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The basics and benefits of lights-out management

For remote IT capabilities, lights-out management tools enable admins to power servers off and on, monitor temperatures and remediate potential operational issues.

If you're looking to move to remote device management, or even just simplify your data center infrastructure, lights-out management may help you achieve that goal.

Lights-out management (LOM) is a form of out-of-band management that allows you to remotely manage, manipulate and monitor network equipment, such as servers and data center infrastructure. The name comes from the concept of setting up a server room, then shutting the lights off and locking the servers in that room.

With a LOM setup in place, you can perform a variety of device management functions -- such as turn a server on or off, check if the OS is functional or monitor processor temperatures -- via remote control.

Main functions of LOM systems

The main appeal of LOM is that it helps you use your resources more efficiently. For one, it can help you cut down on facility and cooling costs. It can also reduce the number of people required to manage an on-site server room, because you can streamline device management through one LOM software system.

Through this system, you can check the event log for all servers or any individual server remotely and instantly, which enables you to quickly identify and remediate problems without the need to step into the server room.

LOM cards or boards can provide access to keyboard, video and mouse components without a connection to an Ethernet local area network. This reduces the amount of cabling you need in your server room, and in cases of emergency or network issues, lets you access your servers and make adjustments as needed.

With LOM, you can even manage a server halfway around the world as if you were in the same room. This type of management is essential for IT teams that are based in one area but manage servers across the globe.

How can lights-out management help?

LOM enables you to diagnose operating system or server problems remotely, which lets you quickly respond to downtime events and increase overall uptime. Consider a situation in which an incoming disaster is headed toward your data center or server room. LOM can help you prepare way ahead of time.

If your servers are based in an area prone to natural disasters, you can track event progression from somewhere off-site and remotely shut down servers proactively. This can help you ensure the most vital data is protected and transferred to a safe location, and reduce the risk for data loss and hardware damage.

Similarly, in a situation where a lockdown is imminent or suddenly required, such as COVID-19, you won't have to worry about being on premises to manage your infrastructure. With the right access controls in place, you can remotely manage and monitor your servers without putting yourself and others in danger.

As time goes on, remote management offerings such as LOM will become more important to have in place -- companies that have these setups implemented can react and recover much quicker from disasters and unexpected operational interruptions.

Many vendors offer LOM systems, but they may have differing naming conventions and slightly different implementations. The following products offer similar features and functions, so you should vet them based on your management needs and what offering is most compatible with your infrastructure:

  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise Integrated Lights-Out
  • Oracle LOM Module
  • Dell Remote Access Controller
  • IBM Remote Supervisor Adapter
  • Cisco Integrated Management Controller

LOM implementation considerations

Before any deployment, make sure your infrastructure and software are compatible with a single LOM product. This greatly reduces the complexity of an LOM implementation and helps you realize the benefits sooner.

Also factor in security measures. If you plan on an LOM cards installation, you may decide to create a private management network that is separate from your data network.

On that network, you should establish strict access rights and password management. Treat your LOM setup exactly as you would normal servers -- include them in your security audits and regularly review the access logs.

And finally, while it may seem obvious, it's easy to overlook and worth reiterating: Don't forget to change the default credentials before deployment.

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