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Lights out management - still waiting for the bulb to glow

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Blog I am on a quest to lower my computer power usage. If you have read my previous article, you know that this is not by choice - it’s a necessity driven largely by cooling requirements in the spaces where my systems live. The project at hand is Lights out Management (LOM), the ability to configure and control my systems even when they are powered off, thus allowing me to keep them powered off unless I need them.

To recap: I discovered with a little bit of hunting that I could do some really cool things. Wake On Lan (WOL) can wake sleeping, hibernating or suspended systems from their torpor, while Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) can give me granular control over my uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes), power distribution units (PDUs) and various flavours of printer. When it comes to actually getting some out-of-band remote management on these systems (in case they experience an error while coming back online) I have at my disposal an IPKVM and several systems running Intel’s vPro.

The goal is to actually find some software that allows me to use all of these tools from one interface, schedule power downs and wake ups and poke at my systems to see what is wrong with them if they aren’t responding. Preferably, I need to come up with something that I can throw together in the next few days, learn to use in no time flat and only poke at when there’s an actual problem needing my attention. While I normally love tinkering with projects endlessly, time is short and this LOM project needs to “just work”.

Whether open source, proprietary, free or paid, there are many enterprise desktop management tools out there capable of some aspect of LOM control. I have two requirements: the first is to assemble a set of basic tools for manipulating all elements of my LOM setup independently. The second requirement is to find a centralised management tool that will allow me to run my LOM setup across my whole network seamlessly and easily.

The search for candidates to include not only in this article, but to actively deploy on my networks left me nearly weeping with frustration. My Google-fu was inadequate, because if there exist applications that actually take LOM seriously I had virtually no luck finding them. Everything I could find that appeared to begin to take it seriously was part of some vertical stack of applications offered by OEMs like IBM or HP. Third-party, platform-independent lights out management is thin on the ground. To achieve the first requirement of my project, I need to acquire some backup management tools. These have to be simple tools, or preferably a single tool that does all the things I needed simply.

vPro and WOL proved to be the easiest of the lot. Applications that can reach out and wake a computer up using WOL number in the thousands - pick your poison. I will stick with what I know, and so for my “simple WOL tool” I have a combination of the WOL abilities built into my DD-WRT Wi-Fi routers and a tiny Windows app called “magic packet sender”.

Intel offers a Manageability Developer Toolkit which comes with a program called the Manageability Commander. While I am still not 100 per cent certain if the licensing terms allow me to actually use this in a corporate setting as a regular tool, if you have a vPro system and want to start making use of it right now, this is what you were looking for.

I could find two out of the three tools to satisfy my requirements, but APC stubbornly refused to play ball. I am starting to believe that it is quite possible there is no such thing as a simple anything when it comes to managing APC equipment. APC offers centralised management software of its own, but it is anything but simple and the costs are exorbitant, even for APC. For the cost of the software, I could replace every piece of APC hardware I have with equipment from an alternate vendor that would play nice with various bits of open source software I have grown to like.

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