TL; DR: Founded in 1985 as a solution to give IT admins a better way to access multiple servers, Raritan pioneered and led the KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) switch market for more than three decades. Evolving alongside the needs of the datacenters it served, Raritan developed the industry’s first intelligent PDUs and innovated the DCIM space. Today, the company’s three-pronged approach to infrastructure gives businesses the ability to leverage KVM, PDUs, and DCIM analytics to increase efficiencies throughout the datacenter, which leads to big savings on power and costs.
It was 1985, and Ching-I Hsu had launched a small business from his home reselling computer components. As the business grew, Ching-I realized there was a need in the IT industry for a better way to manage multiple computers simultaneously. So, together with his wife, he developed a predecessor to what would become the world’s first KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) switch and one of several datacenter solutions on which he would build his company, Raritan.
“Ching-I was looking to make server management easier,” said Nicole Espasa, Raritan’s Marketing Director. “He invented KVM, where you could centrally sit at one terminal and access multiple servers.”
Raritan led the KVM market for more than three decades and, through its experience working with so many datacenters, recognized the need to develop intelligent power solutions and analytics to measure power usage and environmental conditions. The company went on to innovate the PDU and DCIM spaces to provide a comprehensive approach to infrastructure management that boosts efficiencies and translates into big cost savings for datacenters.
“Raritan’s business includes KVM, power, and DCIM software analytics,” Nicole said. “It’s a three-pronged approach. When we go to a customer, we might sell one of these point solutions. But, more often, we provide all three solutions because, collectively, they give a more holistic view of what’s going on in the datacenter.”
1. KVM Switches for Centralized Management of Distributed Servers
Raritan employs remote access KVM switches to optimize the management of the distributed datacenter. KVM switches provide users, from a single console, access and control to multiple workstations and servers located anywhere. Newer models also allow sharing of USB devices and audio.
“By listening to our partners and datacenter customers, Raritan has created new products and features with a focus on high availability and secure remote access with multi-layer security,” Nicole said. “If in the middle of the night a server goes down, our solutions enable a datacenter admin to quickly — and securely — access the server remotely and fix the problem.”
Datacenters found Raritan’s KVM switches were an effective answer, as they employ SSL encryption and don’t depend on a software component to run on the remote computer. As a result, KVM can be used to operate the BIOS (basic input/output system) before the operating system ever loads.
Depending on the number of users and workstations, the distance between them, and the available connection methods, different types of KVM switches are used. The most popular are Dominion® KX Switches and the CommandCenter Secure Gateway, which, through scaling, allow centralized IP access to potentially thousands of servers spanning multiple locations.
KVM offerings include KVM over IP and Analog Matrix switches. These — and Raritan’s serial console servers — offer solutions for datacenters of any size.
2. Intelligent Power Strips Built to Understand the Datacenter
Raritan’s power distribution units (PDUs) are offered in more than 500 varieties and are another example of how user demand dictated the direction of Raritan’s product development.
“Raritan realized that power was becoming an issue,” Nicole said. “Datacenters were running inefficiently, and some were running out of power, so it created a power strip with intelligence and networking. Intelligent PDUs provide a great vantage point to see what is going on with power consumption, as well as cooling through plug-and-play environmental sensors, because the strips sit right there in the rack.”
Intelligent power strips made by Raritan have the ability to gather detailed information about the equipment connected to them. Statistics, such as power consumption, can be used in determining and planning more efficient setups by providing an understanding of the datacenter’s weak points. The strips can even alert hardware managers to potential problems before they arise — preemptively curbing repair and upkeep costs through proper management.
“Not only do our PDUs distribute power to IT equipment, but they also measure power consumption and capacity in real time,” Nicole said, “all while sitting right in the cabinet.”
Nicole noted sensors can also be added to monitor the environmental factors important to keeping servers healthy, such as air flow, temperature, and humidity, thereby reducing mechanical failures and saving power.
3. DCIM Provides Insight Into Power & Environmental Conditions
Nicole explained Raritan shifted from selling primarily hardware solutions to one that incorporates software solutions.
“Even though there were some software components, we were basically a hardware company,” she said. “Raritan made the transition to also sell power management software when it saw an opportunity to offer solutions to analyze the data gathered by its PDUs and sensors.”
Power IQ power management software was Raritan’s first Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) offering. The DCIM software is now owned and developed by Raritan spin-off Sunbird Software. Power IQ provides a means to monitor datacenters in a more understandable GUI-based format.
Power IQ gives detailed health maps — along with cooling charts, power analytics, and other reports — to help the IT department determine power load, capacity, and trends at all levels of infrastructure. It allows datacenters to monitor power and environmental conditions at the rack, row, and facility levels.
New PX Offers Redundancies & Power Sharing for Higher Availability
Since its invention of the first KVM switch, Raritan has continued to innovate solutions for datacenters. For Raritan, it’s all about finding ways to boost efficiencies and uptime. And that’s just what its latest PX offering does.
“Our new PX PDU offers redundant networking and power sharing that make remote power monitoring functions even more reliable,” Nicole said. “The dual-networking feature also enables enterprises to give service providers and colos secure access to power information and to the PDUs on a separate network.”
Raritan is already looking into how to serve the emerging edge datacenter space that is being driven, in part, by IoT. The company recently unveiled an innovative Intelligent Cabinet prototype for remote sites that leverages many of its technologies and that of other Legrand North America companies.
“As datacenters transform, so does the product line,” Nicole said. “Raritan was an early mover in KVM, PDU, and DCIM solutions, and we’re continuing our tradition to pioneer the space.”