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May 1999

Remote Access

In this month's Reality Check, author Robert Hashemian has a go at laptops. While many will certainly agree with his point of view, there are many who will point out that they depend on their portable PCs when traveling, especially in the case of remote access. Road warriors often find themselves in need of information that needs to be accessed from the network back at the home office.

Put simply, remote access is the ability to get access to a computer or a network from a remote location. The most popular method of getting this access is via PSTN lines or ISDN. Recently, cable modems, wireless connectivity, and DSL technologies are becoming more abundant as methods of accessing remote data.

The remote access products and services covered in the following pages will give you an idea of what type of solutions your business can utilize to implement or enhance an existing remote access scenario. You will find a variety of hardware solutions such as gateways, branch office extenders, CompactPCI cards, modems, and routers. Software suites include NT-based accelerator products, virtual private network (VPN) software, remote control applications, and more.

I'd also like to point out the sidebar, Choosing The Proper Remote Access Equipment, by Bob Fine that appears in this section. As the title implies, Bob's article discusses some of the important issues associated with purchasing and deploying a remote access solution.

As always, this product roundup should serve as a starting point as you research a particular solution to meet your company's needs. Do your homework. Check out the vendors' Web sites or better yet, contact them directly. Get as much information as you can, and then proceed to compare systems side by side. Armed with a wealth of information, you will be more likely to purchase a solution that's right for you.

-- Greg Galitzine

Apex PC Solutions, Inc.
20031 142nd Ave. NE
Woodinville, WA 98072
(425) 402-9393

Apex recently updated its Emerge remote server management solution product with an enhanced user interface and performance upgrades. The hardware product can be configured as an in-band or out-of-band device, and can connect to a single server, or can be used with Apex's console switches. The device comes with Windows NT 4.0, with a network connection of 10/100 Ethernet PCI. The free software upgrade offers hot-key functionality, and toolbars for user-defined pixel adjustments and frame rate changes.

Emerge is multi-platform capable, and offers network or modem connectivity with an intuitive GUI. It offers virtually unlimited distance access, and comes bundled with a keyboard, mouse, power chord, a high-resolution interconnecting cable, and remote connection software. For more information, visit Apex's Web site at www.apexpc.com.

TurboGold Server-to-Server Accelerator
Stampede Technologies, Inc.
65 Rhoads Center Dr.
Dayton, OH 45458
(937) 291-5040

The TurboGold server-to-server accelerator software, for use with Lotus Notes, is an addition to Stampede's TurboGold Client/Server product. The new software compresses and streams data between Domino servers to accelerate the replication of Lotus Notes databases. The software is installed on a Domino server as an add-in task, for simple setup and installation.

TurboGold supports servers running Windows NT, and must be installed on all the Domino servers involved in replication. Quicker replication will occur for servers connected through a WAN, and multiple replications can occur simultaneously, initiated by either local or remote servers. The server-to-server software can be used independently, or in conjunction with Stampede's client-to-server software. For additional information, visit Stampede's Web site at www.stampede.com.

Network Exchange 2210
NETRIX Corporation
13595 Dulles Technology Dr.
Herndon, VA 20171
(703) 742-6000

NETRIX offers the Network Exchange 2201 voice and data-over-IP and frame relay gateway, geared toward small enterprise offices using applications that require up to four voice ports, and toward Internet telephony service providers who need to provide lower density CPE equipment. Designed for the remote office/branch office (ROBO) environment, the Network Exchange 2201 can network with more than 4000 other Network Exchange gateways with configurations of four to several thousand analog ports.

Voice and data support are provided through a number of features, including high quality compressed voice, real-time fax, IP-to-frame relay gateway connections, legacy protocol support, and IP routing. Traffic quality is maintained by the "end-point-aware" traffic shaping solution from NETRIX, as well as sophisticated call flow mechanisms. The company's Vodex gateway software can support up to seven classes of service to aid traffic flow. For more information, visit the NETRIX Web site at www.netrix.com.

