A KVM switch is a piece of hardware that enables a single set of peripherals (keyboard, video, and mouse) to access and operate several computers simply by changing a selector switch or hitting a hotkey. It’s especially useful in areas like data centers, where managers need to access one or more hundreds of machines quickly and easily.
KVM switches with simple keyboard and monitor inputs and outputs were initially used in the late 1980s. KVM switch technology has progressed since then, including desktop KVM switches for professional and multimedia applications, rack-mounted KVM switches for data centers, KVM over IP switch technology for remote access and control, and KVM emulation software for reduced physical overhead.
What Is the Function of a KVM Switch?
KVM switches link peripherals and computers through a dedicated or simulated connection. In the case of USB connections, for example, if the administrator is using an enumerated KVM switch, the USB connections must re-initialize the signal with the target at each change-over, much as when a keyboard is disconnected and plugged back in.
Emulated KVM switches eliminate delay caused by USB enumeration by creating a universal stand-in keyboard and mouse signal for target systems. The simulated KVM switch merely engages the stand-in signal with the attached peripherals and offers quick switching when moving to another machine. Emulation also enables keyboard hotkeys and mouse switching, enabling users to easily switch between target machines.
The most detailed of the KVM switch techniques, dynamic device mapping (DDM), emulates the destination machines’ particular and real properties. In contrast to simulated KVM switches, which only enable basic keyboard and mouse operations, using a dedicated DDM KVM maps all special keyboard functions to each connected machine, enabling the usage of additional keyboard functions often used in post-production and multimedia applications.
Technology Supported by KVM Switches
KVM switches offer a variety of peripheral kinds and styles, which is a significant consideration when designing for the administrator user experience in data centers.
When compared to the original KVM switch technology, human interface device support is extensive. They now support the vast majority of standard and high-definition devices, as well as all popular platforms.
A KVM switch can handle a variety of video formats, including HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA, USB-C, Thunderbolt, and CatX KVM, and resolutions up to 4K ultra-high definition (UHD), with analog switches offering a larger resolution range than digital options. The most common video port support is VGA, however, DVI connectors are gaining popularity.
Multiple displays can be output through KVM switch technology. Although twin, four, or up to eight displays are common setups, access to an infinite number of monitors is available with specialized KVM hardware and software. This is especially beneficial in mission-critical command, control, and dispatch center applications where multiple monitors are employed for control room video walls.
Another prominent feature enabled by KVM switches that is vital for multimedia professionals is audio.
USB input peripheral devices are the de facto universal connection standard, enabling KVM switches to connect to a broad variety of keyboards, mouse, wireless devices, tablets, and USB storage devices. Additionally, some KVM switches provide PS/2 connections. In other cases, computer interface modules can be utilized to connect peripheral devices to KVM switches that lack corresponding ports.
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