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IPMI, BMC: remote dedicated server management technologies

The article examines a number of technologies which are standard in the field of embedded control systems and server maintenance. These technologies are designed to meet the challenges of the local and remote control of equipment, inventory and remote connection to the I/O ports. Speaking the language of marketing, then this part of the server functionality facilitates working IT-staff, helps centralize management, significantly reduce the reaction time to malfunctions, optimize the cost of server maintenance.

Description of IPMI technology

The base of functional we are interested is built on IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface). Its purpose is to monitor and manage the server. IPMI operates independently of the operating system and able to manage the platform on which there is no operating system, even in cases when the server is turned off (only connection power). Following is a list of basic capabilities of dedicated hosting managed by IPMI:

• Remote and local power management (on, off, reset). Monitoring (temperature, voltage, fan speed, and many other sensors).

• Set thresholds for the system parameters (voltage, temperature, amount of memory errors, etc.).

• Logging of system actions journal. In the terminology of the IPMI specification function it is called SEL (System Event Log).

• Set up automatic actions to system events (PEF, Platform Event Flag).

• Reading information FRU (Field Replaceable Unit) (serial number, description) for potentially removable devices.

• Access rights to the dedicated server processor.

• Change the media type to boot (PXE, CD / DVD, HDD, Floppy). Remote access to a serial interface so called SOL (Serial over LAN).

BMC and access to it

How can we get access to the service processor and take advantage of opportunities provided by them. You can do it directly from the operating system installed on the server. For example, by using the WMI interface in Windows or using the OpenIPMI and IPMItool in Unix-like operating systems.

What interesting capabilities BMC gives for remote access to the dedicated server? Many modern service processors support KVM-over-IP which is a technology that allows you to provide dedicated server management from anywhere in the world where the Internet is available, as if the keyboard, mouse, and monitor of your computer were directly connected to your server. The composition of BMC includes managing microcontroller video device to transfer the image to a remote machine, the keyboard and mouse controller for the remote control. Connection is made via the familiar Ethernet-network.

Using usual Internet browser or special software you can see the remote computer's screen as it is in Remote Desktop or Sitrix products. But unlike the remote access software you have all the time control of dedicated server - during the BIOS boot, during the launch of the controllers, and even when it is off.

Conclusion

 It is possible to identify at least three main reasons for using of integrated dedicated server management technologies:

1. Increased fault tolerance: the autonomy of the service processor allows you to recover the system even in critical situations such as an error in the firmware of BIOS.

2. Reduce the burden of IT-staff: centralization of management for companies with distributed structure, automation of routine operations.

3. Cost-effectiveness: the use of KVM-over-IP will reduce the costs of maintenance of excess staff and additional equipment.