Applied Technology: G&D Reviews the Benefits of KVM-over IP

IP-based structures provide many advantages, but they may also pose challenges. Fortunately, today even the largest IT installations can be easily scaled; making it is time to include KVM-over-IP in these networks.

KVM devices enable the spatial separation between computers and users. To transmit signals, KVM computer and user modules use twisted pair cables, optical fibres or IP structures to access the equipment stored in a separate technology room from remote workstations almost latency-free and with a high resolution. Which technology is best for my application? What are the benefits and challenges? What about applications that require high bandwidths? This and much more is explained by the German KVM manufacturer Guntermann & Drunck GmbH.

Original KVM systems use standard connection cables or single- or multi-mode optical fibres. Thanks to the standard connection technology, any existing cabling in the building can continue to be used or even be expanded, whereby KVM systems are operated through a dedicated network. Using a separate cable for KVM systems has the advantage of being able to fully exploit its bandwidth, resulting in optimum performance, highest image quality and best user experience.

In the application shown below, the computers are stored in an air-conditioned equipment room. A KVM matrix system lets users operate multiple computers via numerous simultaneous workplaces. The KVM matrix extends and switches the computer signals in real time, latency-free and without loss of image quality.

Figure 1. Traditional KVM network requires a wired link to each controller and CPU.  (Click to enlarge).

Figure 1. Traditional KVM network requires a wired link to each controller and CPU. (Click to enlarge).

KVM-over-IP: Advantages and Challenges

Control room applications benefit greatly from the use of IP. The desire to standardize network technology and integrate KVM components into the existing infrastructure is therefore growing. Using existing cabling, switches and routers does not only save costs, but also gives IT admins the flexibility to centrally configure and maintain the system. This way, existing IT installations can be scaled more easily, flexibly and cost-effectively via IP.

G&D's portfolio includes solutions for both original KVM and KVM-over-IP. Together with a series of IP extenders, the ControlCenter-IP forms a powerful matrix with which any connected workplace can access any remote computer. While the network infrastructure takes over the transport of KVM-over-IP using network switches and routers, the ControlCenter-IP contributes the logic. Transmission takes place compressed via CAT cabling or optical fibres via standard IP-based networks on layer 3, with a data transmission rate of 1 Gbit/s per line.

Figure 2. An IP-enabled KVM network allows any computer to talk to any CPU or console. Such a design also easily supports changing operational requirements as newer technologies must be supported or networks are expanded.  (Click to enlarge).

Figure 2. An IP-enabled KVM network allows any computer to talk to any CPU or console. Such a design also easily supports changing operational requirements as newer technologies must be supported or networks are expanded. (Click to enlarge).

The recommended bandwidth for G&D's IP systems is 1 Gbit per transmission. For existing infrastructures with a smaller bandwidth, several KVM devices can be bundled, depending on the application requirements. Therefore even a network with limited uplinks on a 1 Gbit basis can be sufficient to operate small KVM installations over IP.

Another advantage of IP-supported structures is that IP networks are duplex-capable. Therefore, the cabling can be used in both directions when transmitting KVM packets. This option provides even more flexibility. Thus, it may be possible to reduce the number of required cables in installations where two company buildings are to be connected, for example.

One of the most important requirements for every KVM transmission – whether original or over IP – is the video quality. The transmission of video signals must be pixel-perfect and as latency-free as possible, without sharpness reduction and with high performance.  G&D develops KVM systems for both compressed and uncompressed transmission, either for twisted pair cables or optical fibres. G&D's classic, compressing KVM systems as well as G&D’s KVM-over-IP provide pixel-perfect transmission and use the company's own HDIP compression method. This compression mode provides for the loss-less transmission of video signals with a resolution of 4K at 60Hz.

Outlook

The new IP systems do not generally replace original KVM systems because these systems have their own advantages and are still used in many projects. Whether choosing an IP system or going for an original one is not the most important point. In order to have a future-proof installation, systems must be adaptable so that they can still be used with changing requirements and retrofitted when the system grows.

However, it is often impossible to generally recommend employing either an IP or an original KVM system, because each project is based on individual requirements and framework conditions.

Therefore, when planning a KVM installation, you must take some important aspects into account. Depending on the project criteria, a cost-benefit analysis is always recommended. Also, require that the supplier provide accurate and reliable system information, and proper support. 

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