Visara Launches ICON Line for Console Consolidation
November 2, 2004 Alex Woodie
Big OS/400 shops looking to consolidate the number of consoles used to manage their collection of AS/400s and iSeries servers may want to check out the new twinax consoles that Visara International launched this month. Visara (formerly Memorex Telex) introduced the ICON-20T, a rack-mountable Lintel computer that serves up to 20 browser-based green-screen console sessions for OS/400 servers, and ICON-1T, which provides a single console session.
While server consolidation has been a big driver for the iSeries in recent years, nobody talks much about console consolidation. When OS/400 servers start to proliferate in data centers, having a dedicated management console for each box can quickly eat into valuable floor space. Visara launched its ICON line of consoles to provide these companies with a product for console consolidation and to save them money.
With the ICON-20T, OS/400 shops can log on to and manage up to 20 AS/400 or iSeries servers from the same local or remote workstation. On the backside, up to 20 OS/400 servers can attach directly to the ICON-20T using up to five four-way Twinax adapter cards. Meanwhile, two Ethernet ports on the ICON-20T allow it to serve 5250 console management sessions, using SSL encryption, to any browser-equipped computer on a local or wide network.
To view the consoles of different iSeries servers from the same PC screen, many OS/400 shops would use keyboard, video, mouse (KVM) switches. “It’s klugey at best,” said Daniel Cody, Visara’s vice president of marketing, about using KVM switches as a console consolidation strategy. “This solution [ICON-20T] is extremely clean.”
The ICON-20T was built to be an enterprise-class-level server. It combines a 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon processor and a hardened Linux operating system into a 3U, rack-mountable chassis. It features an array of hot-swappable components, including a serial ATA hard drive, power supplies, and fans. It also features a CD-ROM drive, a 3.5-inch floppy drive, two 10BASE-T Ethernet ports, and five PCI expansion slots for the four-way Twinax adapters. The price tag on the ICON-20T is $15,000 to $32,000 fully equipped.
One of the browser-equipped computers that the ICON-20T could be serving console management sessions to is the new ICON-1T, which looks like a thin client and comes with a Linux operating system, 5250 and other emulations, an array of I/O connections and ports, and an optional 122-key keyboard. But with that twinax adapter on the back of the ICON-1T (it also has an Ethernet port), it really is a twinax console replacement product.
The ICON-1T is not your average twinax replacement product. One of the neat things you can do with this $2,500 device is to make the active display session available in more than one place at the same time. With this capability, the same active session can be viewed directly from the ICON-1T device located in the data center, as well as from browser-equipped PCs in your office or at your home office. This capability boosts remote iSeries management and can also help in the training of new employees, Visara says.
Visara says it applied the lessons it learned as a player in the mainframe console and connectivity market to the midrange market. “We were able to use our success and knowledge of the mainframe market and apply our skills to the development of specific solutions for this [midrange] market,” said Bill Phelps, Visara’s vice president of engineering. “We believe the ICON solutions will bring significant cost-savings and better management to the midrange community.”
NOT AN HMC REPLACEMENT
Visara launched its new ICON-20T and ICON-1T consoles at the recent COMMON conference in Toronto, Ontario, where it was a new-comer to the expo floor. Visara’s first appearance at COMMON coincided with an outpouring of dissatisfaction with IBM‘s new Hardware Management Console among COMMON attendees (see “Problems with Early i5 Plague Customers, Partners”).
While they provide similar functions, the ICON line and the Hardware Management Console target different generations of OS/400 servers. The HMC provides traditional console functions but also manages logical partitions (LPARs) and capacity upgrade on demand features, and only works with the i5-generation eServer hardware and i5/OS operating system. The ICON line will work with i5-generation OS/400 servers, but it really targets older hardware, especially in shops where twinax is still in widespread use. And while the ICON line can be used to set up logical partitions, as any console could, it doesn’t serve as the de facto primary logical partition for eliminating the single point of failure, which IBM did accomplish with the first-generation HMC (albeit in a less than completely satisfying way).
The ICON line competes with the iSeries Access for Windows and Personal Communications emulation packages from IBM, both of which include the Operations Console. Visara says that, unlike IBM’s offerings, the ICON line doesn’t require a PC to run Windows, which is susceptible to Windows viruses, whereas the ICON line is based on a proprietary version of Linux from Visara. “You just can’t get in it,” said Phelps, about the company’s flavor of Linux. Visara is also positioning its reliance on Twinax as a strength. “There is a nothing more reliable than a twinax display,” Phelps says.
For more information on the ICON products, go to www.visara.com.