No one enjoys spending a day building serial cables and pulling them to a switch box. We like crawling around behind the rack to connect a console cable to a seldom-used port even less.
Console servers can bring the same sort of easy device-switching seen in KVMs to the serial console port. With the addition of security through authentication and encryption, console servers can do even more, letting administrators reach console ports from remote locations.
We tested three console servers--Cyclades Corp.'s AlterPath ACS16, Digi International's Digi CM16 and Lantronix's SecureLinx SLC16--in our Gainesville, Fla., labs. All three devices have multiple serial output ports, as well as one or more Ethernet connections to reach the device as a user. Each has a serial console management port t used only as an option for configuration and management, not as a user input for controlling other connected devices. For a busy network administrator, such features are a real win.