Implementing a KVM Switch: What is it? Why would I want one? Where are the gaps?

We were chatting with a potential customer in the Media & Entertainment industry when a lightbulb switched on in their head. After hearing what our Leostream platform is capable of he exclaimed, “Ah, so you’re a KVM matrix switch!”

“Are we?”, I wondered, having never heard that analogy before. All of the KVM devices I previously worked with are boxes that plug directly into a handful of servers and then a common keyboard, monitor, and mouse. I click a button on the KVM to indicate which server I want to work with and, voila, it appears on my monitor and interacts with my keyboard and mouse.

When I need to use a different server, I simply click another button on the KVM device and I’m good to go. No moving the monitor or untangling wires.

“How does this relate to the world of connection brokers”, I wondered? Well, I did a little research on all the advancements to KVM technology and, as it turns out it relates quite nicely.

 

What is a KVM Switch and why might you want one?

 KVM switches allow users to control different IT assets (servers or desktops) from a single monitor, keyboard, and mouse, without needing to physically move those devices to the new asset.  A KVM matrix switch takes this one step further, allowing the user to operate multiple computers over multiple monitor/keyboard/mouse combinations.

KVM technology has come a long way from that (apparently outdated!) box I previously used. You now have options for Digital KVM switches, KVM-over-IP switches, and advanced web-based administration consoles to define which endpoints have access to different hosted assets.

 By leveraging a KVM switch, you can provide users with access to the different types of assets they need to get their job done, without physically locating those assets under the user’s desk or giving the user exclusive access. Users can now share access to applications hosted on expensive workstations in your data center.

 

Where are the gaps?

A KVM switch as a standalone piece of technology is helpful, but only as far as actually making the switch. The realities of managing an entire corporate hosted IT asset environment, however, are much more complex. Can your KVM monitor if the user has gone idle and then automatically log them out if they have. Can your KVM allow you to require multi-factor authentication before giving users access to their resources? Does your KVM provide audit-level tracking so you always know which users are accessing your different assets?

A KVM switch alone cannot provide you with the features that are critical to the actual day-to-day operations of a corporate IT environment – but Leostream can! With Leostream, you create pools of IT assets and then build policies that indicate which users have access to these pools. When a user logs into Leostream, they see a list of all their offered assets and they simply connect to the machine they currently need.

With Leostream, you can offer users desktops from multiple pools, scatter those connections across different monitor configurations, offer physical, virtual, or even cloud-hosted machines, use different display protocols for the connection and have complete control over how long the user has access to that asset.

So, as it turns out, Leostream is indeed something of a KVM switch – with a whole lot more to offer!

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