Home » Blog » Part 2: Why Build a 96-Port NodeGrid Serial Console?

This is the second of a multi-part series of posts about our new NodeGrid Serial Console product. Why we built it, how we decided on which features to include and why, and more, which we’ll cover in future installments.

Part 2: Why Build a 96 Port NodeGrid Serial Console?

Previously we began a blog series unveiling our reasons for building a bigger, brand new serial console server. In this post we discuss the significance of including 96 ports in a next generation console server.

A high port density serial console server meets several objectives. The first objective is simplified in-band and out-of-band (OOB) management. A second is flexible management. The third is financial, labor and environmental cost savings – both direct (CapEx) and indirect (OpEx, work hours, rack space, and potential energy savings). Our new console server helps data centers better manage their environments by meeting the demands of growth and change occurring in the data center space.

NodeGrid Serial Console helps simplify infrastructure management. Data centers are continually increasing density and targeting lower PUE, and need robust tools to manage growing IT device farms. Multi-core servers are being miniaturized and shoved into 1U rack trays, whether six servers or more. At this point, a 48 port console server no longer meets the objectives of the largest console server consumers. Hence, IT managers realize immediate benefits being able to manage more devices per individual console server with a higher port count unit.

Doing console management in 1U for twice the number of devices also implies using only one IP address instead of two, further conserving network resources and reducing mental clutter. With one console server instead of two, there is only one box to configure – therefore, less time spent on configuration and fewer devices to buy and manage in your data center if you typically host hundreds of console servers.

NodeGrid Serial Console meets flexible management objectives by allowing for greater flexibility in rack configuration / design in general, due to its higher port density. By using one console server instead of two, data center managers can reclaim 1U for other uses. Increasingly, data centers and colos use “pods” of readymade server rack clusters for incremental and faster build outs. Also, the 96-port console server opens up a new use case of back-to-back rack configurations – enabling further modularity and scaling ability.

Challenges/Costs vs Advantages

A higher port count console server requires a faster CPU and more memory to maintain high performance per port. This leads us to a financial challenge: how to keep costs low for our customers in light of NodeGrid Serial Console’s high end CPU and memory capabilities.

The reason our brand new serial console with the latest technologies is price-competitive with yesterday’s console servers still being sold on the market by competitors is that we’re using mass market industry standard chips and boards. NodeGrid Serial Console uses Intel’s 64-bit x86 chips instead of niche market chips, so we rolled the mass market scale pricing advantage into our new offerings.

We also offset the higher cost of our newer, beefier dual-core Intel CPU by spreading the cost out among twice as many serial ports for a lower CPU-cost-per-port. And remember, you only need one 96-port serial console now instead of two 48-port consoles – more cost savings.

Additional costs are gained by using open, modular hardware standards and an identical form factor across all NodeGrid Serial Console units. Even our lower port count boxes (16, 32, 48 port editions) benefit from the latest technologies at a lower cost. Data center managers can now benefit from our higher port count serial consoles with the latest hardware at an extremely competitive price. Everyone wins.

So there you have it. For our next installment we’ll disclose why we chose to build a serial console server with a fast dual-core Intel CPU instead of the usual ARM or PowerPC based system – and what this means. In addition, we’ll cover the rationale for shipping our server with a huge flash hard drive.