HomeLab Stage LV: KVM Solution

After completing my last blog post: HomeLab Stage LIV: Datacenter Documentation, I want to talk a little bit about my new KVM solution.

KVM? Come on, who needs that today?

IPMI

Nearly every server or system that I own has an integrated IPMI solution. Lenovo has their IMM, Dell servers the iDRAC, Dell VRTX the CMC, Supermicro the IPMI and so on. Why thinking about a KVM system? What about the systems that does not include an IPMI solution?

Intelligent Platform Management Interface - Wikipedia

IPMI inside servers are not enough, especially Apple MacMinis, my MacPro and the Raspberry Pi´s. I want the ability to remotely view and operate with every of my servers.

IBM LCM

I am using an good old IBM Local Console Manager (LCM) for several years inside one of my racks. The benefit of it is that you can use normal CAT cables for the KVM connections and you can cascade them. The internal part number of it was: IBM 1735-L04.

IBM LCM 4-port KVM Switch 32P1635 1735-l04 32p1644 günstig kaufen | eBay
4 local ports for KVM connections (8 stacked per port)

Several KVM cables are available for the different connection types:

IBM 1735 Rack-Based Local Console Switches (Withdrawn) Product Guide  (withdrawn product) > Lenovo Press
KCO and UCO can be stacked, the VCO option not

I have attached an rack display + keyboard with integrated touchpad to it. It worked great, but it had only local options….. What´s next?

IBM Rack Console Manager

I was able to get a newer version of my old LCM on ebay. The IBM 1735-HC3 Rack Console Manager….

IBM 1754 LCM8 and LCM16 Local Console Managers
Newer version with more KVM ports and with one ethernet port

That system had an ethernet port, where you can see you KVM connections from a web-UI…. Sounds good.

I was able to re-use the same KVM cable options, I was very positive when installing it, but very disappointed after it….

Web-UI, but only old Java applets and Avocent DS-View Upgrade options (expensive)

The main problem was that the system had an ethernet interface but it was not able to provide KVM sessions via the UI….

Locally you can use it the same way like the old LCM, but I wanted remote KVM sessions…..

IBM GCM (2x2x16)

After searching for a remote KVM session option I found the latest available version: The IBM / Lenovo 1754-D1X.

That system is equipped with redundant power supplies, redundant gigabit network ports (the rack console manager has only 10/100Mbit) and it overs a remote KVM session option….

I have CAT cabling around my entire house, so my plan was to get this beauty and use it for all systems at all of my datacenter locations. (main datacenter, remote datacenter and witness datacenter)

So what´s the problem? The price, of course!!!! I found them on auction platforms, but they are all very expensive….. I was very frustrated, but sometimes you have to be patient and wait…..

I was able to get one of these Glocal Console Managers on ebay UK for just a few euros…… I was so happy, when I received it!

After setting it up physically and patched it up with my existing KVM cable options (USB and PS2) I am able to use it locally and remotely!!!!

Web-UI with much more settings
Target device options

I was freaking out, after installing the latest firmware to the device and the HTML5 option was shown. I LOVE that feature

KVM Cable options

I am still using the same KVM cables from the first KVM system (LCM). They still working great for the existing servers. But I wanted every single server manageable via KVM. So I need many more of them….

The USB / VGA version is more expensive than the older PS2 / VGA version. I tried an PS2 to USB conversion kit from Digitus and it worked without any issues. So I bought nearly every available IBM PS2 KVM cable and also ordered several Digitus kits from amazon….

KVM stackable cable from IBM with Digitus PS2 to USB adapter

From the KVM perspective everything is setup and done. But how to connect the VGA port of the KVM cable to my special devices?

The Apple MacMini as well as the MacPro 2013 have Mini-Display Port connectors. So I ordered four of them (3 x MacMini vSAN cluster and 1 x MacPro) from amazon. Amazon Basics Mini Display Port to VGA Adapter are working great and now I am able the see the boot process for example of all my Apple ESXi servers. Great!

Amazon Basics Mini-DisplayPort-auf-VGA-Monitor-Adapter: Amazon.de: Computer  & Zubehör
That simple adapter is working great for KVM on Apple devices

But what about my Raspberry Pi3 and Pi4 devices? The Raspberry Pi3 has an HDMI port and the Pi4 has an Micro HDMI port. I had an old Lenovo HDMI to VGA adapter already anywhere in my office, found it, plugged it into the Pi3B+, connected it to the VGA port the KVM cable and it worked out of the box. So cool

Raspberry Pi3B+ to Lenovo HDMI / VGA adapter to IBM KVM USB cable

I am using two Raspberry Pi 4 (8GB version) boards for my ESXionARM cluster. How to connect those systems to my KVM solution? They are equipped with two Micro HDMI ports. So I found an Micro HDMI to VGA adapter. The Raspberry Pi4 has 2 x Micro HDMI ports, make sure to connect the first one (The connector on the left marked ‘HDMI0’ is the primary/default display).

Raspberry Pi4 (ESXionARM) with Micro HDMI to VGA adapter

Finally I have every single server around my 3 datacenters around my house connected via KVM and I can use it local inside DC one or remote from anywhere. Mission accomplished

Stamp - mission accomplished" by kaarsten - Mostphotos

My new toy, the Global Console Manager has an PDU option. You can attach Avocent Intelligent PDUs to it and control it via the the Web-UI like all the KVM session….. I think I will try it out. Searching for supported intelligent PDUs started……

But my journey is not finished (I think it will never….) so stay tuned for the next episodes….