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Security for virtualized datacentres

A lot of devices can be controlled via SNMP as well. I have some reasonably rudimentary uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes), but they do come with network management cards and I can do really neat things to them through either their built-in web server or via SNMP. Although I currently don’t have any, there are also power distribution units (PDUs) which are in essence glorified power bars that also offer network management capabilities.

I also have a growing fleet of Intel vPro desktops that make up a little over 50 per cent of the non thin client PCs I have to manage. vPro is a complete LOM system for an individual PC, so this is a huge bonus for this project. Similarly my newer generation of servers could be upgraded to use Asus’ ASWM 2.0 LOM card, though in truth none of the servers in place are actually equipped with them.

It is also worth noting that I have also based my entire fleet of file servers off of Intel vPro motherboards. Though technically not considered a server platform, I was so impressed by the Q35 chipset that I decided to base our file servers off of it.

Field systems have to meet some pretty extreme I/O requirements here; it is not uncommon to push them past their thermal limits and have a southbridge go up in a puff of smoke. Sadly, as a general rule, Intel chipsets have been the first to fold under extreme load. Not so the vPro chipsets; the Q35 and Q57 chipsets have impressed me deeply. It was because the Q35 survived our I/O testing, in combination with the LOM capabilities inherent in the board that I felt it would be a decent basis for my file server fleet. (With the addition of a real RAID card, natch.)

You won’t see me evangelize many products, but if you are thinking about putting an Intel processor in your box make absolutely sure it has vPro. Not only because it offers neat LOM tools, but in my experience vPro chipsets can simply take more punishment than the more standard Intel fare. (Why that may be I have absolutely no idea, but prototype testing bears it out with consistency.)

So while I have some desktops and some servers will full blown LOM setups, I can’t count on all my systems to be so equipped. It is fortunate then that I have invested in a small IPKVM. This, combined with WOL, can provide me full LOM for the servers in my DC. Desktops without vPro however, are going to have to muddle through without full LOM abilities.

Time to gather banners. If I put all the tools I have at my disposal together, I should be able to do some neat stuff that can help me conserve power, reduce heat generation, and still remotely manage my systems regardless of the power state they are in.

PCs and servers will pretty universally respond to WOL. Their operating systems can shut them down when idle, and with the right management software, I can wake them up on a predetermined schedule, or just whenever I need to poke at them remotely. Between vPro, my IPKVM, and possibly some as-yet-unpurchased server LOM cards I should be able to get complete remote console access to these systems as well. I can’t cover off all systems in service this way, but I’ll take what I can get.

I have printers and UPSes that will respond to SNMP, and I will have to pick up some PDUs that can do the same. With SNMP controlled PDUs, I can set up smaller devices, monitors or anything I can find that is pulling down a fair amount of juice to turn themselves off after hours. Perhaps more importantly I can rig up critical items, such as switches or my IPKVM such that if they do something strange and need a reboot, I can cycle the power on them remotely.

What I lack is the key bit that ties this all together; management software. There are plenty of alternatives from plenty of vendors, and in my next article I will take the time to dive in and tear a few of them up. While there are of course a plethora of commercial offerings to help you with your enterprise desktop and device management, the Open Source community’s offerings are a little bit more impenetrable. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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