderDuo also delivers crisper video and faster screen refreshes than the original, and the cables (PS/2 or USB) are modular instead of fixed. Thanks to better plastic and sturdier cable connections, the unit no longer threatens to break in my bag.
Lantronix provides a free Windows application, SpiderView, for accessing and managing multiple Spiders. An iGoogle widget is also available to leverage the cloud. iGoogle can display thumbnails of multiple spiders in a single browser window, so instead of an amazingly expensive media switcher, you can have a mini-NOC anywhere you can bring up iGoogle.
You can manage multiple SpiderDuos from a single Windows GUI (included with the KVM) or from an iGoogle widget (above) available for free download from the Lantronix website.
The SpiderDuo is a standard toolkit item and a handy way to make sure I can access the console of IT closet servers, including localized DHCP/DNS servers, scientific logging servers, and perhaps even the embedded servers we put into pressure housing under the ocean. At $385 per unit, the SpiderDuo is getting very close to the per-port price for Avocent and Raritan -- especially if you include the cost of an aggregating controller server like Avocent's DSView or Raritan's Commander. If Raritan could figure out a housing shape that also helps organize server cables, we'd be golden.
Lantronix SecureLinx SpiderDuo at a glance
|Browsers: Internet Explorer 6.0, Netscape 5.0, Firefox 3.0, Safari 2.0, and later versions
Operating systems: Windows 2000 and later, Unix, Linux, Mac OS X
Other requirements: Sun Java 2 runtime, Telnet/SSH client for command-line access
This article, "InfoWorld review: An IP KVM for servers that haven't come out of the closet," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in systems management, servers, processors, and other hardware at InfoWorld.com.
Read more about networking in InfoWorld's Networking Channel.
Brian Chee is a senior contributing editor to the InfoWorld Test Center and the founder and manager of the Advanced Network Computing Laboratory at the University of Hawai'i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.
|Test Center Scorecard|
|Lantronix SecureLinx SpiderDuo||9||8||9||9||9||10||8.9 Very Good|