Branch Office EXTender 6000
MCK Communications, Inc.
313 Washington St., 2nd Fl.
Newton, MA 02158
(617) 454-6100

MCK's Branch Office EXTender 6000 is geared toward remote sites with less than 24 employees for extending all corporate PBX capabilities through various data networks. The company's patent-pending Remote Voice Protocol packetizes voice and signaling information for transmission over a T1, fractional T1, ATM, frame relay, XDSL, digital data service, ISDN, or IP network connection. The EXTender can support up to eight remote employees through a single ISDN BRI line, or 2 DS0s, using industry-standard compression to minimize bandwidth requirements.

The EXTender allows branch employees to use the same digital phones with the same functionality as the main office, including conference calling, auto attendant, operator backup, and unified messaging. Configurable as a rackmount or desktop unit, the EXTender uses a third-party termination device to perform in various network environments. It also gives users a choice of voice compression algorithms like the G.729A and G.726. For additional information, visit MCK's Web site at www.mck.com.

Perle 833AS/833IS Remote Access Switches
Perle Systems Inc.
630 Oakmont Ln.
Westmont, IL 60559-5548
(630) 789-3171

Perle Systems offers two remote access switches aimed at remote enterprise users for high scalability and access option flexibility. The 833AS will support as many as 92 concurrent users through ISDN, and 90 users through 56Kbps, V.90 analog modems. Modem cards for 12 or 18 modem densities are available for use in five modem slots, and version 1.5 of the 833AS allows network administrators to combine single and dual T1/PRI and Perle's DSP modem feature cards within the same chassis.

The 833IS is targeted at smaller remote setups, with scalability for eight to 80 dial-in users depending on connection speed. Eight to 16 users can connect using four to eight BRI connections, and additional users can dial-in through ISDN, or V.90 or V.34 analog DSP modems. The 833IS is also the first remote access switch of its class that delivers an auto-sensing 10/100 Mbps Ethernet connection as the standard, which allows network administrators to connect at 10 Mbps or scale seamlessly to 100 Mbps. For additional information on either switch, visit Perle's Web site at www.perle.com.

Remote LAN Node (RLN)
Attachmate Corporation
3617 131st Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98006
(800) 426-6283

The RLN solution from Attachmate allows remote users to access network applications through modems, switched 56 Kbps, cellular, ISDN, and X.25 connections. The solution is made up of a remote client, and the RLN access server, available as a preinstalled, combined hardware/software option for a Pentium-based PC. The server allows system administrators to simultaneously connect up to 64 remote RLN clients, and to quickly configure Token Ring and Ethernet networks for remote connections.

The solution also includes an RLN application server powered by WinFrame from Citrix Systems, Inc. The server software program enhances data applications for remote users of DOS, and Windows 3.1 and 95 by processing applications locally through the LAN - sending only keyboard, screen, and mouse commands to the remote user. The RLN solution works with all popular network environments and protocols. For additional information, visit Attachmate's Web site at www.attachmate.com.

RS2000C cPCI Card
Ariel Corporation
2540 Route 130
Cranbury, NJ 08512
(609) 860-1155

Ariel is developing a new family of remote access products utilizing the CompactPCI architecture. The first product offering, the RS2000C, combines 60 ports of 56K/ISDN access with a dual T1/E1/PRI interface on one rackmountable CompactPCI card. The card allows Windows NT and Unix servers the connections needed for remote dial-in and LAN dial-out. The card can combine 30 56Kbps, V.90 modems from Lucent Technologies for up to 60 simultaneous remote access sessions originating from analog 56 Kbps and 33.6 Kbps, and 64 Kbps basic rate ISDN customer premises equipment (CPE).

