[Date Prev] [Date Index] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Index] [Thread Next]

RE: Ki Networks CLIM experiences

Ernie Oporto Ernie.Oporto@viragelogic.com
Wed, 22 May 2002 11:27:29 -0700 (PDT)

Title: Ki Networks CLIM experiences
My main concern in a console system is being able to control my target servers in an extreme emergency where I most likely won't have access to any GUI, but only to manage a server through the rawest of interfaces:  some commandline SSH backdoor?  That is where clicking on icons and setting up interfaces through GUIs hits a brick wall, and conserver comes through to save the day.  For the longest time, we were using an older piece of software called "console" and when I changed companies, I could not find that software anywhere until conserver popped back into the scene.
Products like the digital KVM Kaveman from www.digitalv6.com that use an open protocol like VNC are where it's at because of how simple they make the product; I've found VNC works nicely through SSH pipes to control Win2k servers in an emergency, so we plan on adding that product to our network to manage our servers.  Like VNC it can also be managed through a web browser.  I'm not interested in proprietary interfaces like those used by Avocent, because if I am on the road and am nowhere near one of my systems, I know I can pick up any machine and have access to my network tools from almost any machine with Internet access.  If only Linux PCs had some sort of way to interface a serial port like a Sun sparc system to be able to use conserver.  I know they have console echoing on a serial port, but it's not the same as doing a break sequence to drop to the EEPROM.  Digital KVMs come close, though.
-----Original Message-----
From: users-admin@conserver.com [mailto:users-admin@conserver.com]On Behalf Of Matt Cheek
Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2002 12:57 PM
To: 'users@conserver.com'
Subject: Ki Networks CLIM experiences


This is simply an overview of my experiences with the CLIM console management product from Ki Networks (http://www.kinetworks.com). These are only my observations and opinions. Your mileage may vary.

Matthew Cheek          | Medical Archival Systems, Inc. (a.k.a. MARS)
Systems Analyst IV     | 1370 Beulah Road | Pittsburgh, PA 15235-5084
cheek@mars-systems.com | v:  412-473-6565 | f:  412-473-6538

I joined Medical Archival Systems, Inc. (part of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) in early 2000. At that time, MARS had approximately 75 consoles (mostly UNIX systems and network gear such as Cisco routers and switches) with about 60 of these consoles connected to a couple of Xylogics Annex3 terminal servers. There was no console management solution in place at the time and staff would simply telnet directly to the terminal server port in order to connect to particular consoles. Obviously this was an unworkable solution and I set out to find and deploy a true console management solution. (I had used DEC's Polycenter Console Manager (PCM) at two previous employers.) At the same time, I continued to add console connections to existing and new terminal servers.

Before beginning my search, I identified and ranked the desired attributes:

1) Console Management - The console manager "manages" which terminal server port is which console - no remembering which port is which

2) Console Control - Easily manage the console (e.g. review the last N lines, send a "break" character, etc.)
3) Console Logging - Useful for diagnosing system crashes or for auditing console access
4) Read-Only Console Connection - Provides the ability to watch over another user's shoulder
5) Security Mechanism - Only permit authorized users to connect to a console
6) Event Notification - Provide notification (e.g. email, pager) of specific console text

My initial research focused on commercial console management solutions including CLIM (Command Line Interface Manager) from Ki Networks and ControlTower from Aurora Technologies. Unfortunately, while these commercial products provided rich and robust console management features, they were also prohibitively expensive for my environment which had grown to 178 managed consoles. In Aug 2000, I discovered Conserver via a mention on the Sun Managers mailing list.

Conserver, being an open source product, certainly met my unstated requirement of low- or no-cost. In addition, Conserver appeared to meet the first five requirements (i.e. Console Management, Control, Logging plus Read-Only Connections and a rudimentary Security Mechanism). After downloading, building, and installing the product, I was pleased to discovered that Conserver did in fact meet my immediate needs.

Additionally, since the Conserver product does not currently provide any sort of event notification, I deployed SWATCH (the Simple WATCHer, http://www.oit.ucsb.edu/~eta/swatch/) to address the Event Notification requirement. SWATCH is an open source utility that watches log files in real time for specific text matches and notifies you in a pre-determined manner when a match is found.

I continued to use the combination of Conserver and SWATCH as my Console Management Solution until the middle of May 2002.

In early May 2002, Ki Networks made an extraordinary offer to any active Conserver user. They offered a complimentary, permanent license to deploy their CLIM and NodeMonitor products in exchange for feedback on how to improve CLIM. In addition, Ki Networks agreed to provide ongoing support for these products.

Since CLIM was one of the commercial products I had evaluated in 2000, I jumped at the offer and worked with Ki Networks to download and install CLIM on an evaluation basis. Since I consider Console Management a critical production facility, one of my minor concerns was understanding the terms of use of this permanent license and the support options. Happily, Ki Networks provided formal license and support documents that were quickly approved by my management. Once the red tape was worked out, I began planning the deployment of CLIM across my enterprise.

CLIM Deployment:
My current environment is four terminal servers with 178 managed consoles.

The CLIM installation was nearly trouble free and within 15 minutes I was able to start the Ki Works GUI to start adding consoles. It quickly became apparent that CLIM is more that just a simple console manager. CLIM is a comprehensive system management product that provides log file management, event management and notification, and terminal server management. Along with this comprehensiveness comes complexity. While Conserver is driven by a fairly simple configuration file, CLIM is best configured via the Ki Works GUI. (There is a CLI configuration utility, but I've not explored its capabilities yet.)

Since my primary goal is console management, I started by creating several console connections. The main interface to CLIM is a graphical application (i.e. X. I believe there is also a Windows version if that is your wont.) called "Ki Works". This is a very intuitive GUI for all aspects of configuration and console management. The first step is to define the terminal server(s). This is a simple task that is made easy by predefined configurations for most popular terminal servers (e.g. Xylogics, Cyclades, Lantronix, Cisco, etc). Once a terminal server is defined, adding a console is just as simple. Simply name the console, select the terminal server it is connected to, specify the port number on the terminal server, and select the console's hardware and operating system type. (The last two options instruct CLIM how to interact with the console. For instance, how to send a break, what the boot prompt is, etc.) After creating a console, double clicking on the resulting console icon pops up a console window and off you go. There are actually several methods of connecting to a console:

a)  Simple Text Connection in a window (i.e. xterm, dtterm)
b)  GUI connection in a small graphical app with drop-down menus for issuing common commands such as sending a break, powering off a system, etc.

c)  Read-Only Connection in a window
d)  Command Line from a shell prompt

and, most intriguing:

e)  Gang Connect which lets you connect to multiple consoles at once and type the same commands into all connections. Very handy!

After running several weeks with just a handful of non-production consoles to explore the product, I have scheduled the production cutover for early June. At that time, I will shutdown Conserver and add all my remaining consoles into the CLIM environment. Before that time, I will explore the CLIM command line configuration program (climcp) which will be necessary to quickly and accurately batch add 150+ consoles to the CLIM configuration.

I continue to discover features and benefits of CLIM as I use the product. For instance, the CLIM Event Management module (EVM) includes a large set of preprogrammed console event types. For instance there are over a hundred UNIX-specific events. Some examples include system panic, file system full, etc. At the very least, these preprogrammed event types provide an example of how to create custom, application/environment specific event types.