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Bigwig is a systems administrator at a public university
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April 14, 2004

Connecting An Avocent Remote KVM Switch To Headless Red Hat Servers

Spent the morning installing and configuring an Avocent Switchview IP box. Basically, it's a switch that allows KVM over IP. Before, when we needed console access to our bank of Linux machines, we had to wheel the server room's console over to the rack the machines were in and connect it to the KVM switch in the rear.

KVM - Keyboard, Video, Mouse. It's a type of connection that allows a person to connect to multiple computers using only one keyboard, monitor, and mouse. In our Linux setup, for instance, we have 18 boxes connected to one KVM switch. We switch from system to system either by pressing a button on the front of the server to tell the KVM that this is the server we're interested in, or by holding down the shift key, hitting the num lock key twice, then typing in the number of the server we want (1 for the first machine in the chain, 2 for the second, etc...). KVM over IP is much the same thing, except we no longer have to be physically present in the machine room. The Switchview, once it is up and running, will accept connections over the Internet, then emulate a command line session for anyone who successfully logs in. One switches between machines using the same shift, num-lock, num-lock, number sequence one would use at the machine room console.

And it is up and running--no thanks to the install docs, which assume that at least one of the machines on the same subnet as the Switchview will be equipped with a web browser. This is not necessarily so,

What the docs want one to do is to change the default IP address on the Switchview to one of one's own choosing (via an arp -s MAC address, then open up a web session on that same box to connect to the Switchview and finish the configuration process.

The first part is no problem, but since all of our servers are headless, none of them have a web browser installed, much less the I.E. 5.5 or higher the Switchview claims is required.

Eventually I borrowed a crossover cable from networking, connected the Switchview directly to my laptop, restored its default settings, then rebooted it. Once it came back I was able to connect the default IP address via my laptop's browser and finish the configuration that way, which, aside from giving the box the correct IP address, Gateway and Subnet Mask settings, was to change the default administrator password and set it to connect via https only.

We've connected to it from the office a couple of times now. It's not the fastest thing in the world, but it beats driving 20 minutes to the office in the middle of the night.

Posted by Bigwig at April 14, 2004 12:58 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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