The RS2000C offers one remote access number for simplified installation and administration, and will automatically detect the type of equipment initiating the call, and route it to the proper modem or HDLC controller. The card is a highly scalable remote access solution, and a standard chassis with 10 cards can support as many as 20 T1/E1/PRI lines, for 600 simultaneous remote access sessions. For more information, visit Ariel's Web site at www.ariel.com.

Elite Workgroup Solution
Elastic Networks
6120 Windward Pkwy., Ste. 100
Alpharetta, GA 30005
(678) 297-3100

Small and medium-sized businesses and workgroups that need plug-and-play broadband connectivity can benefit from Elastic Networks' Workgroup Solution. Made up of Elastic's Elite modem and the Cayman 2E 500 dual Ethernet router from Cayman Systems (of which Elastic is a wholly-owned subsidiary), the solution enables high-speed Internet connectivity for LANs.

The router interfaces directly with the modem for individual computer connection speeds of up to 4 Mbps. The Elite modem is based on Elastic's EtherLoop technology, which runs Ethernet over twisted pair cables and allows simultaneous voice and data activity at up to native rate Ethernet speeds - over a single phone line, without interfering with other services. The router uses TCP/IP routing along with Swift-IP Internet addressing technology from Cayman, which supports DHCP, DNS, and network address translation (NAT) for assigning, configuring, and managing IP addresses. For additional information, visit Elastic's Web site at www.elastic.com.

NeVaDa voiceLAN
MITEL Corporation
350 Legget Dr.
P.O. Box 13089
Kanata, ON K2K 1X3
(613) 592-2122

The NeVaDa enterprise voiceLAN networking solution allows companies to merge voice and data infrastructures for simplifying network operations and deploying multimedia applications throughout the enterprise. Based on standards and an open architecture, the NeVaDa supports an interface between voice networks and LAN topologies. Mitel's SX-2000 LIGHT platform provides call control for an intelligent LAN switching hub, on which the interface resides.

The NeVaDa includes an ATM module, which has the capacity to carry multiple media traffic through the enterprise over one 155 Mbps fiber backbone. The setup creates a single integrated voice and data infrastructure for delivering increased bandwidth and improved capabilities to the desktop. And the product's converged infrastructure requires only one set of cabling between floors, buildings, or across town. For more information, visit Mitel's Web site at www.mitel.com.

Information Resource Engineering, Inc. (IRE)
8029 Corporate Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21236
(410) 931-7500

The SafeNet/Soft-PK software provides VPN capabilities for desktop and laptop computers running Windows 95/98/NT 4.0. The software allows secure client-to-client and client-to-gateway communication through TCP/IP networks and the Internet using industry-standard IPSec recommendations. A comprehensive GUI allows network administrators to define global and individual security associations, and the software offers full support of tunnel mode and transport mode security.

SafeNet offers confidentiality through encryption; packet integrity and authentication through keyed hash; identity authentication through digital signatures and X.509 certificates exchanged during key negotiation; and many other security features. It is compatible with Windows communications devices like modems, LAN adapters, and PC cards, as well as most Windows applications. Additionally, SafeNet can interoperate with IPSec devices from major manufacturers including firewalls, gateway encryptors, and VPN routers. For additional information, visit IRE's Web site at www.ire.com.

PBXoverIP Products
44-54 Church St., Ste. B
Belmont, MA 02478
(408) 558-9700, x227

Calista offers three products that allow remote workers to use a digital phone over the Internet, a private IP network, or the PSTN. Users can experience PBX-quality sound and full digital phone functionality over an IP network with Calista's PBXoverIP products, through an Ethernet connection that works with DSL, ISDN, or cable modems. The three products are compatible with digital phones from Ericsson, IWATSU, Lucent, Mitel, NEC, Nortel, and Siemens.

