Boxilla Orchestrates Complex KVM Environments

As broadcast facilities and master control rooms continue to grow in size and complexity, so too have the headaches for IT managers who are tasked with maintaining all of the various onsite KVM and central monitoring devices and systems. Some organizations have up to 1,000 end points that must be monitored, so getting a firm grip on all of the networked devices can be daunting.

Add to this the fact that with each new implementation of an internal CCTV or multi-display system comes the need for a way to ensure that that system or individual device within a facility is working properly. Often facilities find they are operating three or more systems as separate silos or doing double duty that is completely redundant and time consuming.

Talking A Big Picture View

The product engineers at Black Box Corporation veteran makers of KVM and ProAV display, switching and transport technology, have developed a system-wide monitoring solution for high-performance KVM systems called Boxilla that acts as a single unifying software-centric channel management platform. It includes the ability to analyze and control all of Black Box’s products—including InvisaPC, DKM, ControlBridge and Coalesce—as a single entity. Boxilla currently manages Black Box’s InvisaPC (a KVM Over IP Extender) and DKM (matrix switches) product lines, with support for its DCX and Freedom matrix switching products to be available in coming releases.

“We saw a need for system management as opposed to single device management,” said John Hickey, Senior Director of Black Box for the KVM and ProAV business. “We’re giving customer the power to orchestrate across device performance—individually and as a group—to create a seamless and intuitive user experience that makes our customers more efficient in how they do their job and significantly more productive.”

Boxilla is more than just a monitoring platform, but also includes valuable features for security, protecting against unauthorized access to the network and all of the devices attached to it. As content devices move from being proprietary to operating over IP, security has become a big concern. Facility managers want to know that their devices are secure and are not being hacked. Available KVM appliances can be locked down so that they only perform the function that they want it to do. This allows Boxilla to easily detect unwanted activity. The IT manager can also see these events as they happen, in real time, if Boxilla is set up that way.

A web-based dashboard GUI helps with authentication, access control, accountability, troubleshooting and device monitoring.

A web-based dashboard GUI helps with authentication, access control, accountability, troubleshooting and device monitoring.

“We recognized that there was a lack of security monitoring of the infrastructure inside a KVM workflow,” Hickey said. “Security is certainly important in order to make it an ideal solution for the enterprise marketplace. And you have to look at the entire system as a whole in order to get the full picture of how the system is operating at any point in time.”

Enterprise-Level Security

Boxilla is an enterprise-level platform that can manage up to 1,000 end-points. The company sells a basic starter version (for under $5,000US) that supports up to 24 nodes—with extra licenses available for future expansion. Unlike other KVM security software in the industry, Boxilla works by looking at the entire system (including drilling down to individual devices) and analyzing whether any un-authorized person is trying to hack into that device or the system at any end point. This information is then immediately sent back to the IT manager, who can quickly make adjustments via a web-based dashboard GUI for authentication, access control, accountability, troubleshooting and device monitoring. A single Boxilla unit can manage devices across two or more locations and be configured to have hot-standby redundancy in primary manager comes offline for any reason.

The InvisaPC™ bridges the gap between IP-based KVM extension and switching applications and access to virtual machines.

The InvisaPC™ bridges the gap between IP-based KVM extension and switching applications and access to virtual machines.

One key feature is system performance monitoring, whereby in an IP environment the Boxilla system looks at the amount of bandwidth each device or individual user is generating and adjustments can be made accordingly. There’s also Centralized Configuration Management, which allows up to 1,000 devices to be upgraded in batches of ten at a time. [Each end point takes about one minute to upgrade.] This is ideal for 24/7 operations, as the upgrade can be scheduled for late night when most of the staff has gone home.

In addition, the configuration of various devices can be centrally backed up and restored, eliminating the need for a technician to go to each device to upgrade firmware or restore the configuration.

Real-Time System Alerts

Boxilla also offers the operator various levels of system alerts to ensure facilities stay up and running. The dashboard interface provides a quick picture of what’s going on with the network. The operator is alerted in there ways if problems exist. An Information Alert is for normal day-to-day stuff: like people logging in and logging off the network. A Critical Alert that tells you that a device has gone offline, and a Warning might be that some device has exceeded its threshold in terms of bandwidth utilization or something similar. All of this information is at the operator’s fingertips at all times.

An intuitive Alerts screen Boxilla also offers the operator various levels of system alerts to ensure facilities stay up and running.

An intuitive Alerts screen Boxilla also offers the operator various levels of system alerts to ensure facilities stay up and running.

If a new component is added to the network, Boxilla automatically finds that device and ensures that it works seamlessly with other systems. Basically, the Boxilla system software works it out for them. Hickey said Black Box envisions automating many of the most manual tasks, making it easy for users to implement highly resilient deployments.

Black Box intends to release a virtual appliance by the end of the year, so that customers will have the option of using either an on-premise machine or one in the cloud. Larger systems typically employ this virtualized approach so they can use Boxilla multiple times whenever they want.

Improved Productivity

What’s clear is that the KVM market in general—including broadcast facilities, 911 operations center, military facilities and financial analyst organizations— is growing; at a rate of about 10 percent per year, according to industry research. So, the need for an easy solution to managing all of those devices has never been greater.

“Boxilla brings value to any organization by alerting the operator to things they need to be aware of, rather then having them have to go look for things and perhaps missing something in the process,” Hickey said, adding that Boxilla includes a variety of ways to search resources, including search by active connections, bandwidth allocation, user name, etc. “Customers like the dashboard interface because there’s not a big learning curve.

“The goal of Boxilla is to make the IT manager’s job more efficient so that they can be more productive,” Hickey said. “The less you have to touch the system the better. That’s really everyone’s goal that’s involved with a facility’s KVM workflow.”

Mission-critical organizations like broadcasters rely on 24/7 system reliability in order to stay competitive. With Boxilla, all of the most critical system performance information, and the ability to change it, are always at the user’s fingertips.

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