One of the most difficult tasks for remote branch offices is timely diagnosis and correction of problems with server equipment. Most remote offices do not have IT personnel assigned to the location, so any loss of computing functionality immediately results in prolonged downtime. This automatically incurs cost due to lost productivity, while the slow process of returning the system to usability begins. Recovery often requires dispatching an IT professional to the remote location to begin troubleshooting and repair the problem. A physical visit from an IT professional is also required to conduct routine maintenance and other tasks.
Every moment spent reporting the problem, and attempts at walking branch personnel through simple recovery tasks, only adds to the organizations' lost time. Transit time and availability of the IT professional also increases the amount of time required to resolve the issue. Repairs follow a diagnosis of the issue, and if the correct equipment is not among the tools the IT technician brings along, another cycle of waiting begins as parts are acquired to remedy the situation.
Remotely managing the varied equipment deployed into branch locations saves time and money, and that is where the Lantronix SLB steps in. The Lantronix provides remote management capabilities for a laundry list of equipment, including servers, routers, switches, firewalls, VPNs, PBX and UPS systems. The SLB provides eight secure console management connections to manage the devices through the serial ports.
The dual-purpose Lantronix SLB comes in a slim 19" 1U package. The Lantronix SLB has eight remotely switched power outlets that can measure and log outlet current for energy monitoring purposes. The SLB also features dual AC inputs for failover and redundancy. Combining the power distribution and management functionality within one hybrid device eliminates the need for multiple solutions, providing a more economical solution in terms of price, power, ease of management, and space.
There are a disparate number of use cases for the Lantronix SLB, from branch offices to campus environments. The console provides a secure connection suitable for use in banking, finance, insurance, healthcare, retail sales, hospitality, and education deployments. Dual Ethernet ports and an out-of-band connection (Local terminal, USB Modem, or Internal Modem) provide two methods of connection for remote management.
The front panel LCD and keypad provides an easy means to setup the network and monitor outlet status while onsite. The SLB only requires 30 Watts for its own operation, which helps in power-constrained environments. The design is resilient and can handle the high-heat environments often found in equipment closets with limited air conditioning.
Our TweakTown lab consists of several networking components and servers we use to conduct testing on the latest storage products. The combined functionality of power management and remote management in the 1U profile allows us to maximize space, manage the components, and deliver power to the entire server rack. Testing enterprise storage products involves tests that span days for one device. We often have multiple servers testing various products at any given time, and test time is at a premium on our test platforms.
Covering the enterprise storage market also requires plenty of travel, which does not mesh well with our limited system time and tight testing schedules. We deployed the Lantronix SLB to manage our entire server rack while away from the lab, and the ease of use and vast management capabilities of the Lantronix SLB allows us to continue testing and monitor equipment during our travels. This has greatly increased productivity and we can continue working from anywhere on the globe. The Lantronix SLB has proven to be a great addition to the lab, so let's take a closer look at the SLB and its features.
The Lantronix SLB comes in 100-120V AC and 200-240V AC models. Both models provide similar remote management and power control functionality.
One of the key features of the SLB are its security and authentication support. Secure Shell, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), NIST-certified AES encryption, and packet filtering help secure the connection. A firewall filters connection attempts to a specified IP address, port, or protocol based up on a configurable rule set.
There are configurable user rights for up to 128 users, and per-port user permissions limit capabilities where required. The SLB supports a number of remote authentication protocols, such as LDAP, Active Directory, NIS, RADIUS, Kerberos, and TACACS+.
Power management extends beyond the normal on/off/reboot functions to provide per-outlet current consumption measurements and staggered power-up of individual outlets. In addition, an over-current monitor/alarm can notify the administrator via numerous methods when exceeding pre-defined operational parameters.
The SLB can operate in temperature extremes from 32-122 Fahrenheit and 10 to 90% humidity. This is important in the dense configurations in branch offices, which are often contained in wiring closets. The Lantronix SLB is covered by a five-year warranty.
The front of the Lantronix SLB has a large LCD screen to the left, controlled via the five-button navigation system to its right. This allows for easy network setup and outlet power monitoring during the initial setup, and while onsite. This screen also provides on-going information, such as the power consumption of each outlet.
The eight ports in the center of the unit utilize standard RJ45 connectors (300 to 230400 bps) to provide serial device port access. These device ports allow simple connections to serial devices by utilizing adapters and Cat-5 cable. There are several connection methods, such as Telnet/SSH to command line, Telnet/SSH/RAW-TCP direct to IP address and port number, and Web Telnet/SSH. Users can leverage multiple concurrent Telnet/SSH sessions and simultaneous access over the same port. The multi-level user menus are also customizable.
The console port, USB port, and modem are on the right side of the front panel. The console port allows a dumb terminal or PC with terminal emulation software to access management functions and serial console devices locally. The SLB provides out-of-band access via the built-in v.92 56K internal dial-up modem.
The rear of the unit has two power inputs to the right. One power input is primary and the other is secondary. All power is drawn from the primary port during normal operation, but upon power loss, the SLB switches to the secondary power input. Upon restoration of power to the primary power input, the SLB automatically switches back. This automated function is crucial when connecting to redundant power sources, UPS, or backup generators.