The first offering, PBXoverIP Solo, is geared toward the lone telecommuter with a home office network connection. To utilize an IP-based network to carry voice traffic, remote users are connected to the company's intranet or to an ISP. Remote users may also use ISDN or DSL-based equipment to connect to the company telephone network. PBXoverIP Solo M adds connectivity for users who can not access the corporate intranet through an internal 28.8 Kbps modem for dial-up access to an ISP or corporate remote server. The PBXoverIP Workgroup is geared toward small branch offices. Connectivity is made through a 24-port, 19" rack-mountable solution. For more information, visit Calista's Web site at www.calista.com.

1000 Series Universal Access
Mapletree Networks, Inc.
30 Perwal St.
Westwood, MA 02090
(781) 461-4405

Mapletree Networks' family of access modules, the 1000 Series Universal Access, offers 24 universal ports per module, for use with network access systems. Each universal port can process digital or analog data in voice, fax, or modem formats, and modules are built to easily integrate with any network access host system that requires multiple voice, data, and fax ports.

The 1000 Series utilizes Mapletree's unique UniPorte architecture, designed for OEMs to be used as a sub-component to their overall solution. UniPorte offers virtually any access application on any port, and integrates emerging applications without changing existing hardware. Series modules are built using RISC and DSP processors, as well as proprietary Mapletree ASICs and software. The Standard In-line Memory Module package offers a custom host interface, while the custom Plug-In Module package has a PCI host interface. For additional information, visit the Mapletree Networks Web site at www.mapletreenetworks.com.

ShelCad Communications, Ltd.
9 Hatahsia St., P.O.Box 403,
Tel-Hanan 20302, Israel
(972) 4-821-0844

The Hi-Phone PCMCIA from ShelCad Communications (formerly ShelCad Engineering) is the newest member of the Hi-Phone family. Aimed at telecommuters and business travelers, the PCMCIA adapter connects any analog telephone with a laptop computer to allow users to send and receive voice and data through the Internet or a LAN/WAN. It features on-board SLIC, voice processing, a ringer, DTMF signals, and ActiveX, Wave, and TAPI lower level software drivers.

ShelCad has developed software to integrate Microsoft NetMeeting and ICQ, the chat/messenging application from AOL, so users may dial an ICQ number to place an actual voice call. The PCMCIA also works with other popular Internet telephony software packages. The Hi-Phone and Hi-Phone Jr. bridge PCs to any analog phone for support of PC-to-PC, phone-to-phone, phone-to-PC, PC-to-phone, PC-to-remote call center agent, and remote call center agent-to-PC voice and data communications. For more information, visit ShelCad's Web site at www.shelcad.com.

pcANYWHERE32 8.0
Symantec Corporation
10201 Torre Ave.
Cupertino, CA 95014-2132
(408) 253-9600

The latest version of Symantec's pcANYWHERE allows remote users to share data and applications to and from a network or office computer no matter where they are. The software enables remote control of an office PC through the Internet, as well as efficient synchronization of files between two computers. It works with Windows 95/98/NT, on a 486sx 25 MHz processor or faster, with 4 MB of RAM and 16 MB of free hard drive space required.

pcANYWHERE features wizards for easy and quick navigation, and button bars allow users to customize the interface to fit their specific needs. Transferring files is as simple as dragging and dropping from one drive to another, and an online help menu is available for troubleshooting. The software is also helpful for making changes directly on another user's screen, and for deploying preconfigured software updates and training materials to multiple users. It also allows an administrator to manage LANs, WANs, and enterprisewide information systems through one consistent interface. For more information, visit Symantec's Web site at www.symantec.com.

ChatPower Plus
ChatCom, Inc.
9420-D Lurline Ave.
Chatsworth, CA 91311
(800) 456-1333

The ChatPowerPlus is part of ChatCom's flagship Corporate Series, and is available as a component subsystem for installation in an existing cabinet. It provides regulated, reliable power for the company's server modules, which make up the basis of the ChatterBox system for supporting multiple network applications. ChatPower Plus includes power supply modules, cooling devices, and peripherals within a scalable architecture for easy addition of more power modules.

