KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

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KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby Y888099 » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:19 am

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Yesterday a customer of mine showed me their compute room, and my I saw they had the full control of their four servers through an IBM 1x8 Rack Console switch KVM (eight VGA+KB+mouse ports, each on CAT5 cable), which is of course installed inside the same rack where their servers are located.

They call it "integration", because they need to save space.

Ok, good, but sometimes they need to access the computer room and pull out the KVM drawer (it's 1U size) in order to access those servers: not exactly so comfortable if the computer room is located on the lowest floor of the building, lower ground floor, whereas their office are located on the second floor.

A strange laptop-shaped version of the famous Sunray3(1) happens to exist, those strange military products made in China and then forgotten, it's also wireless, but ... it's not a KVM, it's more complex and hard to use, and both X11 and RDP are less comfortable and slower. A KVM directly access the video and the keyboard/mouse, and a laptop version would be damn useful to have something that you can carry with you when you move from a floor to another .

In the theory we have enough bandwidth and MPUs-power to put both video streaming(2) and keyboard/mouse inside two radio channels(3), therefore it would be possible to build a RADIO-KVM in laptop shape.

(1) This product is called "Oracle Sunray3 Ultra Thin Client 14inc notebook", made by General Dynamics Tadpole
(2) 1024x768x24bit @ 60Hz is fine, of course it can be compressed to reduce the bandwidth
(3) of course encrypted
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Re: KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby Raion-Fox » Thu Mar 30, 2017 5:43 am

There are laptop kvms from IBM, I've used them with p series machines
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Re: KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby Y888099 » Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:40 am

Raion-Fox wrote:There are laptop kvms from IBM, I've used them with p series machines


Wired I suppose, do you remember their part name?
Do they support PS/2? VGA? Are they battery power supplied?
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Re: KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby japes » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:29 pm

I haven't seen a laptop kvm. The closest I can think of to what Raion-Fox mentions is a HMC for Power, but I don't think they did a laptop version. For the mainframes they did use a ThinkPad for a management console - but like the HMC it's software that interacts with the system and wired directly. A HMC could be wireless if you hated life, but there's no point and it isn't meant to be moved around, etc. IBM now offers the HMC (for Power Systems) as a virtual appliance. You can access the HMC remotely from a web browser.

Back to your topic. What you probably want is a modern KVM with IP connectivity. I haven't evaluated any in 3-4 years, but they have a management webpage that serves up a java app that connects to the console. While you're at it you can get remote USB device emulation in some models and mount ISOs or images as USB CD/DVD drives, USB Floppy, or USB HDD on the systems under control.

At home I have an Avocent DSR2020, it's old but does what I need with some difficulty.

The old devices of course have old software and won't use modern crypto causing Java to give "helpful" errors like "Network Error" when it should say can't negotiate SSL connection, server offered <list of server crypto>. For the DSR2020 I have to enable some terrible old crypto in my jvm.

Once you have IP over KVM you can use any laptop to connect, authenticate to the KVM and remotely display the console. One might argue you can get the same benefit with IBM IMM, HP iLO, DELL DRAC, SuperMicro IPMI....and that's mostly true. So true that Vertiv (was Emerson, was Avocent) and Raritan offer (DCIM) software to manage their KVMs, rack PDUs, and wrap in support for the server provided management.
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Re: KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby japes » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:30 pm

Who let those HP boxes invade that beautiful rack of IBM gear? Ugh - I don't much like those old HPs, so slow now and they suck down power like no one's business. Hmm, that's all pretty old stuff by the looks of it.
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Re: KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby jan-jaap » Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:13 am

japes wrote:Who let those HP boxes invade that beautiful rack of IBM gear? Ugh - I don't much like those old HPs, so slow now and they suck down power like no one's business. Hmm, that's all pretty old stuff by the looks of it.

Yeah, that storage array under the KVM screen is from the generation of my IBM DS4300, in which case it's a decade old.
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Re: KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby Y888099 » Fri Mar 31, 2017 2:44 am

japes wrote:Back to your topic. What you probably want is a modern KVM with IP connectivity.


Let me understand: do they talk ethernet?
KVM on Cat5 uses a CAT5 cable but neither talks ethernet nor is electrically compatible wit ethernet.
Can you suggest some product name to aim for?
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Re: KVM in laptop shape, does it exist?

Unread postby japes » Fri Mar 31, 2017 3:46 pm

They use CAT5,5e,6,etc. from proprietary dongles on the hosts to the KVM switch, like you described. The KVM switch also has 1 (or two for redundancy) ethernet ports to talk TCP/IP for managing the KVM switch and attached hosts.

Raritan Dominion KX III would be one of the top models (or KSX II, or LX for smaller environments). Avocent MergePoint would be the other top unit. I see Avocent has an AV 3000 line, but they all seem to have only a single remote channel. I think most environments would benefit from two or more channels. Even a single sysadmin might want to compare two servers side by side. If you have multiple sysadmins the benefit is obvious.

On the low end there are single port KVM over IP units, some look like slightly larger dongles. I have no experience with them, but will offer that one could in theory be used on a local port of a traditional KVM.
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