The eight power outputs on the rear are controlled via the management utility, and provide on/off/reboot and staggered spin up control. The two 10/100 network connections on the left provide connection into the network. Two Ethernet connections provide multiple paths into the device, such as one connection to a secured network and another to an unsecured network.
The bottom of the unit is constructed of solid metal and has ventilation ports along the front edge.
The side of the Lantronix SLB also has ventilation slots to help dissipate heat. The SLB is convection cooled for silent, low-power operation.
The interior of the unit houses the robust power delivery equipment. There is a compact flash card for the operating system and an Altera Cyclone processor.
The SLB comes with both power cords, a network cable, and several adapters for connection to non-standard serial ports (listed on the specifications page).
Installation and Management
The compact 19" 1U Lantronix SLB was easy to install into the server rack with the included brackets. We turned on several power outlets to power the networking equipment, and then configured the IP address via the front panel LCD.
We connected to the network via a Cat-5 cable and plugged in our equipment to the power ports. The primary and secondary power inputs have retention clips to keep the power connectors snug even in high-vibration environments.
A typical deployment consists of the SLB installed as a top-of-rack solution in a server rack or cabinet. These configurations are typically installed in branch office wiring closets. The SLB can control all devices with RS-232 serial console ports, such as Linux, UNIX, and Windows servers (2003 and higher), and VPN, router, PBX, and switches.
The SLB manages other devices with serial ports, such as heating/cooling systems, security/building access systems, UPS, and medical devices. The system is administered from a remote location via the internet, or dial-up modem (PSTN) if the internet is unavailable.
A larger deployment can utilize the Lantronix SLM/vSLM for management. The SLM/vSLM is a master control center that provides a centralized point of access and common administration interface. The two connection methods are via the internet and a wired telephone network (PSTN).
The block diagram in the upper right provides a visualization of each port and its current state, along with the network connections, modem and USB ports. Users can select each port for individual configuration.
The network tab has all of the necessary settings to manage the network setting, along with IP Filters, Routing, and VPN options in additional subcategories.
The Services tab has a plethora of settings to manage SSH/Telnet/logging, SNMP (for notifications), NFS/CIFS, the Secure Lantronix Network (Secure Lantronix Managers on the network), Date and Time configuration, and Web Server functionality.
The Authentication tab configures the SLB to use one or more authentication methods, and has numerous subcategory settings to manage various protocols. There is an intense level of granularity in the sub-categories to control the protocols.
The Devices tab controls the device serial port connections, console port, USB port, and power outlets.
The Maintenance tab provides monitoring information, such as the temperature of the unit, and allows for firmware updates. There are also subcategories for viewing the system log, audit logs, and email logs. There is a diagnostics category for self-test routines, monitoring of status/reports, Events, LCD/Keypad, and Banners.
The Quick Setup tab allows configuration of the basic SLB features.
The Lantronix SLB is designed to save space and lower the cost of managing distributed IT environments. Combining two solutions, serial port management, and power control into a 1U hybrid device in a slim 1U form factor accommodates even the densest of deployments. The serial port provides an easy to use management interface that spans all types of computing hardware, and even heating/cooling and alarm systems. This wide range of applications allows the Lantronix SLB to control every component found in a typical branch office. Multiple gateways, via internet and modem, provide a fail-safe in case the networking equipment in the remote location is the source of the problem.
The management features of the SLB streamlines response time and eliminates most physical visits to the remote location. Remote management and troubleshooting minimizes costly downtimes and speeds up problem diagnosis. If there is a hardware problem that requires maintenance or replacement, the SLB provides a means of diagnosing the problem remotely to insure delivery of the correct equipment prior to the service call. This speeds up recovery from hardware-related failures.
The Lantronix SLB supports numerous security and authentication protocols to prevent unwanted access and has customizable permissions to manage user privileges. These robust authentication and security features are a must-have for secure locations and systems that handle sensitive data. The Lantronix SLB also provides very detailed audit logs to meet compliance requirements.
In our use, we found the Lantronix SLB to be user-friendly and easy to configure. The robust feature set provides an easy portal for management of our server equipment. We utilize the Lantronix SLB during normal onsite operations as well. The ability to selectively power down different pieces of equipment is very helpful when swapping components in the servers.
The management interface is a bit daunting at first glance, simply due to the robust feature set that allows for control of every aspect of SLB operation. When we began working with the SLB, we found the menus to be intuitive and easy to understand, and the SLB is easy to manage once acquainted with the system.
While offsite, the Lantronix SLB is simply outstanding. While covering a recent event in Seoul, South Korea, we could log in and manage our TweakTown lab in Kansas with no problems at all. When utilized in tandem with the SpiderDuo remote KVM/IP, we can expand the functionality of the SLB even further. Look to these pages soon for an evaluation of the SpiderDuo.
Lantronix has been in business since 1989 and is a trusted manufacturer of networking and communications solutions for machine-to-machine applications. The ease of use and superior functionality of the Lantronix SLB is backed by a five-year warranty, and wins our TweakTown Best Features Award.
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