Matrix Switch Management Made Easy

Datacom's SCS centralizes switch, analyzer control.

September 26, 2003

4 Min Read
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Centralization of configuration tasks is a good thing, and network managers will welcome the one-stop control and troubleshooting abilities afforded by the SCS combined with the company's ManAgents software. Before the advent of the SCS, Datacom's switches were accessible directly via serial cable and other noncentralized methods, such as remote-control packages on PC-based analyzers.

The Architecture

I installed ManAgents console software on a workstation, which served as my central operating position. To fatten the test environment, I put the Remote Agent software (which runs as a service on remote analyzer tools built on Datacom SCS, FreeBSD, Linux or Windows) on two of my testers. Then, by adding the new hardware-based Switch Control Servers, I could connect via IP to groups of up to eight Datacom switches. All of Datacom's matrix switches can interact with the console software through two com ports per server module, so regardless of the mix of analyzer tools you use and the combination of Datacom switches you have, the SCS and ManAgents provide an open TCP/IP management framework.

DataCom SCS

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The SCS server is compact; an optional 1U rack mount holds three switches. Datacom also offers a 3U, 14-bay rack for high-density/high-reliability applications; this version includes dual redundant hot-swappable power supplies.

The server has two DB9 com ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port and indicator LEDs. But it lacks external labeling of each unit's MAC (Media Access Control) address, which would be helpful in a dense environment.

Ease of Use

The new SCS is designed to go over an existing Datacom switch environment. I don't have this sort of environment, so Datacom gave me a sample of its resource-sharing matrix switches along with the ManAgents console and Remote Agent software. For me, the switches caused far more head-scratching than did the SCSs that connected them to the network, but I did piece together a functional environment using Datacom's LANSwitch, FiberSwitchsystem and other switches, which let me centrally manage my attached analyzers.

Accessing the switch-control agents using the console software is as easy as managing everything else in the ManAgents environment. I just entered a password on a simple GUI.

SCSs and attached switches can be added and configured easily. In addition to setting the server's IP address and gateway parameters, you can change information on individual switches and channels from default labels for ease of identification and use. Multiple simultaneous switch-control windows are supported, and the built-in utilities are handy for troubleshooting and configuration. Because the SCS is a new hardware component in an existing management framework, it shouldn't be difficult for ManAgents users to get the hang of it.

Sample Switch Control Server Topology

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Using Fluke Network's Optiview, AppDancer's FA Flow Analyzer and the Shomiti Surveyor as my analyzers to be manipulated, I remotely accessed and rerouted the tools to look at different LAN network segments with little fanfare and even less difficulty. I could have looked at WAN links just as easily--the servers don't care which topologies are at the end of the network string. For those unfamiliar with Datacom, the resource-sharing switches are 100 percent fault tolerant, so even my inexperienced hands couldn't inadvertently hose the network in the name of remotely connecting an analyzer to a different network span through the SCS.

Beyond manipulating connections to test equipment, I experimented with local settings and changing switch addresses for daisy-chaining, as well as other basic configuration tasks that came easy with ManAgents and the SCS. After testing the SCS, I couldn't imagine taking on a matrix switching environment without it.

Lee Badman is a network engineer at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected].

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