KVM-Over-IP Comes Of Age

With many production personnel working from home these days, gaining access to computers and systems back at the studio can be tricky, both logistically and due to obtaining the right security authorization. In many cases, a network- or software-based solution is not adequate because the available bandwidth might run out, the VPN connection does not always guarantee sufficient transmission quality, or the connection is not reliable or secure enough.

One solution has been to use remote server access, or KVM-over-IP, products (also called IP-based terminal servers). These units plug into the Keyboard, Video and Mouse ports of a computer or server and reliably and cost-effectively transmit those signals to a connected user or several users on a secure network or the public Internet. This allows for secure, fast, and high-quality connections between users and servers, computers, or virtual machines located back in the main production facility. The user can then perform essential operations, process monitoring, and maintenance of IT equipment from anywhere.

Interoperability Is Key

However, as many facilities consider the move to cloud-based operations, they must first understand how their existing inventory of equipment will interoperate with virtualized services. This is often referred to as a hybrid system—on cloud and on-premise. However, to do it successfully, there’s got to be some type of gateway bridge that gets your signals from SDI into IP with efficiency and reliability.

A new idea being considered for today’s increasingly virtualized production environments is to integrate virtual machines into existing KVM matrix installations. Thus far KVM systems have traditionally been part of an on-premise installation that was easily manipulated and adjusted as required. The new KVM matrix controls the logic and takes over user administration. And all connection data is forwarded in encrypted form, so security is assured.

In hybrid systems, these new products act as a remote gateway to access virtual machines or other remote targets. Users can choose between and operate all available virtual machines, but only one at a time. If multiple users wanted to operate a number of virtual machines from multiple CPUs, tech vendors have developed a pooling function that combines specific remote targets with one or more CPUs to form a remote pool. This means that the selected remote gateways are always exclusively kept free for these targets. As a result, predefined virtual machines remain accessible at all times.

KVM Over IP devices are designed for quick intuitive access to multiple computers.

KVM Over IP devices are designed for quick intuitive access to multiple computers.

Non-Intrusive Hardware-Based Solutions

The most useful KVM over IP products are non-intrusive hardware-based solutions that allow you both in-band and out-of-band network access to all the servers connected to your KVM switch. Featuring advanced security features and full compatibility with any operating system, these KVM Over IP products allow users to remotely control all of their servers/CPUs —including pre-boot functions such as editing CMOS settings and power cycling your servers. KVM Over IP products also allow access with an internal LAN/WAN and connectivity via the Internet.

A new generation of KVM systems can even provide a hybrid solution consisting of hardware-based connections between computers and users and software-based technology that can turn a Windows 10 laptop into a KVM receiver.

Making The Switch

A KVM switch allows you to control multiple computers from a single KVM console. They also enable access and control of both local and remote network equipment with KVM extension solutions, and can remotely access and control devices from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. (Most models without built-in remote access allow you to add an optional IP remote access unit.) Other devices, such as headphones, microphones, storage devices, or even graphics tablets, can be connected to these switches without having to plug a USB cable in each time. These switches also support multiple displays, various video interfaces (DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort), and high resolutions such as UHD 4K.

To gain scale, enterprise-level KVM switches can be daisy-chained or cascaded to allow over 1,000 computers with multiple users to be controlled from a single KVM console.

The KVM switch is a hardware device that allows users to manage multiple computers from a single keyboard, video display monitor and mouse. By pressing the button on the KVM switch, the administrator can monitor all the devices locally and remotely.

The KVM switch is a hardware device that allows users to manage multiple computers from a single keyboard, video display monitor and mouse. By pressing the button on the KVM switch, the administrator can monitor all the devices locally and remotely.

USB Type-C Docking Stations

To ensure that there is always sufficient connectivity for laptops and tablets at home, many are using USB C docking stations. These are especially useful if your laptop does not have enough ports for USB peripherals, or your laptop and external monitor do not have the same connectors. USB C docking stations, which are now very cost-effective, provide you with enough connections for all your peripheral devices at all times.

The choice of PC, AV, and network cabling all affect the performance of your in-home technology. Insufficient, unshielded, or unnecessarily long cables can lead to transmission loss. Some cables do not support the bandwidth you need to make a high-speed internet connection. Therefore you must ensure the cabling you use to connect all of your devices is high quality, uses the right shielding, and supports the bandwidth you need to get your job done effectively. And, if you need to use adapters or converters to make connections between new and legacy equipment, make certain they are high quality as well.

Unified Communications

Also critical to remote working are unified communications platforms that allow employee mobility and ensure availability, even when the main production studio is no longer the center of everyday business. These systems allow you to call, chat, meet online, or exchange files quickly, whether from the office or from home. When choosing a unified communications platform, ensure the system you pick fully supports the communications needs of in-office and remote employees. Also, carefully plan the underlying infrastructure and the deployment for your entire workforce.

While the advantages of KVM switches include saving space, reducing hardware costs and streamlining a production studio workflow, they have many more benefits. One is their energy efficiency. By reducing hardware redundancy via KVM switches, less power is consumed due to the lower total electrical load. Moreover, the use of KVM switches can reduce the number of server rack cabinets (and cable clutter), floor space, and the size of cooling systems.

Some professionals video teams are taking a cue from the military/defense industry, where government-certified KVM switches are used to provide access for desktop environments that require high security. In this type of KVM, hardware security is provided by tamper-evident tape, chassis intrusion detection and tamper-proof hardware, while software security is provided by restricted USB connectivity. An isolated channel per port makes it impossible for data to be transferred between secure and unsecured computers. By combining physical security with controlled USB connectivity, secure KVM switches consolidate multiple workstations of various security classification levels with one keyboard, monitor and mouse console.

The video industry’s use of KVM over IP technology—whether at home or on-premise—will continue to grow as remote operations become more prevalent. Even from the safety of a home studio an operator can control multiple devices, streaming workflows and increasing productivity in the process. This type of efficiency can’t be ignored in these challenging times.

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