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Exclusive: Taking control of the best solutions

Jochen Bauer, head of sales and marketing at Guntermann & Drunck looks at KVM-over-IP vs Classical KVM, and discusses what is the best solution for control room applications

Being deeply rooted in control room applications, KVM systems provide an ideal basis for the flexible, distributed switching of computer signals. They are successfully applied in a wide range of control room applications such as critical control rooms like traffic control, railway, public safety as well as broadcast control rooms, industrial automation control and marine applications. For years, AV and IT applications have been merging more and more. Control rooms are gradually IT based, so managing and monitoring IT more efficiently is becoming increasingly important. KVM systems offer an excellent basis for operating various heterogeneous systems on a homogeneous user platform. They become the backbone of the entire IT infrastructure in control rooms and ensure perfect system interoperability.

Generally, one distinguishes between classical KVM systems and KVM-over-IP. But what technology is the better choice for your control room application? What are the differences, what benefits and challenges do they have, and what should you keep in mind when choosing a KVM system for your project?

KVM systems enable you to remove the powerful control room servers from the working area. For this purpose, computers are usually moved out in access-protected and air-conditioned areas. From the equipment room, fibre optics, CAT cables or IP structures extend the computer signals back to the workplaces. Particularly with regard to the current pandemic, KVM allows users to be even further separated from each other by enabling them to work in other premises, while still getting full access to all the systems they need. Thanks to KVM, operators have uniform access to the most diverse systems. In other words, the entire control room team still has access to the remote computer technology – in real time and at full performance.

The most important difference between classical KVM and KVM-over-IP is the type of transmission technology. Classical KVM uses dedicated cabling meaning that a dedicated network is usually set up for these systems. This way, the available bandwidth can be optimally utilised without other network-capable devices taking up bandwidth for themselves. The staff benefits from optimum performance combined with best possible image quality and a perfect user experience. One should also keep in mind that thanks to the standard transmission technology, a possibly already existing in-house cabling infrastructure can still be used or even be expanded. Last but not least, classical KVM systems ensure fully secure access thanks to the complete control of the transmission medium.

IP-based KVM systems have been gaining in importance for years. Many control room applications also benefit greatly from the use of IP. Using existing cabling, switches and routers does not only save costs, but also provides operators and administrators with flexibility and ease of use. KVM-over-IP is established on standard IP-based networks and offers ideal solutions for working in network structures. Together with a series of IP extenders, G&D’s ControlCenter-IP forms a powerful matrix granting any connected operator station access to any remote computer. While the network infrastructure takes over the transport of KVM-over-IP™ packets using network switches and routers, the ControlCenter-IP contributes the logic. Transmission takes place compressed via CAT cabling or optical fibres via standard IP-based networks on layer 3 – even beyond sub networks.

Being able to use standard network components makes employing KVM-over-IP particularly interesting because existing IT installations can be scaled more easily, flexibly and cost-effectively. Existing structures can also be used depending on the demands of the application.

IP networks are becoming increasingly powerful. Network infrastructure for 10Gbit, 40Gbit or even 100Gbit bandwidth are no longer an exception. This means that there is usually sufficient bandwidth to easily scale IT installations and implement them over IP. Control room operators and system administrators are familiar with IP and many of them already use IP structures for various applications through the whole control room. Therefore, KVM-over-IP is a logical next step in the development of fully IT-based structures in control rooms.

As pioneer in the KVM industry, G&D develops solutions for both classical KVM and KVM-over-IP. The company offers KVM-over-IP extender systems for DP1.1, DP1.2, DVI and DL-DVI video signals. Due to predefined IP addresses, plug & play is supported for both console and computer modules. By using existing network infrastructures in a 1:1 connection, it couldn’t be easier to put the modules into operation. With the help of a control unit, the ControlCenter-IP, the extenders can be operated in matrix mode. With this powerful matrix system, signals can be distributed and shared as desired within the LAN infrastructure. Now users at every connected console can be provided with access to every remote computer.

Transmission takes place compressed and IP-based with a data transmission rate of up to 10 Gbit/s per line via Ethernet networks. For existing infrastructures with smaller bandwidths, several KVM devices can be bundled, depending on the application requirements. Here, the bandwidth per route can be reduced to approx. 300 to 500 Mbit. So even a network with limited uplinks based on 1 GBit/s can be sufficient to operate small KVM installations over IP.

Particularly with regard to pandemic aspects, KVM-over-IP allows users to be even further separated from each other by enabling them to work in other premises, while still giving them full access to all the systems they need. Thus, operator can access their remote computers via KVM technology and work in real time and at full performance.

The obvious question now is how team members are able to remotely access a KVM-over-IP system and the underlying computing landscape from home.

G&D‘s solution for this issue is called RemoteAccess-GATE. The stand-alone device links the KVM system to the network world, providing remote access to the IT infrastructure connected to the KVM system via LAN, WAN and the Internet. G&D’s RemoteAccess-GATE supports working remotely from home offices in the most efficient way and also improves collaboration within teams.

Of course, the device meets the highest security requirements. Security features include AES encryption, LDAP, Active Directory and RADIUS directory server integration, user and group privileges, IP access control, login limitations, KVM session encryption, SSL certificates, configurable security banner, monitoring protocol, SNMP/Syslog event logging and notifications as well as secure passwords.

But when should you use classical KVM and when is KVM-over-IP the better choice? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to this question as selecting KVM systems always depends on the individual project parameters and preferences. KVM-over-IP offers many opportunities to organise work and workflows in a resource-saving and cost-efficient way. The technology enables flexible, reliable and highly secure infrastructures by creating user-friendly systems that are intuitive to use and easily scalable as needed. On the other side, with classical KVM systems, users benefit from optimum performance and best possible image quality, making classical KVM the preferred choice for many control room applications.

Depending on the application, it may be worth comparing classical KVM systems with KVM-over-IP. However, it is not possible to generally recommend one or the other system, since each project is based on individual requirements and framework conditions. In addition to parameters, which are decisive based on the given infrastructure or objective, subjective factors also play a major role. With many years of project experience, G&D’s KVM experts are happy to support their customers in planning and implementing their individual projects.