The ChatterBox server modules make an ideal platform for Internet servers, file and database servers, remote access gateways and hosts, and decision support applications like Lotus Notes and Microsoft Mail. Open architecture within the entire solution allows users to customize the system with off-the-shelf applications and hardware add-ons. And the ChatPower Plus delivers an efficient power system in the highest density possible. For additional information, visit ChatCom's Web site at www.jlchatcom.com.

1600 Series Routers
Cisco Systems, Inc.
170 West Tasman Dr.
San Jose, CA 95134
(408) 526-4000

The 1600 series routers from Cisco are geared toward small offices with Ethernet LANs that need connectivity to the Internet and company Intranets. The routers utilize WAN technologies including ISDN, asynchronous serial, and synchronous connections like leased lines, frame relay, X.25, Switched 56, and Switched Multimegabit Data Service (SMDS). The four models in the series have Ethernet ports, built-in WAN ports, and each has a slot for an optional second WAN port.

The series offers advanced security features such as router/route authentication, firewall, generic routing encapsulation (GRE), lock and key, virtual private network (VPN) tunneling, and 40- and 56-bit encryption. The routers also offer Cisco Internetwork Operating System (Cisco IOS) features like Weighted Fair Queuing (WFQ), IP Multicast, Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP), and AppleTalk Simple Multicast Routing Protocol. And Network Address Translation (NAT) enables a privately addressed network to access public registered networks without a registered subnet address - eliminating the need for host renumbering, and allowing the same IP address range for use in multiple intranets. For additional information, visit Cisco's Web site at www.cisco.com.

Mobility Server 2
Ericsson, Inc.
Enterprise Networks
7001 Development Dr.
P.O. Box 13969
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
(919) 472-7000

Ericsson's Mobility Server 2.0 is a PC/server-based Windows NT telephone switch for cordless phones. The server supports wireless infrastructures and a variety of wireless standards so users can benefit from terminal mobility no matter which type of PBX they have. Other features include personal number support so users can be contacted at a single number, regardless of their location; the ability to access and edit personal settings remotely, through a browser; and increased mobility through support of multi-site configurations. Mobility Server 2.0 also supports unified messaging, and enables access to network management functions through a Web browser.

The server has an open interface and supports different radio access technologies for various geographical markets like the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telephony (DECT), D-AMPS, and Personal Wireless Telecommunication (PWT). A single system will support up to 600 cordless users, and multiple systems are easily networked. Remote users may also access their personal numbers through a Web browser, and all systems and network management functions may be accessed this way as well. For more information, visit Ericsson's Web site at www.ericsson.com.

OfficeLink 2000
Teltone Corporation
22121-20th Ave. SE
Bothell, WA 98021-4408
(425) 487-1515

OfficeLink 2000 allows a PC to become the single focus for remote workers' information access and control by integrating a digital phone set into the Windows desktop. This integration allows users access to features such as call transfer, conference calls, speed dial, DNIS and ANI, supervisor notification, and visual message waiting. All incoming and outgoing calls are placed through the central digital phone system, so that call reporting and information are the same for remote and central office workers, and supervisors can track remote users' PBX and ACD statistics.

The server is a Windows NT Server 4.0 system that communicates between an ACD/PBX and the existing LAN through software and plug-in cards that emulate a proprietary, digital phone set. A single server can be scaled for eight to 48 users, and multiple servers may be chained. OfficeLink's agent desktop software runs on the remote user's PC through Windows 3.11, 95, or NT 4.0, and communicates with the server through a direct network connection or via dial-up. The audio connection runs through a headset or standard telephone connected to a PSTN line. For more information, visit Teltone's Web site at www.teltone.com.

Meridian Technology Corporation
11 McBride Corporate Center Dr., Ste. 250
Chesterfield, MO 63005
(800) 463-6682

The Waymark server and management software package from Meridian is packaged within a PC system, and includes a Network Interface Card (NIC), and comes pre-installed with serial or modem cards. The server allows remote access to the LAN through native protocols, and users may dial out through any NACS-compliant application, through any set of ports on the Waymark.

