Out-of-band infrastructure provides a unified approach to security, compliance

* OOBI: An indispensable tool for IT management

Out-of-band management facilitates centralized control and repair of local and especially remote IT infrastructure devices such as servers, network routers or environmental sensors. The OOB market has been growing as an isolated IT management niche for many years to reach an estimated revenue of $1.12 billion last year. Even prior to the recently skyrocketing energy costs and renewed shortages of appropriately skilled IT personnel, the remote control and repair capability drove the OOB market to experience a healthy double-digit average compound annual growth rate (CAGR). In a very active "branch office" segment, the OOB market CAGR is on the order of 30%. OOB users swear by the ease of deployment, the efficient convenience of remote device repair, and rapid ROI even when based solely on avoidance of "truck rolls."

Although core OOB technologies such as keyboard, video, and mouse (KVM) or Serial Console servers have reached a state of maturity, vendors, such as Avocent, Aten, Lantronix, MRV, and Raritan, are applying it in an evolutionary way for achieving greater control, resiliency and cost efficiency by a growing level of integration with more pervasive in-band technologies. Several primary forces drive the necessity for closer collaboration between the OOB and in-band management:

* The growth in application and other content "living" on the network.

* A constantly increasing geographical area of business operations (organizational and geographic sprawl).

* The skyrocketing functional density of IT infrastructure devices.

These primary forces lead to many evolving IT management requirements and an inescapable conclusion that without a growing collaboration between OOB and in-band, effective IT management will not be possible in the future.

To use an analogy, in-band IT management can be compared to human eyesight. It can detect the impending danger but cannot do anything about it. Similarly, OOB can be compared to human limbs that can "hit the break pedal" in a car but are not able to efficiently recognize the impending danger. Many of us experienced a car accident with compete recognition that it will occur because it was too late for an avoidance maneuver. Without a growing collaboration between in-band and OOB, management of IT infrastructures in the future will experience exponentially increasing occurrences of service wreckage caused by these "too-little-too-late" accidents. From a business point of view, this is an unacceptable risk.

The pressure for a five-nines level of service availability still evades effective attainment despite capex investments that create costly redundancy in IT infrastructures. The reason is simple; the probability of failure increases with an increasing number of devices in the IT infrastructure and the failure of a high-density device can affect larger segments of users or services. The pressure on IT for the proper support of a business service will only increase in the future and it is a "sucker" bet that the IT budgets will experience further reductions.

OOB infrastructure (OOBI) is an approach that interconnects disparate OOB components into a cohesive entity to enhance the management of the IT production infrastructure. In essence, OOBI enables cost effective interconnection between the OOB and the in-band management capabilities. In this way it provides the connectivity and data processing for "eye/hand" coordination, to carry on with the previous analogy, for significantly better availability and performance management. In addition, OOBI promotes collaboration within IT operations by uniformly supporting a more unified approach to security and compliance issues, enhanced management data integrity, and a number of other operational benefits that coalesce to enable cost efficient IT management methodologies.

So far, the OOBI approach has been ignored by many IT organizations primarily because it requires the maintenance of a secondary IT infrastructure. However, the maturity of the OOB core components from which OOBI is built and the unavoidable requirement for efficient collaboration between OOB and in-band management alleviate and outweigh the potential negative factors of maintaining secondary IT infrastructure. Based on this evaluation OOBI becomes an indispensable tool for cost efficient IT management in the future.

EMA is developing the industry's most comprehensive guide to OOB alternatives and choices from a variety of critical technology and market perspectives. While this solutions guide will be available later in September, I welcome your comments and insights into OOB solutions and their requirements in the meantime. Please e-mail me your comments.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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