A Portable Wireless IP KVM Solution

November 11, 2008 Technical, General

If you have hundreds of dedicated servers in a remote datacentre, and a need to operate on the console of some of those servers on a semi-regular basis (and I KNOW you do), then you’ll understand the frustration of having to physically put someone in front of those machines. You need to take into account travel time, and waiting time while the server is doing anything until the next point it requires input from the human.

This can all be very frustrating and time wasting, since whoever is designated to operate the console is taken away from their regular tasks, and datacentres being what they are it is unlikely they’ll be able to make the best use of their time by multi-tasking with other jobs.

Enter the Wireless IPKVM. No doubt you are familiar with KVMs, and IPKVMs are simply a network-operable extension of that concept. Add a Wireless bridge to the equation and you have a truly portable and remotely-accessible KVM! There are integrated Wireless IPKVM solutions available, but we found that they relied on a proprietary protocol, required a matching transceiver pair, didn’t support standard 802.11g or WPA2 or they were just too expensive.

Wireless IPKVM internals

Here we have the following:

  • JayCar kit box
  • AdderLink IPEPS IPKVM
  • Linksys Business Wireless Bridge

The wireless bridge requires its own power supply unless you are using Power over Ethernet, so we included that in the kit box. The IPKVM is powered from either PS/2 or USB connections to the server you connect it to. We have a Cat5 cable connecting the IPKVM to the wireless bridge; sadly I couldn’t find a shorter cable at the time but it also acts as a spacer between the top of the wireless bridge and the kit box.

The pieces of foam you can see in the picture act as spacers between internal components and the kit box. Once the lid is on, none of the components can move around in the box. We also drilled some cooling holes in the box around the wireless bridge, and made openings for the connectors to the IPKVM and wireless bridge power adaptor. The wireless bridge antennae stick out at the back through another couple of holes. Due to the space constraints I had to allow the wireless bridge power plug and RJ45 connector to stick out a little – in future revisions I may get a slightly larger kit box but there isn’t a perfect size available unfortunately.

Side view of the IPKVM

Configured to connect to our WPA2-protected wireless network, we were able to log into the IPKVM instantly. Response time is good, and the only gripe at the moment is that if you remotely power cycle the machine it is connected to, the IPKVM is rebooted also. Without including another power supply for the IPKVM in the kit box, we will have to live with this however.

Rear view of the IPKVM

Now that we have had success with this little project, in the next revision I may make some of the following improvements:

  • take all the covers of the internal components for space saving and improved cooling
  • align the antennae in the middle of the case so cables coming from the wireless bridge are hidden
  • reuse PCB mount points to screw the boards into the kit box, or use some sort of glue
  • unified power supply for the wireless bridge and IPKVM

Power adaptor side of IPKVM

Here are a few photos of the finished product with the lid on:

KVM connectors

Antennae and cooling holes

Underside of IPKVM

The finished Wireless IPKVM