News Column

Patent Issued for Virtual Serial Concentrator for Virtual Machine Out-Of-Band Management

February 25, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Information Technology Newsweekly -- A patent by the inventors Lambert, Timothy M. (Austin, TX); Seddik, Kareem S. (Austin, TX), filed on May 27, 2009, was published online on February 11, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews correspondents.

Patent number 8650273 is assigned to Dell Products L.P. (Round Rock, TX).

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to information handling systems and more particularly to virtual machine out-of-band management in information handling systems.

"As the value and use of information continues to increase, individuals and businesses seek additional ways to process and store information. One option available to users is information handling systems. An information handling system generally processes, compiles, stores, and/or communicates information or data for business, personal, or other purposes thereby allowing users to take advantage of the value of the information. Because technology and information handling needs and requirements vary between different users or applications, information handling systems may also vary regarding what information is handled, how the information is handled, how much information is processed, stored, or communicated, and how quickly and efficiently the information may be processed, stored, or communicated. The variations in information handling systems allow for information handling systems to be general or configured for a specific user or specific use such as financial transaction processing, airline reservations, enterprise data storage, or global communications. In addition, information handling systems may include a variety of hardware and software components that may be configured to process, store, and communicate information and may include one or more computer systems, data storage systems, and networking systems.

"It is know to provide virtualization enabled information handling systems (i.e., information handling systems that implement virtual machines). An issue arises with information handling systems that implement virtual machines when the information handling systems are server type information handling systems. More specifically server management remote access methods and virtual machines often do not work well together. Administering a server via a remote access controller such as the integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) available from Dell Incorporated or a baseboard management controller (BMC), etc does not provide visibility of the state or provide simultaneous access to virtual machines.

"For example, if an in-band network connections to a physical server are lost, then access to the virtual machines of that server may also be lost. In this case, managing, reconfiguring connectivity, etc. becomes more difficult to accomplish. A DRAC can often only be used in a one to one fashion via a virtual keyboard video mouse (vKVM) controller or a serial controller.

"Also for example, serial console redirection to a server host (e.g., via a serial emergency management port (EMP), serial over local area network (LAN) connection (often referred to as SOL), etc,) often require a basic input output system (BIOS) which enables physical UARTs built into the chipset, super input/output (I/) or other host accessible logic of the server type information handling system. Also for example, known remote management implements health and remote access in a one to one scenario (e.g., BMC/iDRAC to a single host). Out of band remote access to multiple virtual machines uses a vKVM in a one to one manner.

"Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide dynamic access through which I/O access such as serial ports, and thus administrators who manage servers, can see, obtain health, state or interact concurrently with multiple VMs on a given physical server."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "In accordance with the present invention, a system and method for providing dynamic access through which I/O access such as serial ports, and thus administrators who manage servers, can see, obtain health, state or interact concurrently with multiple VMs on a given physical server. More specifically, in certain embodiments, the invention includes a dynamic port count virtual serial concentrator coupled with a virtualization device to map emulated serial ports to virtual machines along with a remote plugin that provide dynamic concurrent serial access to many virtual machine serial consoles under a secure and collaborative friendly environment.

"When a new virtual machine is launched, the hypervisor sends an intelligent platform management interface (IPMI) original equipment manufacturer (OEM) type command to the remote access controller indicating the number of serial ports requested, host names and mapping of each. The remote access controller emulates that number of composite universal serial bus (USB) serial class device ports to the host. The hypervisor then maps each virtual machine's serial (e.g., COM) port to a physical COM port as emulated via the universal serial bus from the remote access controller. At this point, each virtual machine is assigned one or more serial port addresses that it uniquely owns and always writes to that COM port address (as if this were an operating system message spewing operation and serial console access.)

"A remote access controller plugin, which is served up from a BMC to the remote client user, allows many remote users to see all of the serial sessions live and provides the remote users with the ability to control any of the serial sessions. This function allows multiple remote users to interact with particular virtual machines at the same time, thereby enabling concurrent out of band many to many control and access to virtual machines as if they were real. Additionally, any user can invoke privacy, observer only or free use of any of the ports.

"When a virtual machine is terminated, the hypervisor sends an IPMI OEM type command requesting the COM port to be freed and the remote access controller complies and the host hypervisor removes that virtual machine and the remote access controller removes the USB emulated virtual serial port that maps to the now removed virtual machine. Because the remote access controller sent the host names and mappings, the client side plugin allows for easier identification of the desired virtual machine in a similar fashion to a KVM appliance access to graphics consoles.

"Such a system enables multiple remote administrators to simultaneously observe the state and control the serial ports of any number of virtual machines on a physical server (e.g., booting, kernel panic, running, etc.), thereby providing enhanced value for the server (e.g., virtual machine states before physical shutdown, etc.). Additionally, such a system does not require remote access controller enhancements or additional hardware requirements of the server type information handling system. Additionally, such a system does not present any additional BIOS requirements to initialize or control a universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter (UART)."

URL and more information on this patent, see: Lambert, Timothy M.; Seddik, Kareem S.. Virtual Serial Concentrator for Virtual Machine Out-Of-Band Management. U.S. Patent Number 8650273, filed May 27, 2009, and published online on February 11, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Dell Products L.P., Information Technology, Information and Data Storage.

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Source: Information Technology Newsweekly

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