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GCN : December 2013
Security is often the prime consider- ation in a government IT purchase. Sometimes, it's even the reason a product is invented. SecureView software, for example, was created to give analysts simul- taneous access to multiple networks with different security classi cations. SecureView helps by isolating the net- work signals while collapsing all those computers down into fewer units. But what if even that is not enough? Some agencies may still require that certain networks be physically separated from all others. So are we back to hot rooms full of hardware? Not necessarily. The Stratus MCS (multiple console system) from NCS Technologies can give users the best of both worlds. It's an innovative product aimed directly at ful lling a govern- ment need. The Stratus is about two feet high, and our review unit contained three com- plete systems along with a KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) control module. NCS designed the computers so that they could stack on top of each other into a neat little block. Hidden from view are the power cables, running in a vertical channel inside the case. That allows all three units within the Stratus to share a single power supply, which cuts down on noise and space at the same time. The Stratus units can contain three systems, each of which is a complete entity with its own network cable ports, disk drives, CPUs and storage media. The secure KVM module at the bottom of the stack lets users securely switch between computers. Different hardware con gurations are available in the Stratus bays. In our test unit, two of the systems were typical, run-of-the-mill desktops with Intel Core i5 chips and integrated Intel graphics. The other, however, had an i7 processor and an Nvidia Quadro 310 graphics card. So power can be applied where needed within a secure setup, without buying hardware that isn't needed for most of the tasks a computer performs. The Stratus comes with a remote KVM control panel that is not much bigger than a mouse. It attaches to the Stratus using a single cable and con- trols of all the PCs in the MCS stack without having to actually touch them. Signi cantly, each remote is paired with an individual Stratus system, so it can't be used as a point of attack. If a remote unit is removed and a second one is added, it won't function. And the KVM switch has built-in intrusion prevention so that if it's ever opened up, it will cease to work. Similarly, the computers will trigger an alert and refuse to work if they are opened up, but unlike the KVM unit, they can be returned to working order by clearing the alarm code from the BIOS. As another nod to government us- ers, a smart ID card reader can be added to any of the systems in the Stratus stack. Admins can require authen- tication credentials for all the whole MCS, or they can set up each system with a sepa- rate card reader. The Stratus also supports multi-monitor setups. As con gured for our test- ing, the Stratus was $6,427, a price that included all three PCs, the keyboard and mouse, the KVM console with remote and two 24-inch LCD displays. But the Stratus is highly con gurable, and NCS will work with agencies to design an MCS that meets their exact needs. With space savings, cooler running PC modules, a func- tional remote KVM switch and that all-important secu- rity component, the Stratus MCS is a solid solution for government users who need security but who could also stand to experience a little user-friendly convenience for once. The product is designed for government service, and should t right in wherever it's needed. • Secure PC stack arranges to meet government needs BY JOHN BREEDEN II NCS TECHNOLOGIES The Stratus MCS holds up to three systems that can be operated from one screen while remaining totally separate. [BrieFing] 8 GCN DECEMBER 2013 • GCN.COM