This document provides links to various pages with information regarding serial ports, console servers, and the Conserver application. My hope is that these pages will be useful information to people trying to connect various devices and hosts to console servers.
If you are managing devices, and those devices have serial ports, you can probably benefit from providing a way to talk to those serial ports remotely. In some cases, the serial console to a device can be your last chance to access the device without a reboot, allowing you to restore other services without interrupting active services, or impacting your customers (however you define 'customers'). The cost for remote access equipment (i.e. console servers) can be high, but adding an open-source logging and access server (like Conserver) can greatly increase the value of the remote access equipment, by adding the ability to control accounts and access across multiple console servers, providing the ability for multiple users to simultaneously access any single port (great for mentoring), and logging (very useful for forensics), and more.
My current projects include working with Service Processors (*LOM, *RAC interfaces), principally involving the "how do you set these up?" problems, whether that is through the BIOS, via the system serial port, or via some scripts/applications in Windows or Linux.
If you find any errors on these pages, have comments for me, or if you have additional information that you feel that I could include, please send email to consoles at conserver.com. Are you curious why do I keep up these pages? I've also started a ConsoleTeam blog, as a place to put ideas for which I'm not ready to create a dedicated page (or to post ideas early, until I have time to post a more complete page).
What's on this scroll?
Console Server hardware, and Serial BREAK testing
Console Connection Guides, info, and quick links
My Minor Scrolls for a variety of topics, including APC UPS serial ports
Pointers to my Published information
Information about Conserver
Other Useful URLs
(My Updates information has been moved to a separate page, and the Blog will probably serve the same function.)
If you are trying to administer Sun servers (and some SGI boxes), you understand the importance of being able to send Serial BREAK to the serial console when you want to. Unfortunately, many older terminal server devices will send BREAK when the power is removed from the terminal server, which would stop older attached Sun devices at once. The good news is, we've been testing many vendors hardware, and many newer Console Server devices (a very important distinction these days) are "Sun-safe", including the Cisco 3600 series (anything using the NM-16A/32A modules), Cisco 3800 series (anything using the HWIC interfaces), Cyclades TS and ACS lines, Digi's CM series, the Opengear CM series. the Perle CS9000, the iTouch (MRV) Communications In-Reach series, the Computone (AlturaXL) RAS2000 line, and even the new DECservers! You can find out more information on our BREAK-off test result page. There are also pages about why we do this testing, and thanks for the folks that have helped.
The bottom lines with our investigation:
The guides shown below are the result of a lot of evolution, and shared knowledge. They were developed when I needed to do a lot of work with a particular brand, or when I've had the chance to learn enough about a device and I want to share that info with others. Much of what you will find on these pages is common across most of the devices, but there is also some vendor- and model-specific information as well. I will likely add a few more guides in the future, mainly driven by servers that do not send serial BREAK at inappropriate times.
Host-to-Adapter Guides are generated from a PERL script, from a database of information about the serial ports on more than 500 devices. The pages list basic information about the host, as well as advising which adapter or cable to use to connect to specific console servers. (These refer to the 'best' single adapter to use, even if it is NOT an adapter that the Console Server manufacturer provides.)
Adapter Kits are listed when the cables and adapters are readily available from a vendor. Currently, APA Cables & Networks provide an easy way to get large quantities of reliable, labeled cables and adapters for the product families below. If you need smaller amounts, you can check my Where To Buy page for more clues.
(I have found that most Console Server device manufacturers offer a small group of adapters to cover the 'common' connections, but they do NOT offer a complete assortment of adapters and cables for the specialty cases. I am a strong proponent of using pre-wired (tested and labeled) adapters and cables. More than likely, the value of the amount of your time to make amore than a few adapters (plus the cost of the raw materials) is likely to be more than the cost of pre-wired adapters.)
PalmDoc References are available for some of the pages below. (If you see the download arrow icon, you can click on it to get the PDB file.) I developed these for use with my old Palm Vx, so I would have the information in my pocket anytime. I prefer the TealDoc reader from TealPoint software, but you should be able to read them with any reader that supports the PalmDoc format.
Console Connection Guides
The Adapter Kits were developed with Americable (which became APACN, which is becoming Clearfield Communications), but they don't have kits for Cyclades, Digi, or Opengear and others. As a result, I'm developing a "Where to buy adapters" page, and I've been posting the schematics for various adapters ad cables on the pages the various Console Connection Guides. (There will be guides coming for Cyclades, Digi, and Opengear.) At some point, I'll remove the specific links to the adapter kits from this page.
My old Minor Scroll of Console Knowledge had become too big, so I broke it up into smaller topics. More pages will be added, based on my time, and peoples interest.
Minor Scroll of Console Knowledge - taking the mystery out of serial connections
Passive Signal Tracers - tips and clues about troubleshooting
APC UPS Serial Port Clues - demystifying this non-standard DE-9 interface.
RS-232 Clues - references and pointers about this serial protocol
RS-232 Hardware Clues - overview of the hardware inside the serial port
Modem Clues - important if you are adding modem to your serial devices
My Doctor Bag - my mainstay tools, and why I carry them.
Signals - Signaling information for (mainly RJ-type) interfaces
I also have started to make some minor pages, for some Console Servers and other devices, hoping to share some clues about them, until I take the time to make them into full-blown Guide pages. The first one up was my DECServer page. I'm working on a full-blown Console Connection Guide for the Cyclades (now Avocent) TS and ACS series console servers. Other pages for the Opengear CM series and the Digi CM series are also currently in the works. This includes making the cable and adapter schematic art, and integrating them with the host information database.
Alas, SysAdmin Magazine has ceased publication. Thankfully, the articles are still available online for your information, and your browsing pleasure. I will not be teaching at USENIX LISA 2008, but I hope to see some of you there as a participant.
I have prepared various articles and presentations, over the years, for contract training and formal conferences. I've made some of this information available on the web. As I can release more information to the web, I'll post the links on my Published Info page.
Bryan Stansell (TellMe, now Microsoft) is the current keeper of the Conserver application, which adds logging, and multi-user access for remote administration of serial ports, using locally-installed multi-port serial interfaces, and/or "reverse-telnet" to console servers. This adds a mentoring, and forensics data collection capability to remote administration of network and host devices via their serial console ports. Conserver is free, and an open-source project with an international user base, and an active user community, a well as being actively developed. (Conserver is a derivative work of original code by Thomas A. Fine while at Ohio State in 1990. Follow this link to Thomas' Console Page. More history is available on Bryan Stansell's Conserver pages.)