Lights out management options
I'll start with a little context: this is my home network where I run most machines (certainly the beefy ones) headless either under the stairs or in the shed, so they are out the the way and the noise causes the least disturbance. Workstations are relatively thin clients in that they have some local processing on them, but are mainly used to remote in to another machine via X or RDP as appropriate.
The time has finally come to upgrade my backup server because it's out of disk space and can't be upgraded any further. That machine is a Sun T1-105 so it's certainly not the fastest machine around, but I've kept it going this long simply because the lights out managment support has proved so convenient - I can power it up and down remotely, reboot it if it hangs, easily netboot for a new OS installation, without ever having to go to it. In fact once you've physically installed it and connected it to power, network and console server you never need touch it again - you can take it from bare metal to a fully configured system remotely.
Your typical x86 system feels more like a toy than a "proper" computer in that respect. Depending on the OS you may be able to configure a serial console but if you need to access the BIOS, install a new OS, or even if it simply gets wedged you're going to have to physically interact with it and possibly hook up a monitor, keyboard etc, basically a lot of hassle.
This is quite a bit away from my line of work but it appears IPMI is the way to go here. I'm looking specifically at the Supermicro server boards, the octocore Atom ITX boards seem a good fit for the wider wishlist, and from the sketchy details I've managed to piece together they appear to offer IP based KVM, remote power control and the ability to downlaad a virtual USB boot image. That seems to tick all the boxes.
However, all this IPMI stuff is completely new to me. Will it do the kind of thing I want? Is there anything else I should be looking at? Bear in mind that this is a home system and even that £300 CPU/mobo combo is enough to make me think "ouch". I'm certainly not going to drop £2,000 on a ready made "server" machine. One final thing is my default OS is NetBSD unless there's a reason to run something else, so ideally the access software should run on that, essentially meaning either open source or possibly a Java application (preferably not an applet). I've seen what appears to be a Java-based KVM viewer which would fit the bill, but does anyone have thoughts on that side of things?