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Remote it infrastructure management

Enterprise IT management used to be much simpler. The entire network infrastructure would reside in the same location as the administrators who managed it, typically in closets and basement rooms in the HQ office building. Those days are long gone, however, and now most infrastructure is housed in off-site data centers, colocations, the cloud, or a combination of these. For most organizations, it isn’t feasible to maintain tech teams in each of these locations, which means administrators need to remotely manage their IT infrastructure.

Remote IT infrastructure management presents some interesting challenges. First, you need a way to remotely troubleshoot and recover from outages when the main WAN connection is unavailable. Second, you need to maintain optimal environmental conditions and monitor for issues that could damage data center equipment.

Solving remote IT infrastructure management challenges with Gen 3 out-of-band

Out-of-band (OOB) management uses a dedicated network to handle the orchestration and troubleshooting of remote infrastructure. This provides an alternative network path to this infrastructure in case the primary WAN link is down, and allows administrators to perform complex orchestration workflows without slowing down the production network.

Gen 3 OOB uses serial consoles to give administrators management access to many devices in the rack from one centralized portal. What makes an OOB serial console “Gen 3” is a combination of high-speed out-of-band access, complete vendor neutrality, and end-to-end automation and orchestration support. Let’s discuss how Gen 3 out-of-band can solve the three major remote IT infrastructure management challenges.

Remote troubleshooting and outage recovery

Downtime is expensive, which is why it’s important to recover from network outages as quickly as possible. However, many of the tools used to remotely manage IT infrastructure require a network connection. If a piece of networking hardware fails and takes down the LAN, or the ISP suffers a regional outage, administrators are left without access to troubleshoot and fix the problem. That leaves only two options: dispatching a truck roll or hiring on-site managed services. Option one is time-consuming and expensive, and option two is a security risk (and also expensive).

A Gen 3 OOB solution provides one or more alternative network paths to remote infrastructure. Often, it uses a cellular modem or secondary broadband network interface, which may also provide network failover capabilities. All network and infrastructure management occurs on this dedicated network, which provides two benefits:

  1. Deployment, maintenance, and orchestration activities won’t take up bandwidth on the production network; and
  2. Administrators can still access critical remote infrastructure during a production network outage.

Gen 3 OOB improves upon earlier technology which used slow dial-up interfaces, insecure hardware, and closed OS architectures. Gen 3 out-of-band includes security features like UEFI secure boot, geofencing, and an onboard firewall. The operating system is Linux-based to allow for easy integrations with any vendor solution, and vulnerabilities are patched quickly. This ensures that administrators have constant, high-speed, secure access to remote multi-vendor IT infrastructure.

Remote monitoring of environmental conditions

The environmental conditions in the data center have a major impact on the performance and functionality of critical infrastructure. Environmental threats like heat, moisture, power surges, smoke, and even physical tampering are major causes of data center downtime. When you don’t have actual eyes on the conditions in your rack, it can be difficult to detect environmental issues early on, when there’s still a chance to correct the issue and prevent downtime.

A Gen 3 OOB serial console includes GPIO interfaces for environmental monitoring sensors. These sensors are used to measure the temperature, relative humidity, air quality, and airflow in a rack, and in some cases can also detect smoke, proximity, and tampering. The monitoring sensors feed data back into a centralized environmental monitoring system which provides visualizations of present and historical conditions. It also sends automatic alerts to administrators when conditions require immediate attention. Plus, since this monitoring system is integrated with an OOB serial console, administrators can stay abreast of environmental conditions even when the production network goes down.

Remote IT infrastructure automation and orchestration

Automation allows IT teams to manage network infrastructures faster and more efficiently while reducing the risk of human error. However, one of the major hurdles to automation is vendor lock-in. Many infrastructure solutions don’t integrate with third-party automation tools and instead require you to use their own proprietary scripting languages and playbooks. Since many IT infrastructures are made up of a variety of vendor hardware and software solutions, administrators are forced to learn and manage multiple different automation platforms.

This difficulty only increases when those solutions are managed remotely. Administrators need to remotely jump from box to box and interface to interface just to execute basic automation workflows. It gets even more complicated when there are multiple remote sites to manage, as is the case in many large and globalized enterprises.

By definition, a Gen 3 out-of-band platform is vendor-neutral. That means it can dig its orchestration hooks into every hardware and software solution in your data center. It also supports integrations and direct hosting of third-party automation tools, so you can use the scripting languages and automation solutions of your choice. Finally, a Gen 3 solution centralizes the orchestration of all remote IT infrastructure automation workflows, so administrators can monitor and manage everything from behind one pane of glass.

Solving remote IT infrastructure management challenges with the Nodegrid Gen 3 out-of-band platform

The Nodegrid remote IT infrastructure management solution from ZPE Systems is the first Gen 3 out-of-band platform. Nodegrid delivers secure OOB, a robust environmental monitoring system, and end-to-end automation and orchestration in a single Gen 3 OOB serial console.

The Nodegrid Serial Console Plus (NSCP) provides OOB access and network failover via built-in 5G/4G LTE cellular and Wi-Fi modules, ensuring administrators have a dedicated high-speed connection to critical network infrastructure. Nodegrid hardware is protected by onboard security features like TPM 2.0, encrypted SSD, UEFI BIOS protection, secure boot, and geofencing, so you don’t have to worry about malicious actors compromising your management network. The open architecture, Linux-based Nodegrid OS is secured by frequent patches and supports third-party integrations or the direct hosting of third-party applications.

The Nodegrid environmental monitoring system includes sensors for dry contact, temperature, humidity, smoke, airflow, dust, and particulates so you have 24/7 visibility into the conditions in your rack. These sensors integrate seamlessly with the Nodegrid OS as well as the ZPE Cloud remote IT infrastructure management platform.

ZPE Cloud provides a centralized control panel from which to monitor and orchestrate your Gen 3 OOB network. ZPE Cloud’s vendor-neutral platform can “say yes” to any hardware, software, or automation solution you choose, so you can achieve end-to-end infrastructure automation without compromises.

Ready to learn more?

To learn more about how Nodegrid solves remote IT infrastructure management challenges through Gen 3 OOB, contact ZPE Systems

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