[Beowulf] KVM advice

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Fri Jan 16 07:39:28 PST 2009

stephen mulcahy wrote:
> Hi,
> Do people here normally use KVMs for management of compute nodes or 
> forego those and either have a grad student with a keyboard+monitor on a 
> trolley or rely entirely on remote management cards and/or IPMI?

IPMI 2.0 with kvm over IP whenever possible.  Crash cart when not possible.

> For those of you that use KVMs, what ones do you normally use?

We have used Raritan, Trendnet, Belkin, and others.  Won't use Belkin again.

> I'm taking a look around at the moment and for 40+ nodes, KVMs look like 
> quite an expensive option. It's not clear either how well or which KVMs 
> can be operated remotely.
> The scenario I have is that I have ~40 nodes in a room and I would like 
> to hook a KVM switch to all of these and be able to connect to the 
> switch from other parts of the building. I see Avocent (for example) 
> have some switches that kinda fit this model - but its not clear whether 
> the Avocents can be accessed over a standard Ethernet LAN, or whether 
> you have to run a dedicated CAT5 cable around your building specifically 
> to connect to the KVM switch.

The KVM signals aren't usually ethernet, so you do need to run cabling 
to the nodes.  From the KVM switch to the display, for kvm over IP, this 
is over gigabit.   Works fine.

> Any experience from others on this welcome, I've mostly relied on 
> post-boot remote access, remote management cards and IPMI up to now.

You can go cheap or good, or mixtures of these.  I find the kvm over ip 
to be one of the best solutions.  The crash cart is for "emergencies". 
The Raritan and other solutions offer some cool capabilities, albeit 
over a Java based console (or some of the really cheap units do it 
entirely over a windows based client).  This causes problems, as Java 
sorta-kinda works on 64 bit machines, and not so much as a browser 
plugin on 64 bit machines (yeah, I know they released it ... does a good 
job of crashing browsers ...).

Trendnet has a 1 port kvm over ip box that plugs into their daisy 
chainable other units.  Mostly works, though has limits, and again, 
being a client-ized java app that likes to talk over many ports, doesn't 
do so well at remote sites without a full-on network to network routing 
VPN ... a point to point VPN doesn't work with it.

Several others do similar things.

> Thanks,
> -stephen

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423 x121
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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