Cyclades AlterPath Manager E200

Cyclades makes a number of excellent products aimed at easing system administration and data center management. These include console (serial and KVM) and remote power management. In the past, these devices were all islands unto themselves needing individual management. Authentication and authorization could be unified easily with a directory service such as LDAP, Radius, NIS or Kerberos, but the configuration of the devices would need to be managed individually and manually.

In modern complex data center environments, infrastructure must be flexible to keep up with changing circumstances and requirements. A central management system was needed.

Enter AlterPath Manager

Some of Cyclades' most popular products are the TS and ACS serial console management devices. These thin 1U-rackmount enclosures allow secure remote console access to servers and serial-port-equipped appliances such as filers, routers, firewalls, SAN arrays and switches. The AlterPath Manager (APM) is designed to sit above multiple ACS and TS units and centralize configuration and authentication.

Under the Hood

The APM unit sports an 850MHz Intel Celeron CPU, 256MB RAM, 40GB disk, two 10/100 Ethernet ports and two serial ports, one for the APM's console and another for an optional dial-in modem. Not much horsepower by today's standards, but more than enough for what the APM needs to do. This is all basically off-the-shelf hardware; the APM is primarily a software product that includes integrated hardware.

The hardware is packaged nicely in a sturdy 1U-rack enclosure. Indicators are on the front with all connectors on the rear.

The APM runs a small customized Linux OS. Cyclades' management application is Web-based and runs under the Tomcat Java servlet engine. The servlet engine serves on both HTTP and HTTPS (encrypted) ports, and Cyclades provides simple instructions for disabling the non-encrypted port. All configuration and control of the managed devices is done over encrypted SSH connections.

The APM uses password-style authentication to the managed devices using expect. I would have liked to see public key authentication, but passwords are easier to understand for most people and at least it's still all encrypted. The root passwords for all managed devices are stored in a MySQL database running on the APM. This database allows connections only from localhost and stores these passwords in clear text. It also appears that the MySQL databases on all APM devices use the same hard-coded database root password. All the database passwords can be found in the world-readable configuration file /var/apm/ It needs to be assumed that any user with shell access to the APM will have complete control of the managed devices because of the unfettered access to the root passwords. This security situation should be significantly tightened up by Cyclades' developers.


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