Virtual Serial Port over Ethernet -
The Definitive Guide


Content

  1. What is a virtual serial port?
  2. Why should you use a virtual COM port?
  3. Share virtual serial port over Ethernet
  4. Setting up a virtual serial port via Ethernet connection
  5. Setting up a Linux virtual serial port over Ethernet

What is a virtual serial port?


A virtual COM port is a software emulation of a physical COM interface. Also known as a virtual serial port, it is used to connect legacy serial software programs on computers that don’t have any physical serial interfaces. In the absence of real COM ports, a virtual serial port emulator can send serial data over an IP-based network. This replicates the functionality of the missing physical port. Data sent from the legacy serial application is transmitted over the network through the virtual port. The same process of using a virtual serial port over Ethernet is used to return information to the legacy program. A virtual interface allows two-way serial traffic on computers that lack real serial ports.

Why should you use a virtual COM port?


At one time, the majority of computers were equipped with several RS-232 serial ports. These were used to establish direct, physical connections to serial-based hardware such as laboratory equipment, industrial machinery, and other peripheral devices. This is no longer the case, as computer manufacturers now choose to include other types of connectivity options like USB ports. Most modern laptops have no serial ports and desktop machines have a limited number of them at best.

The lack of serial ports can be a big problem if you use older software that requires one to establish communication with other applications or peripheral equipment. You cannot simply convert the serial traffic to USB data, as the application is not designed to handle information in that format. Unless you can re-engineer the program, you need to find a way to provide it with a serial interface - and a virtual COM port redirector will resolve that issue.

Serial to Ethernet Connector is a professional software solution that enables you to continue to use your legacy programs on any computer. The application enables serial data to be transmitted over an IP-based network like your LAN or the Internet. This solves the problem of legacy serial application, saving businesses both time and money.
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Share virtual serial port over Ethernet


Even if your computer has physical serial ports, there are times you need to communicate with peripheral devices that are remotely located and do not present the possibility of a direct connection. Here again, Serial over Network can solve your problem. The same virtualization technology that allows you to access serial devices without a COM port lets you establish RS232 over IP connectivity to network-attached equipment. Once connected, you have the same level of control over the device as if it was directly connected to your computer.

Serial over Ethernet Connector can be used in many scenarios to enable network communication between your serial devices. This capability increases the value of POS equipment, medical instruments, and industrial control systems by enabling them to be accessed by anyone in your organization no matter where they are physically located.

Some of the uses of this specialized virtualization software solution include:

  • Connecting to COM ports from within virtual environments like Virtual Box, VMware, and allows Hyper-V serial port passthrough;

  • Creating multiple virtual RS232, RS422, and RS485 ports that your system can use like physical interfaces;

  • Sharing serial devices on Windows and Linux machines over IP networks. Support is also provided for ARM-based devices;

  • Enabling two-way communication over UDP/IP from virtual or physical COM ports.

Serial to Ethernet Connector (SEC) works over any distance, so it doesn’t really matter where a COM port device is located physically. Once you install the app on the server, to which a required device is attached, and client computers, you can connect virtual serial ports over IP and communicate with the device remotely.

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Virtual Serial to Ethernet Connector has no distance limitations, making it possible to connect to COM devices and interfaces no matter where they are physically located. Simply install the application on the machine with a direct connection to the device and all remote client computers that need access to it. Your IP network is then used to allow the clients to remotely access and control the devices.

Setting up a virtual serial port via Ethernet connection


Consider this situation that illustrates the way Serial to Ethernet Connector can be instrumental in the operation of your business. A remote, COM-based barcode scanner needs to send data to an application on a network-connected computer. By creating virtual serial ports, the virtualization software lets your computer connect to the device over the network. RS232 to IP technology eliminates the barrier of physical distance that impacts your ability to make use of the scanner and provides complete remote control over the device.

These terms are important to understand:

Server — this refers to a computer that has a physical connection to the device that will be shared.

Client — a remote computer that will communicate with the server’s serial device over an IP-based network.

Here is the procedure to use to set up a virtual COM port over Ethernet connectivity.

  • Download Virtual Serial to Ethernet Connector and install it on the server with the connection to the serial device. The software also needs to be installed on every client machine that needs to communicate with the device.

  • Launch the app on the server and configure the connectivity parameters in the “Server connection” tab. When finished, click “Create a connection”.

  • Start the application on a client computer and select “Client connection” in the main menu. A window will open in which you configure the setting. When that is complete, click on “Create connection”.

After connectivity is established, the peripheral device can be observed in the client’s Device Manager and provides the same level of functionality as a physical connection.

Setting up a Linux virtual serial port
over Ethernet


Linux users can also take advantage of the capacities of Serial to Ethernet Connector. All of the functionality afforded to Windows users is replicated in the Linux version of this virtualization software which can be downloaded to any Linux machine.

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In addition to using Serial to Ethernet Connector, there are native methods available on most modern distributions that allow you to set up a free virtual serial port over Ethernet.

When it comes to working with remote serial ports on a Linux machine, you can as well rely on the native methods available in most modern distributions of Linux.

One option is to use netcat to redirect RS232 traffic to a TCP/IP network.

This command does the job:

netcat www.testport.com port /dev/ttyS0

Using this method requires each new connection to use a new instance of netcat. You can have it create a persistent connection by using the xinetd service as demonstrated below.

service testservice { port = 5900
socket_type = stream
protocol = tcp
wait = yes
user = root
server = /usr/bin/netcat
server_args = "-l 5900 < /dev/ttyS0"
}


The /dev/ttyS0 parameter may need to be modified to reflect the actual serial port you are using. Port parameters such as parity and baud rate can be set with the stty or setserial commands.

Other tools that have proven useful for creating virtual serial port over Ethernet connectivity on Linux machines are:

  • remtty - remote tty

Short for "remote tty”, this utility establishes network connections through the use of pseudo ttys. It provides the functionality of Cisco's Windows-based Dialout application for Linux users and can be used for connecting to modems for sending messages and faxes.

  • ser2net - Serial to Network Proxy (ser2net)

With ser2net, users can connect to serial ports from a network. Users can set up and configure serial ports and the tool allows port parameters to be modified if necessary. This solution also provides serial port control and monitoring capabilities.

With the solutions we have discussed, you have several options for working with remote serial ports over IP-based networks. Serial over Ethernet Connector is an effective solution that can be run on Linux or Windows computers. It offers an easy and efficient method of virtualizing serial ports so they can be shared and their data can be transmitted over IP networks. No additional hardware is required, and the tool works with minimal configuration. Serial over Ethernet Connector is an excellent solution for organizations looking to maximize the value of their serial-based hardware across the enterprise.