Large-Data-Center KVM Strength for Midsize Sites

Avocent's AutoView 2000R provides thorough remote management, but its digital performance is sluggish.

Avocent Corp.s AutoView 2000R pushes big-data-center features such as KVM over IP into a keyboard, video and mouse switch designed for midsize organizations—a move that makes the device a tempting offer to IT managers who need access to servers but dont want to be in the same room with the machines.

This new release in the AutoView KVM family, which shipped last week, enabled eWeek Labs to access 16 servers and other computers from the computer in an office cube over the network using standard IP connectivity. When combined with additional AutoView or Avocent Outlook devices, the $3,995 AutoView 2000R can control as many as 384 devices—quite a feat for a box that requires only one IP address to administer.

However, although the AVWorks management software provided with the AutoView 2000R comes with a user name/password security system, it once again filled us with wonder at the damage that could be done if a bad actor got control of a console that has vast power over our computers.

As Spider-Man says, "With great power comes great responsibility."

That said, the convenience and productivity gained by using the AutoView 2000R will likely push past the security and performance concerns, and our tests showed that there is a lot to gain from using the system. The AutoView 2000R allows two digital users, who can be connected over the IP network to the appliance, and a single analog connection that must be much closer to the unit.

When using a digital connection, this meant that we could sit at a desk far from the lab and still easily use the AutoView 2000R to control our machines, although it wasnt quite as easy as if we were sitting in front of the systems. This is because the dongle that attaches to the computer (see photo, Page 44), which replaces the bulky analog cables most readers are likely familiar with, has a chip that has not yet been fully optimized to compress video and mouse positioning information. Development work is under way that should alleviate this problem, company officials said, although they couldnt say when the new equipment will be ready.

When we used video and mouse settings, we were able to boost performance to a point where it wasnt too annoying. For example, we were not able to get screen colors that exactly matched the effect we routinely get with analog cables over an older Cybex KVM. (Avocent was formed in 2000 as the result of a merger between Cybex Computer Products Corp. and Apex Inc.) We also worked quite awhile on adjusting mouse controls in the product to make the pointer from the remote system match the speed and position of the mouse on our desktop system.

IT managers who are already familiar with Avocents OSCAR (On-Screen Configuration and Activity Reporting) utility should be up and running in just a few minutes. Even though we hadnt used OSCAR before, we still were able to get the AutoView 2000R configured and our servers recognized by the system in less than an hour.

The AutoView 2000R also comes with a no-cost AVWorks utility that allowed us to access any system connected to the AutoView 2000R from anywhere in our network.

Competitive products such as the Kaveman from Digital V6 Inc. and Raritan Computer Inc.s TeleReach (when used with the Raritan Paragon KVM switch) offer similar capabilities to the AutoView 2000R. Pricewise, the Kaveman is less costly but has only eight ports. The two-user Paragon 48-port unit is $3,000; the TeleReach two-user add-on is $5,980. The main differences between the products are that the Kaveman is limited to eight systems, and the Paragon/TeleReach pairing requires tool work plus extra configuration tweaking to get the two separate hardware devices to work together.

IT managers should expect to see ongoing and fierce competition from digital KVM-over-IP manufacturers because these vendors are still at the beginning of the technology curve. Falling prices and improvements in the management and security of the switch, as well as in the "right next to the machine" feel of using KVM-over-IP devices, are likely to be dramatic.

As we have seen in several categories of network infrastructure devices (including switches and routers), advanced features that we once found only in the most sophisticated, high-end systems are moving into midrange devices. In the case of the AutoView 2000R, the digital features that make truly remote user management—down to intervening in the BIOS startup—have been inherited from the DS Series devices. As these features continue to migrate down the food chain, IT managers are the ones who will receive the greatest benefit.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at