Geek Tools – OpenGear ACM5004 Console Servers

While I was at Cisco Live, I was invited to sit in on a Tech Field Day event with OpenGear. This was my first Tech Field Day, and hopefully not my last. You can see the full video here: http://techfieldday.com/event/clus13/

Additionally, you can see a great blog post, written by Bob McCouch,
about the event here:
http://herdingpackets.net/2013/07/13/openly-passionate/

and Blake Krone’s take on the event here:
http://blakekrone.com/2013/07/09/one-console-to-rule-them-all

In short, OpenGear did a awesome job presenting a new product, the IM7200. They asked us about use cases, answered all of our questions, and impressed quite a few of us in the room.

After the event, I ended up speaking with their team about a couple of ideas that I had for their product. Based on that conversation, they were nice enough to make a unit available for testing. I received it a couple of weeks after Cisco Live, set it up on my network, and began playing.

For the past three to four weeks, I have been using the console server on my network, and trying to figure out what I wanted to write about it. I’ve started this post at least three different times, and each time scrapped the post after an hour of work. Why was it so hard to write about you ask?

Because this is one loaded device! This thing has EVERYTHING you could want on your network.

WHAT IS GOOD?
-RJ45 ports for connecting to console ports. No special cables, no adapters in most cases, no rollover cables. Plug one end of a straight-through cable into the console sever, and the other end into the console port of a switch or router, and away you go.
-In addition to standard console ports, the ports can be configured in a number of various ways. This should allow for connection to almost any device in your network.
-SSH, Telnet, FTP, TFTP, HTTP, HTTPS, DHCP, NTP, SNMP, DNS Server/Relay, and the list goes on.
-Once you have devices connected, you can access them various ways. SSH, Telnet, no surprises, right? How about a web terminal? Yes, it is that awesome.
-I/0 ports. These ports can be sensed (door sensors, environmental monitoring, etc) or set (activate a relay to release a door.) Imagine with me working on a remote site, you ask the user on the phone to walk over to the door. You unlock the door for them, and see when the door is ajar. You ask them to complete your task, and then to close the door. Does the user close the door, or hang out and play in your IDF? Well, now you know.
-USB Port. The usb port can be used for flash storage, or it can be used to connect to devices which only support USB console devices.
-Easy to set firewall rules. Do you only want SSH allowable outside of the trusted network? No problem. Settings are made with a checkbox.

I could keep going. I could mention the IPSec, OpenVPN, and DDNS options…but I won’t.

WHAT COULD USE WORK?
My gripes are pretty small with this device.
-The documentation and product CD push additional software (SDT Connector) for creating connections. Really, I don’t see the purpose. Connections to the ports are easily made over SSH (or Telnet if you like living on the edge) by specifing the correct tcp port; 300X for SSH and 200X for telnet, where X is the console port number.
-Because this device has SO MANY OPTIONS, I think some default options would make setup faster and easier. If you could select a group of ports and assign a Cisco Console Profile to them, and choose another group and assign a APC Environmental Monitoring Profile to those, setup would go much easier.

Ultimately, what you need to know is that this device is a Linux server. It is capable of doing anything that a small Linux server can do. What makes this such a compelling product is that Opengear has packaged all of the daemons and services that can be used in a network into a single simple to use form-factor. Let’s face it, we spend our day configuring complex network services. Our network and device management shouldn’t be
difficult.

This isn’t the last that you will hear about my impressions with the Opengear ACM5004. I’m currently working on a use-case at work which I will write up in the near future. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

***Opengear provided an ACM5004 for this review. No other services or payment were received.***

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2 thoughts on “Geek Tools – OpenGear ACM5004 Console Servers

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