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Opengear Goes Remote for Power Management

Managing power locally can be as simple as flipping a switch, but what happens when you've got hundreds of sites geographically dispersed?

It's a problem that open source vendor Opengear is now tackling with a new release of its hardware console server software.

The new software release is officially tagged as the version 2.8 firmware for Opengear's systems management hardware. The new release enables Opengear users to be able to centrally manage distributed UPSs . The move also expands Opengear's capabilities beyond just basic server management with monitoring and access to include power management capabilities.

Additionally, the new software benefits from a number of different open source power management projects that stand to benefit in return from Opengear's contributions.

"Our consoles servers monitor PDUs [power distribution unit] and UPSs and log this data and take actions on preset triggers events," Bob Waldie, Opengear's CEO and chairman, told InternetNews.com. "The console servers also provide single windows though which authorized users can switch the power off to any managed device."

Waldie explained that the software also provides remote users with secure access to the power tools and information, so if the DSL modem goes down or the firewall was reprogrammed denying normal access, a user can still dial in to the console server and power cycle or reconfigure the device.

The move to include remote power management in Opengear's hardware is something that was driven by customer demand, the company said. Waldie said one of his customers is a retail chain with hundreds of outlets distributed throughout the U.S., and it wanted to be able to centrally monitor its power, in some cases, auto-powering down if their outlets have outages, but taking different actions after hours to ensure it avoided after-hours call outs.

"So as well as adding the central management of distributed UPS and making the power management available across all console servers, we have also extended the scripting tools so it now is far simpler for customers to embed their own custom power control Bash scripts," Waldie said.

Building with open source

Though Opengear's hardware management technology is built on open source software, it's not necessarily something that a user could easily put together themselves. Waldie explained that the two main open source power management tools Opengear integrates are Powerman and Network UPS Tools (NUT).

Opengear also runs its platform on a Linux box and uses the RRDtool application for power logging. Opengear adds some scripts on the front end for setting alert thresholds and alert messaging. In addition to the software, there is also a need to be able to connect the power hardware.

"To manage remote sites, which each have some serial/USB connected and/or network connected UPS devices and PDUs, you'll need to locate one of your Linux boxes at every site," Waldie said. "With the Opengear solution for a small site, we have all these software pieces bundled in our CM4001 console server, which has a MSRP of $225, which probably is more affordable than the roll-your-own box."

Opengear's open source software journey began in 2005 when it created an KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) management appliance. Waldie said Opengear is a supporter of the Network UPS Tools (NUT) project, and Opengear software engineers do contribute to the expansion of network-based PDU vendors and supported models.

"While we certainly are not key developers, we do dialog regularly with Arnaud Quette, the NUT project leader in France, and we like to think we influenced the project stepping out from its UPS-only origins to now embrace PDU management and linking with Powerman," Waldie said. "Our dream is that NUT eventually grows even further and embraces environmental management, which will make it an extraordinarily powerful open source tool."