From the Active Response features of the OSSEC intrusion-detection system to tools such as Ubuntu's ubuntu-vm-builder, the open source channel is full of software designed to perform tasks so that humans don't have to -- which is, after all, the point of computers in the first place. On Oct. 5, 2011, OpenGear introduced the latest addition to this field, announcing new "automated remediation" functionality for its console and remote-management products. Read on for details.

OpenGear, founded in 2004, focuses on what it calls "next generation" tools for remote access to servers, networking devices and other hardware. It doesn't offer any major open source software products, but it's strongly invested in the open source channel, powering its consoles with Linux and touting the benefits of open source code for its customers.

Automated Remediation

OpenGear announced the expansion of its existing auto-response tools, which were previously limited mostly to monitoring and alerting rather than active response. Now, "automated remediation" technologies will allow OpenGear products to react to situations without waiting for intervention by administrators.

While a phrase like "automated remediation" in a different context might conjure images of Soviet gulags, the functionality it brings to OpenGear products is actually quite nice. As examples of what it can do, OpenGear highlighted the following:
  • Automatically restore lost connectivity to a remote site with Out-Of-Band connection.
  • Cycle power to a hung or non-responsive device using ICMP check and RPC control.
  • Intrusion alert and notification conditions for serial connections.
  • Power down equipment due to environmental conditions.
  • Safely power shed devices behind monitored UPS systems during outage.
  • Match patterns on serial consoles and return commands to devices via script.
  • Monitor door contact sensor on rack and trigger IP cameras to collect and e-mail images of intruders.
Without a doubt, although computers may often be more logical than many human brains, artificial intelligence rarely proves to be as reliable in the long run as real people. But since reacting manually is not always a realistic option, automated tasks are certainly helpful. And if nothing else, they make it easier for the negligent administrator to blame the computer for making a poor decision rather than writing his own mea culpa.

OpenGear Expansion

On a related note, OpenGear itself also continues to expand within the open source channel. After reporting 50 percent growth in 2010, it hired former McAfee VP Rick Stevenson as CEO last summer. John Bedrick, who also was a veteran of McAfee, among several other big-name corporations, recently joined the OpenGear team as well to oversee marketing and product strategy.

Thus OpenGear remains a player to watch, particularly within the open source channel, where its solutions are uniting hardware with software in important ways.