Uplogix offers a product named the Envoy, which is a device to help automate management of network devices such as routers and switches. You attach Envoy units to the serial consoles of your network devices (each Envoy can manage up to 4 devices), and use in-band or out-of-band access to manage those devices through the Envoy.
According to their web site, its key features include:
- Automatic Reboot -- if the monitored device appears non-responsive, the Envoy can reboot it (using an external managed-power system, if necessary). OK, though I seldom find this a necessary (or useful) method for dealing with networking equipment.
- Transactional Configuration Changes -- "Envoy provides support for transaction-based configuration changes. ... Envoy allows changes to be committed or rolled back on a per session basis. If a change is uncommitted Envoy can automatically restore the system to the pre-change state, only impacting the affected portions of the configuration. With Envoy’s console-based approach, the system can be immediately restored regardless of the impact caused by the changes." OK, now that's pretty interesting; if I'm reading this correctly, you can set this thing up so that, if you make a configuration change to a managed device through the device's console via Envoy, and the configuration change causes you to lose connectivity to the device (and haven't we all had that happen at least once or twice? ;-), then Envoy will reverse the change and restore your previous configuration. Obviously, the method would be device-specific (the commands you'd use on a Cisco would be different than on a Juniper, for example), but that would still be a very interesting capability (presuming it was reliable).
- Automated Recovery -- "Using an automated diagnostic process, Envoy recognizes potential trouble spots and immediately cycles through an extensive list of recovery options and correlation objectives." I'm not sure exactly what they mean by this, or why it's better than a properly-configured set of fallback routes and connectivity on the network device itself, but I suppose it could be useful in some circumstances.
- Non-interrupted Management Data -- This sounds like the device locally keeps data that you'd normally lose access to during an outage, such as SNMP results from a device that's temporarily unreachable. I'm not sure how you'd go about extracting such data from the Envoy after an outage, though. Perhaps it would be more useful for syslog and console messages, rather than periodic stuff like SNMP.
- Remote Access -- "Physically connected to network equipment through the serial port, Envoy ensures reliable device access regardless of network status and includes an onboard battery backup for operations regardless of power status." A modem and dial-in or dial-out PPP for out-of-band access, check.
- Low-level Configuration Recovery -- "Envoy’s standardized procedures can automatically recover catastrophic system failures, including a corrupted flash, lost OS, lost configuration, mis-configuration, or OS failures, with all low-level recovery procedures executed and verified in less than five minutes." OK, for supported devices, anyway (their data sheet lists their current supported devices as "Cisco, Nortel, Juniper, Tasman routers, switches, and firewalls; generic support for any console managed devices".)
- Console-based Administration -- "Console-based administration ensures reliable, secure access, even when your network is down." Yup, as long as you can find the dialup number, and the phone line hasn't inadvertently been disconnected (or turned off because the bill wasn't paid, because it was being mailed to the wrong address), and you can find the dialup password; all of which I've seen various customers have trouble with.
A rock-solid console access network, complete with out-of-band access, is essential for building and maintaining a high-quality network. If you don't already have one (built using serial terminal servers and conserver, for example), then this might be a product worth looking into.
I haven't seen their pricing, but I'm concerned that each Envoy supports only 4 managed devices. I hope they plan to offer both scaled up (for data center) and scaled down (for branch offices and other remote sites) versions of the product.