[OpenBIOS] Serial consoles (was Re: boy is EFI a kludge!)

Chris Maresca ckm at crust.net
Wed Aug 29 00:32:14 CEST 2001

On Tue, 28 Aug 2001, Ronald G Minnich wrote:

> On Tue, 28 Aug 2001, Chris Maresca wrote:
> > Right, but what happens when the switch barfs @ 4am 500miles away?  With a
> > serial console, I can hookup either a modem or a portmaster.  If the
> > network fails, I can call the data center, tell them "turn on modem in
> > cage 12" and dialup do fix whatever is wrong (BTDT).  That's one of the
> > reasons why Sun hardware is so popular in server farms.
> our experience is different. We've had way more trouble with serial port
> concentrators, cables etc. than enet switches. Overall the scenario you
> describe would not work well for us. It does work for many people however.

Hhhmm, unfortunetly that has not been my experience.  The problem is not
usually the switch, but the WAN.  A site's network gets knocked over
(think Yahoo's recent denial of service attack or some such), and there is
no longer a way to access the machine remotely.  It's in Austin, Seattle
or NYC and I'm in San Francisco.  Even with backend networks, it's still a
huge problem.  Portmasters and their ilk are very reliable once setup (but
they are a b*tch to setup correctly) as are modems and phone lines.  

Even when you might have a dialup to a machine on the same segment, it's
possible that the machine has been so overload/damaged/whatever that it no
longer responds in a meaningfull way to network connections.  However,
serial connection almost always works. 

Note that this is the way that most large remote datacenters I have seen
are setup, I would think that a serial console would be very wanted and
usefull.  As others have pointed out, there are companies that take
advantage of this by producing products that mimick a serial console.

Another usefull and similar addition would be a BIOS based watchdog
program, but that's another topic...

chris maresca
      internet systems architect -- www.chrismaresca.com

"linux, only up 138 days, because california has flaky power... "

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