Time to Retire the Serial Port

It’s almost 2014. Why are many vendors still requiring the use of a 1960s technology with modern communications equipment?

I was recently setting up a new piece of networking equipment, and, lo and behold, I needed to do that initial setup via a CLI on a serial port. Yes, I know that testosterone is recharged by such activities; real men configure routers and such with obscure commands over difficult-to-configure interfaces based on RS-232. I don't want to pick on any particular vendor here, because there are so many of them still insisting on this practice. But, c'mon, really? Start bits, stop bits, and baud rate? Parity? VT-100? I've had hours of fun with this silliness over the years, but, again, it's almost 2014. In my most recent misadventure, I had to buy yet another USB-to-serial adapter because the one I have wouldn't run at the 115.2 Kbps required for, once again, a one-time setup. And then there's the also-common use of an RJ-45 as a serial port, which is confusing, I'm sure, to many.

I've got an idea: let's retire the serial port. Hey, vendors, how about this: configure a faked-up IP address in the box. Connect over a network (Wow! What a concept!) via a browser and a GUI. Be done with basic setup in a minute or two, or tweak to your heart's content via a much-less-error-prone and much-easier-to-use graphical interface. Some vendors, of course, already do this. OK, legacy RS-232 will be with us for some time, but my point here is that new equipment simply shouldn't support (or, at the very least, require) it. Period.

Just my $.02, but I can see no advantage in the continuing application of serial ports and CLIs. The productivity of IT staff (and lowly product reviewers like myself) is just as important as the productivity gains inherent in the new piece of gear - once we get it working, that is, and the sooner the better.

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