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Console Server BREAK-Off Frequently Asked Questions
version 1.1 (updated: Jul 26, 2008, 12:37 am)

The main purpose of this FAQ is to answer questions about how we acquire the equipment for testing, why we do it, and how it happens. This page is meant mainly for Console Server hardware vendors who want to know how to get their equipment to be evaluated.

Questions (and answers)
Who is doing this testing?
Why are you doing this testing?
What does this testing cost?
How does the testing occur?
What's in it for us?
Can I influence the results??
Who can answer other questions?

Who is doing the testing? (Who is 'we'?)

Mainly, the answer is 'me' (David K. Z. Harris), but during the lifetime of this project, the testing has also relied on the efforts of many folks involved with the development of the open source Conserver application.

While the testing has been supported, in part, by my employers, this was largely because they also benefited from the information being generated by this project, and the support mainly consisted of allowing me to carry on the work in addition to my normal work efforts. However, while I was employed by Global Networking and Computing and Certainty Solutions, I was allowed to use space in the data centers, as well as use of the network facilities to maintain an active testbed, which greatly helped my testing. My recent work in many data centers has afforded me with working access to a variety of older terminal servers, and my testing provides me with access to newer console servers.

Why are we performing the testing?

While this is covered in greater detail on the main test page and the test results page, here is a brief summary;

As the technical arena surrounding "Lights-Out Management" continues to grow and evolve, I plan to stay in the forefront of the developments. For me, that means to continue to test new products, and evaluate their capabilities, including integration with remote-controlled Power Distribution Units (PDUs), KVM, Service Processors, and UPS gear.

What does the testing cost?

There is no charge, or fee, for the testing. However, there may be a material cost to the vendor for loaning the equipment out for testing. (They may not be able to sell the equipment as "new" after I have had it for testing, but they can often use it as an RMA or 'spare' part). There are also, normally, some shipping costs involved.

There are no costs connected to the testing, nor to the posting of results on these web pages. (Any donation of equipment to the testing will not influence the testing results, nor the posted comments. If a donation is made, it may be noted on the BREAK Test acknowledgments page, at the discretion of the manufacturer.)

How does the testing occur?

The process begins when I contact a manufacturer, or when a manufacturer contacts me, and expresses an interest in testing a particular model of hardware. I establish a point of contact for the duration of the testing (often a product manager, or an executive). I do not want to have a support contract, or special access to support technical staff. (If I cannot find the answers in the documentation, or on the manufacturer's website, I will then work with my contact to find an answer.) Part of my testing includes looking at the user interface, in-box instructions, and working with the vendors freely available documentation, the way most new customers would receive their first unit from the manufacturer. To that end, I prefer a new unit, but I will accept RMA/refurbished hardware, in 'as-new' packaging (so that I receive the same cables, adapters, software and manuals that come with a new unit).

I may need to sign a non-disclosure agreement, if I'm testing unreleased hardware, or evaluating new designs. I'm aware of two product designs where my work with the vendor influenced a change before full production was started. I don't share NDA information. However, I reserve the right to post findings on my website about testing results for released hardware.

I don't buy the equipment, as I have no equipment budget for that. Fortunately, I now have enough of a track record that this is usually not a problem.

A test schedule will be developed, outlining what features will be tested (normally the BREAK testing, but sometimes may include SSH or other tests), and a schedule is developed. Testing typically takes between 2-4 weeks. The manufacturer will normally pay the cost of the first shipment (from them, to me).

At the end of the test period, I prepare the equipment for return to the manufacturer, in the original packaging. I typically pay the return (ground) shipping.

What's in it for the manufacturer?

During the testing, I will follow up with my contact in email, including;

While I also benefit from the testing (by becoming more familiar with another family of equipment, seeing a new GUI, trying new features), there is also some benefit to the manufacturer, because it means that I may also be able to answer questions, and offer opinions, about their hardware. The longer I have to work with it, the more familiar I can become with it. I also have the ability to loan the hardware to other technical folks, so that they can also get some (more) experience with the hardware.

Who decides what ends up on the review?

Again, that would be 'me'. If the manufacturer has concerns about how the results of the testing and review of the effort may turn out, those would be brought up before the testing commitment is made. I will air the good, and the bad, based on my opinions and my experience. In this regard, I wear my 'Customer Advocate' hat. I reserve all rights to control the information pasted to these web pages.

That said, I DO give advanced information to my contact person before the pages are posted. They often get 1-2 weeks of lead time, during the testing, where they are receiving questions and feedback, and I will often send a copy of the review that I plan to put on the web.

I do ask contact what the manufacturer would prefer regarding;

If there is an equipment donation, I also ask if/how the donation should be listed on the acknowledgments page.

If you have any other questions, please email break-off at

NOTICE: Most of the pages, articles, and tutorials on this website are copyrighted works. You may make 'deep links' to various pages. (If you let me know which page(s) you are linking to, I'll let you know if I move the page(s) during updates.) Please send me email if you wish to republish any material, or use it on your own website.

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Copyright 1996-2008, David K. Z. Harris, N6UOW   View David K. Z. Harris's profile on
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How does he do it? And Why?