Intel is taking out-of-band technology to the chip level.
The US-based chip giant is developing what it calls Active Management Technology (AMT), which promises to give developers more ways to use out-of-band system controls, according to Frank Spindler, vice-president of Intel's corporate technology group and director of industry technology programs.
Traditionally, out-of-band technology has provided an extra layer of administrative control to IT networks by taking advantage of alternate paths around standard network connections--paths such as serial ports, KVM and console switches, and power distribution units.
Using these common, alternate control methods, network devices can be rebooted via out-of-band products even when the devices have crashed their operating systems and can no longer can be guided by in-band software management products.
Intel's AMT is aimed at giving out-of-band vendors such as Cyclades, Avocent and Raritan a way to add hardware troubleshooting, inventory management and other control features that can be accessed whether or not the operating system is up and running, said Spindler.
"This puts out-of-band management right on the chip," said Spindler. He declined to give a time frame for the arrival of AMT.
Intel's AMT project was driven by a realisation that the avenue of network control offered by out-of-band hadn't been fully realised, said Spindler.
After all, if IT could use out-of-band to reboot a server after it had failed and gone out of reach of the primary in-band management platform, why not go the extra step of adding more advanced management across all existing out-of-band connections?
This realisation was what drove Cyclades to unveil an AlterPath Manager appliance that centralised the management of out-of-band network control systems while adding functionality such as event logging, enterprise security integration and event notification, said Charles Waters, vice-president of global marketing at Cyclades in the US.
With the AlterPath Manager, Cyclades added the intelligent platform management interface to its checklist of supported out-of-band protocols, said Waters.
While out-of-band technology had commonly supported high-end network environments in financial and engineering verticals, increasing popularity of clustered server environments and utility computing in business networks had created a promising new market for out-of-band products, said Doris Yeh, director of sales at Mirapath, a data centre-focused reseller in the US.
Yeh said the opportunity clustered servers represent for out-of-band is what whet Intel's appetite to develop silicon for out-of-band technology.
"In every single cluster that has been built by us, people want out-of-band management," said Yeh.
"That's why Intel is so into it. Clusters are difficult to manage, and [out-of-band technology] can not only help manage a cluster, but reduce IT spending. I personally think out-of-band management is something that will really take off in the near future, and you can tell by the investment that Intel is making."
By adding out-of-band functionality to its silicon with AMT, Intel may level the playing field for out-of-band vendors that compete on their particular strengths in managing specific out-of-band protocols, said Spindler.
For example, Cyclades' strength currently lies in the console management environment, whereas Avocent plays more to the KVM-centric environment, said Matt Kaveney, president of Kelly Communications, a VAR in the US that sells products from both out-of-band vendors.
"But either way, there's a big market for out-of-band management, particularly in networks that run truly mission-critical applications, like financial companies," Kaveney said.
Challenging such a market opportunity is the lack of awareness of out-of-band technology, said Yeh.
"We run into customers all the time who haven't heard about [out-of-band technology]," said Yeh. "But we have been educating people about it."