Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Being right there: Uplogix phones home


Thirty years ago, a wrinkly alien named ET showed how important the idea of phoning home can be as he went through great effort to phone home to report his status. Luckily with Uplogix you won't have to build an antenna out of an umbrella and aluminum foil. No need for a Speak & Spell either -- we'll do the dialing for you.

A key component of the Uplogix Local Management Platform is out-of-band (OOB) connectivity. While the Uplogix Local Manager (LM) can operate autonomously when the network is down and communicate with managed devices over a console connection, OOB ensures that centralized dashboard tools can continue to receive information on remote devices as well as provide technicians with secure remote access to gear.

When the network is functioning properly, Uplogix LMs use an Ethernet-based connection to connect and transmit data to the Uplogix Control Center through the in-band network (also referred to as the primary network connection). However, when the primary network connection is lost, the Uplogix LM immediately establishes remote connectivity using a dial-up modem, cellular network, or satellite communications.

By providing persistent connectivity to the devices you need to manage, Uplogix enables you to:
  • Maintain management access and control over distributed locations, even when the network is down or degraded.
  • Enforce security policies even during network outages to maintain compliance.
  • Log all changes and the results of those changes, and inspect the logs in real-time for problems.
  • Continuously monitor critical statistics and user interactions with managed devices via an always-on, serial connection.
Out-of-Band Categories

Uplogix uses two categories of out-of-band (OOB) methods to reach remote Local Managers:
  • Phone home | When detecting an outage, the LM initiates a phone home connection automatically.
  • Dial-in | A user manually connects to a remote LM via a secure dialer applet launched from the Uplogix Control Center (UCC.)

Phone Home
When the Uplogix Local Manager detects a network outage it will initiate an OOB connection in order to create an alternative path back to the NOC. A variety of technologies can be used to create the OOB connections including analog phone lines, cellular, DSL or alternate networks, and satellites.

The OOB connection allows the LM to resume communication with the Uplogix Control Center as well as other network monitoring tools.

Users will be alerted when the OOB connection is initiated and the UCC will display the LM’s new IP address. Users can connect to the OOB LM via SSH and will be authenticated as if the user were connecting via the in-band network.


Figure 1. Phone Home Scenario Using a POTS Line. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and dials-out via a modem and POTS line. A PPP session is established. Step 3: The LM builds a VPN over the PPP connection and begins to communicate with the Uplogix Control Center.



Figure 2. Phone Home Scenario Using a Cellular Modem. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and dials-out via a cellular modem. A PPP session is established. Step 3: The LM builds a VPN over the PPP connection and begins to communicate with the Uplogix Control Center.


Figure 3. Phone Home Scenario Using a Cellular Modem with a custom APN. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and dials-out via a cellular modem using a SIM provisioned with the customer APN. Step 3: The modem automatically connects to the customer MPLS network. The LM then resumes communication with the UCC.

Figure 4. Phone Home Scenario Using Secondary Ethernet. Step 1: The in-band network goes down, in this case due to trouble with a router. Step 2: The Uplogix Local Manager detects the network outage and brings up its secondary Ethernet port. Step 3: The secondary Ethernet connection can be routed through an alternate internal network or through a cable or DSL provider. Step 4: If connecting from a cable or DSL provider, a VPN connection will be needed to re-enter the network.







Dial-In Access

But maybe sometimes you might want to phone in to a local manager. To do this a user establishes a dial-in connection to the LM, usually due to an in-band connection failure. Then the user logs into the UCC and launches a secure dial applet for the desired LM. The dial applet runs on the user’s local workstation and establishes a TLS encrypted connection to the LM via the Remote Access Server.

If normal AAA passwords are not cached, the administrator will need to define a user and password in the UCC that will exist in case AAA servers are not reachable. Once the administrator logs out of the LM, the encrypted connection between the user’s workstation and the LM is torn down.


Figure 5. Dial-In Scenario Using POTS Line. Step 1: User connects to the UCC and launches the encrypted dialer applet. The applet establishes the socketed connection to an available modem on the Remote Access Server, and dials into the LM. Step 2: The user is presented with a login prompt for the LM.

Satellite-based OOB Connectivity
We haven't even touched on satellite options here, but many Uplogix customers use their Local Managers in networks that are quite off the beaten path. Maybe they are at sea, or on the battlefield where POTS lines are non-existent and cellular coverage is intermittent at best. For these deployments, satellite connections over Iridium or Inmarsat provide the same secure connections and two-way access. For more information, see the Uplogix website or this previous blog post.