One of the range of devices that have always fascinated me would be the humble KVM, or keyboard-video-mouse. This would also be the category of device that we will be talking about today in our continuing tour of CommunicAsia 2007.

For the non-hardware folks among us, a KVM is used to allow a single set of keyboard, monitor and mouse to control more than one device which might need them. In short, you no longer need 10 sets of monitors, keyboards and mice just to control 10 servers. A single set will suffice.

The oldest KVM device uses a single manual switch to toggle or redirect the input to the appropriate servers. Obviously, this gets clunky very quickly once you reach 4 to 5 servers. Improvements were gradually made and the internal circuitries of the KVM started to be completely digitized rather than rely on physical switches. Hence, KVMs with rows of 8, 12, or even 16 nice push or touch buttons soon appeared.

The more advanced KVM at the moment can normally be cascaded to hook up to hundreds of servers. A growing number of these advanced KVMs also support being hooked up to an IP network where a remote user can either use a custom application or their browser to login and control the server of their choice. The top tier of these devices, termed as IP-KVMs, normally allow anywhere from 1 to 8 simultaneous users to log into it and independently manipulate different servers.

As you can imagine, I spotted the ATEN booth rather quickly. If you have not heard of them before, they are a Taiwanese company specializing in KVM products, among others. Of course, there are many US or UK companies selling such products as well, but I have found that they can be pretty pricey in my previous research.

So if your requirements do not exceed 32 servers or more than 1 remote login for IP-KVM functionality, I would heartily recommend their products. I am not affiliated in anyway to ATEN, but I have personally acquired and been using the KN9116 KVM with IP functionality for a year now. I think I managed to get it for only about USD$750]

ATEN product on display


Virtual VNC Console? Fascinating…  Could it be as used as a thin client with virtual servers running say Windows XP with VNC server software?

Do you have any experience with KVM? Any tricks, tips, or tales of server-room misfortune to share?  Join the discussion.