SoL Proxy – A Solution for Support Stresses

SoL– Serial Over LAN is a way to provide a serial, terminal style console over a LAN connection. The cool thing about it is that the x86 host does not need to run any special software. It just talks to the standard serial port and an extra microcontroller, usually the BMC in a server type platform, sits on the other side of the x86 COM port and forwards the serial characters using a standardized protocol (RMCP+) over an IP connection. That’s SoL in a nutshell.

What’s an SoL proxy? Is it the BMC forwarding characters between serial port and the LAN connection? Nope. To understand Advantech’s SoL Proxy, we need to look at SoL at the system level, especially the system architecture of a bladed system like ATCA. A bladed environment has multiple iA blades, each of them having at least one Serial Console. In a world without an SoL Proxy (i.e. ATCA today), a remote client needs to directly establish a session with a specific iA blade to display that blade’s console. For a 14 slot ATCA chassis, that means up to 14 sessions.

Can you imagine having 14 console windows on your notebook screen just to do some remote troubleshooting of an ATCA system? Well, we and our customers had to do it and we can assure you that it is quite painful, especially when you have a customer (i.e. our customer’s customer) who needs to open one management port for each of these 14 ports! That can be a long and painful discussion in a situation where you really need to focus on meeting the stringent terms in a customer’s service level agreement and provide fixes in a timely manner. That is a lot of stress all around.

Advantech SoL Proxy makes for a stress free life. Instead of having to manage a bulk prescription for Zanex, we came up with our SoL Proxy concept. We created software that establishes an SoL session with each individual blade inside the system. The software buffers all console output and forwards a single active console to an external client. The client may select which blade is the active console via special keystrokes. The benefit is that now, the external client only needs to establish a single session. Just one session with the SoL Proxy instead of 14. A single service access point now only requires a single management port in the end customer’s network. That’s cool and one can enable this with the minimum of stress as there is no longer a need for the customer to open multiple ports. One port is enough to access the “service node” and engineers are happy as one console window is much easier to watch and work on than 14 windows in parallel.

Where is the SoL Proxy? Good question. The Sol proxy is basically a Linux user mode utility and can run on any compute node in a system. The really cool thing we are working on is to run the SoL proxy on Advantech’s Shelf Manager. The shelf manager is already the resource in an ATCA system that controls all the low level system management, and it comes with redundancy and high availability features built in. It is kind of natural to make it the service access point. There are lots of 3rd party shelf management solutions for ATCA out there. However, all of these are quite “simple,” with only low level management functionality and are lacking the processing capability for advanced features such as the SoL Proxy.

Our Advantech Shelf Manager will come with an Atom CPU. That’s plenty of horsepower at an attractive cost point. There are also added security benefits so should someone have security concerns over access to the service node, it’s no problem. Simply use QuickAssist to encrypt the traffic over the service port.

Stress relief, the smart way, the Advantech way with iA silicon & technology.


Peter Marek – Director of x86 Solutions


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