A switch in time...

DQW Bureau
New Update


What happens if the IT administrator gets a call in the middle

of the night informing him/her that the operating system on the server has

crashed? Without remote access to diagnose and restore operations, the only

option the admin would have is to travel to the site. This not only costs the

company valuable time, but also to lose money over a situation that could be

handled more effectively.

Over the past few years, KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse)

switches have become a more important consideration for data center managers

during decision-making. As business expands and infrastructure needs increase,

companies are slowly migrating from the simple switches of old to KVM switches.

IBM's research shows that about 42 percent of companies still have completely

manual data centers with a further 30 percent operating what are called 'rudimentary'

managed environments (so called dim data centers rather than actually dark).

According to Lloyd Cohen, IDC Framingham, "Any device

that can lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) by requiring fewer keyboards,

mice, and video displays, while also providing better security and

manageability, will be well received by IT managers and system administrators


Have you checked?
  • Deployment size-How many servers and simultaneous users

    need to be connected in one location

  • User proximity-Will the administrators be in or

    near the data center, or will they operate from remote locations

  • Cabling — Can existing cables be used, or is

    there space to put more cable

  • Number of simultaneous users — How many

    administrators will need simultaneous access to the systems and specific racks

  • Security — Levels of security needed (including

    authentication, authorizations, and usage accounting) and where

Source: IDC

DC tales

According to Mrinal Sharma, senior IT support associate,

Cognizant, Kolkata, "We have been maintaining our data centers for the past

five years. Before we invested in KVM switches, we were using simple switches

for the first two years. Customers stressed on need for more efficiency and

complained of insufficient security present in the current setup. It was then,

after a comparative study, that we selected Raritan switches which today connect

the four data centers of Kolkata."

Cognizant Calcutta's data centers today run on 14 KVM

switches supporting the third level of security, which restricts unauthorized

access at the data center, server and the console level.


Amit Wasson, Manager, Data Center, HECL too has an experience

to share, "The Hughes Delhi Data center has been around for more than five

years. We switched from the manual mode to KVM after a year as the organization

grew in number of servers, number of people, and infrastructure. With KVM, space

constraints were eased and we could effectively restrict and monitor access to

the data center." Hughes took the national level decision to opt for HCL

and ATEN KVM's. The company has approximately 15 KVM switches in Delhi, and

three in Bombay DC has three.

A whole range of choices

According to an IDC report, KVM and serial consol equipment

have evolved from a simple two-way switch to a sophisticated combination of

hardware and software that enable IT administrators to control thousands of

servers. There are two main architecture options for consolidated KVM switch

solutions: Analog KVM and Digital KVM switching with integrated KVM over IP.

Both Analog and Digital have their own pros and cons. Analog

KVM provides better video performance and requires less network bandwidth if a

KVM over IP gateway is used for remote access. Analog KVM switches can provide

non-blocked access to a larger number of users than Digital KVM switches can.

Because Digital KVM is network dependent, server management capability

disappears in the event of network downtime. However, less cabling is required

here rather than with Analog KVM. Because the cabling needs are reduced, this

solution offers reduced costs and less disruption to work environment.


Pointing out the suitability of different products for

separate work environments, Vinod Hingorani, Country Manager, Raritan says,

"With the rise in IP-based networks, digital KVM switches are being

preferred in the banking sector because of the far-flung branch networks that

need to be managed. More and more banks are adopting these solutions for

increase in uptime."

The finance and public sector markets are ripe targets as

they have lots of high-availability computing environments where downtime is a

hugely costly threat factor.

IP-enabled KVM switches give data center managers and

administrators the equivalent of "At the rack" BIOS-level access to

thousands of servers and other devices, anytime and anywhere. People located at

other headquarters or in another state or country, need KVM connections that

operate over a network-WAN, VPN or Internet. But vendors present tradeoffs in

bandwidth utilization and responsiveness. Addressing these tradeoffs means that

the solution provides a level of encryption, compression and bandwidth control

to meet current and future security and performance requirements.

Undisputed gains

KVM-short for keyboard, video, mouse-switch is a hardware

device that enables a single keyboard, video monitor and mouse to control more

than one computer at a time. It finds most effective usage in data centers,

where each individual server, instead of having an individual KVM, connects to a

KVM switch. KVM switches allow the IT manager to use only one keyboard, video,

mouse setup to control multiple of servers simultaneously.

  • Reduces TCO by allowing an individual to


    support system maintenance and administration on several systems.

  • Provides seamless scalability for growing needs

  • As all servers do not need to have a separate keyboard,

    video and mouse, it reduces complexity

  • Saves on space

  • Cuts down engineers' physical movement to server

    locations. Facilitates remote Data center management

  • Comfortable installations on multiple machines as in the case of patches

The market in India

Market Research shows that the KVM market in India is

estimated to be at $6 mn, of which more than 60 percent of the market is

controlled by the bigger players-Avocent and Raritan. According to Cohen,

"There are many other companies that distribute KVM devices although their

combined market share is small compared to that of the leading vendors. The

global market leader in KVM switch-gear is Avocent." The other players are

Belkin, Rose, ATEN, Hanut, D-Link and Minicom.

According to a market potential study, in revenue terms,

enterprise sales account for 50 percent of the market and the low-end market

accounts for the other half. In terms of numbers, most of the market is low-end.

Low-end solutions comprise of 2-8 port switches while high-end solutions

comprise of 8-32 ports and KVM over IP. The key players in this field are

Avocent, Raritan and Belkin.


The enterprises are ambitious, and scaling up by the year.

KVM switches pitch in by helping them save on space and security and are also

proving to be a valuable tool providing ease of management over racks of


Interesting times for this market in the long years.

Jasmine Kaur

New Delhi