Out-of-Band Network Management: Fundamental Principles & Use Cases

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Out-of-band network management gives enterprises secure and remote access to critical network infrastructure, even during outages and service interruptions. It separates your production network from your management plane, allowing you to remotely troubleshoot, monitor, and administer your infrastructure without relying on a LAN or ISP connection.

Let’s take a closer look at the Out-of-band network management fundamental principles, use cases, and their benefits.

Out-of-band network management fundamental principles

Out-of-band (OOB) network management provides a secure, remote connection to your network that’s available during outages, breaches, and other service disruptions. It does this using a network that’s specifically dedicated to infrastructure management and is completely independent of your primary network. OOB uses serial console servers to create an alternate path to critical network devices with a separate management plane, typically using a 4G LTE cellular connection to provide you with uninterrupted access to your network.

You implement out-of-band network management by deploying these serial console servers at every office, remote branch, data center, and other physical sites. By physically connecting your OOB serial consoles to critical network devices like routers, switches, and servers, you ensure engineers and administrators can always reach those devices without an IP address. That means your management plane is always available, even if your ISP connection goes down.

OOB network management provides higher-level remote access and control capabilities for multiple devices from one pane of glass. If your primary network experiences an outage, you can use OOB to reboot routers, troubleshoot connection problems, or perform device health checks. 

The best part is that you can access your out-of-band serial console servers from anywhere in the world – so your team can respond to issues at remote sites just as quickly as at your main office.

 

Out-of-band network management use cases and benefits

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The ability to remotely manage your infrastructure from a dedicated network presents many business advantages. Let’s examine some out-of-band network management use cases and benefits in greater detail.

Remote troubleshooting

Imagine getting a phone call at 3 a.m. because a remote site on the other side of the country has gone dark, and nobody knows why. This scenario is every network engineer’s nightmare for a good reason—in the past, you’d have to pack a bag and hop on a plane just to get any sort of visibility on the infrastructure and what the problem might be. The cost of an outage like this, both in travel expenses and the hours of business downtime, can be devastating. For example, in a recent Information Technology Intelligence Consulting survey, four in ten enterprise organizations said an hour of downtime now costs their firms from $1 million to over $5 million. Now imagine how many hours it would take just to fly to your remote site to get eyes on the problem.

  • Benefits of out-of-band network management in this scenario

With out-of-band network management, this exact scenario is much easier to manage. As soon as your branch office goes dark, you can use your OOB management solution to connect and begin troubleshooting in a matter of minutes. Using the figure above, three hours of downtime while your technician travels to your remote site could cost up to $15 million. With OOB management, you could potentially avoid those hours of travel and downtime, saving your business a lot of money.

If your enterprise has many remote sites spread out over a wide geographical area, out-of-band network management can simplify remote infrastructure troubleshooting and support. Rather than hiring a technician for each region or paying to fly out your engineers every time there’s an issue, your team can fully support all your remote sites from a centralized location.

Remote infrastructure management

Without any sort of unified infrastructure management, engineers must work with many different devices and interfaces. Needing to learn and configure so many systems and constantly hop from machine to machine and interface to interface increases the potential for mistakes. According to ITIC, misconfigurations and other human errors are the top cause of unplanned downtime, so it’s critical to look for ways to simplify infrastructure management and reduce staff mistakes.

  • Benefits of Out-of-band network management in this scenario

Out-of-band network management isn’t just for outages—it’s a dedicated network you can use to manage all your critical infrastructure from one unified tool. OOB allows you to monitor, manage, and manipulate servers and appliances remotely. You can check event logs, monitor temperature, and even remotely control the keyboard and mouse to manage server operating systems. In addition, OOB network management consoles can automate some commands and functions, further simplifying your infrastructure management.

Data center admins and service providers need to manage a huge amount and variety of network infrastructure so having a unified out-of-band solution can help them realize many benefits. Using OOB to monitor and manage servers and appliances remotely, engineers can control multiple facilities from one central console, saving time and reducing the number of staff required at each location.

Network isolation and security

With in-band network management, all your administration and management ports are connected to the production network. If an attacker breaches your production network, they could use those ports to access more sensitive parts of your infrastructure. Plus, if your production network goes down, so does your management network. With out-of-band network management, all your administration functions are on an entirely independent network, separating user and management traffic. In the event of a breach, engineers can use their OOB console to isolate parts of the network, restrict access, and secure the management plane.

Another security pain point addressed by OOB network management is keeping colocation infrastructure protected while still ensuring adequate visibility. Often, physical access to colocation hardware is restricted for security purposes, so if there’s an outage or breach, you may not be able to get visibility on the problem.

  • Benefits of out-of-band network management in this scenario

With out-of-band network management, you can remotely access and manage your colocation infrastructure even when the ISP connection is down. This allows you to fully control your hardware and remediate issues quickly without compromising facility security.

Network security should be on every enterprise’s priority list right now. Cyberattacks are common and can be economically disastrous—according to a recent IBM study, the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. Investing in an out-of-band network solution that allows you to isolate your production network from your management plane and gain visibility on physically secure devices could prevent such a breach from occurring and save you money in the long run.

The right out-of-band network management solution

Out-of-band network management provides numerous benefits to any organization seeking to improve its remote infrastructure management capabilities. Using OOB, you can remotely troubleshoot network issues from anywhere in the world, even if the primary ISP is down. OOB solutions also simplify remote infrastructure management by providing a unified control panel to monitor, manage, and manipulate all your servers and appliances. 

Finally, you can improve your network security by segregating all device management from your production network while still maintaining remote and colocation hardware. All of this is possible with a unified out-of-band network management solution, like ZPE Systems’ Nodegrid.

Nodegrid is a complete out-of-band network management solution that offers you total network control from any location. To learn more about how ZPE Systems can help you streamline your remote infrastructure management, contact us online or call 1-844-4ZPE-SYS.