Get Console lets field techs access and share Cisco console sessions from an Apple mobile device.
I have met what seems like a few hundred field techs over
the years I've spent in IT, and the one thing they all have in common is a
desire for lighter, more portable diagnostic tools. Mobile devices such as the
iPhone and iPad offer the potential to be an excellent platform for such use,
and, fortunately, service tools are reaching the point where they are becoming
practical to implement on these devices.
For an example of this phenomenon, look no further than the
Get Console app from Amix Capital of New Zealand. Get Console works on
iPad and recent iPhone and iPod touch devices and provides more than just a
vanilla console connection to Cisco routers and switches.
Get Console is only $9.99 in the iTunes App Store
but requires a somewhat pricey cable to connect the Apple device's Dock
Connector to the Cisco hardware's console port. Redpark Product Development of
Emeryville, Calif., offers that cable for $69. Its 6-foot length allows the user
to comfortably access console ports on Cisco gear no matter where in an
equipment rack it may sit.
I spent the better part of a month with a prerelease and an
"official" version of the software, and although some people may prefer using
Telnet or SSH to access devices, I found this to be better in almost every way.
Release 1.3 includes the ability to use the Apple Wireless Keyboard-a
Bluetooth device that works with iPad, iPhone and iPod touch-as an input
device that comes in handy in cramped quarters.
Get Console includes a number of nifty features that field
techs can use to make their lives simpler. This includes the ability to send a
break signal during the Cisco device's boot sequence, logging of session
output and the ability to edit templates on the mobile device and paste them
into the console session.
One feature that could prove quite useful is the ability to
securely share the console session over the mobile device's WiFi or 3G
connection with a remote user. They say two heads are better than one, and
this allows a field tech to consult with a more experienced tech when needed.
This can be for observation or remote configuration, and because the console
session is taking place out-of-band, it doesn't require any connectivity on the
part of the device being configured.
Currently, Amix hosts the remote sessions on servers in the
United States, the United Kingdom and the Far East. For those instances where a
private session server hosted on the customer's network is preferred, licensing
of the backend server is available as well.
Amix's other plans for Get Console include expanding its
range to other devices that can be configured through a serial console, but
that's not as easy as it sounds. For one thing, Apple's policies for App Store
approval appear to be an issue. For another, there's no standard pinout for
RS-232 serial communications through an RJ-45 plug or jack. According to the
company, Fortinet, HP and Juniper support are the first priority, as these devices
share the Cisco pinout.
P. J. Connolly began writing for IT publications in 1997 and has a lengthy track record in both news and reviews. Since then, he's built two test labs from scratch and earned a reputation as the nicest skeptic you'll ever meet. Before taking up journalism, P. J. was an IT manager and consultant in San Francisco with a knack for networking the Apple Macintosh, and his love for technology is exceeded only by his contempt for the flavor of the month. Speaking of which, you can follow P. J. on Twitter at pjc415, or drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.