All users connected to the LAN through Waymark may send faxes using Meridian-supplied modems, or any compatible class II fax modem. The Waymark provides connectivity through internal analog modems, which come eight per card, or serial interface cards, which support external modems provided by the customer. Other features include a flexible database with an intuitive GUI for maintaining user lists, viewing statistical and accounting data, maintaining security, creating reports, and configuring multiple servers. For more information, visit Meridian's Web site at www.meridian.com.

FlowPoint 2200 SDSL Router
FlowPoint Corporation
180 Knowles Dr., Ste. 100
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(888) 867-4736

The versatile 2200 SDSL router from FlowPoint is designed for remote and telecommuting office use, as well as single-building and campus-area networks. With a built-in Ethernet hub and SDSL interface, the 2200 router allows high-speed symmetrical connections to the Internet and the corporate network at up to 1.1 Mbps. The hub may be configured for a four-user or unlimited-user LAN, and can also support up to eight virtual circuits, which may be configured independently of each other.

The router also offers security and VPN configurations through PAP/CHAP and user authentication with PPP, as well as password control for the GUI-based configuration manager. Other features include L2TP tunneling with DES encryption, and Telnet/SNMP port management and control features. The router also features a Motorola MPC860 processor at 25 MHz, 1 MB of flash memory, and 1 MB of DRAM. For more information, visit FlowPoint's Web site at www.flowpoint.com.

Multiservice T1 Integrator
VINA Technologies
42709 Lawrence Pl.
Fremont, CA 94538
(888) 774-VINA

This hardware platform solution from VINA allows businesses to combine voice and data onto a single T1 line. The Multiservice T1 Integrator performs the functions of a fractional T1 multiplexer, multiprotocol router, voice switch, firewall, DSU/CSU, and channel bank, eliminating redundant equipment and phone lines, and improving data speed. Other features include dynamically-assigned IP addresses, remote management through HTTP, SNMP, and Telnet, and IPSec-based VPN capability.

The T1 Integrator comes with the Business OfficeXchange (BOX), which allows it to function as a phone system with a full suite of software service applications. Functions include integrated voice switching, key system functionality, and migration to voice mail, auto attendant, and other CTI and TAPI-based applications. The Integrator's channel bank function allows a digital T1 line to be segmented into 24 individual analog circuits, and high-speed Internet access channels of 64 Kbps to 1.544 Mbps may also be allocated. For additional information, visit VINA's Web site at www.vina-tech.com.

TRU RADIUS Accountant
Telco Research Corporation
616 Marriott Dr.
Nashville, TN 37214
(800) 488-3526

The TRU RADIUS Accountant from Telco Research enables businesses to track and chargeback network usage of remote workers who access remote servers. The product works with servers, routers, and firewalls that comply with the remote authentication dial-in user service (RADIUS) standard for remote dial-in authentication. It records the time remote users have spent on the network and provides summary reports of all usage, so that costs may be allocated on a per minute or per call basis to users or groups.

Reports are generated in HTML or rich text format and OLE-embedded into Microsoft Office applications, where additional charges may be assigned for each account. Dedicated or switched Internet access is recommended for TRU RADIUS support and upgrades, and the system must be running Windows NT 4.0 with service pack 3. A Pentium server running at a minimum of 200 MHz with at least 64 MB of RAM is also required, as well as a CD ROM drive, a network interface card, and Internet Explorer 4.0. For more information, visit Telco Research's Web site at www.telcores.com.

RAServer 2900
RAScom, Inc.
5 Industrial Way
Salem, New Hampshire 03079
(800) 727-6420

The carrier-class RAServer 2900 remote access server from RAScom is targeted for mid-to-large ISPs and large enterprise networks requiring high levels of availability, scalability, and redundancy. This high-density server can provide connectivity to analog and digital remote users, and is based on the Windows interface for easy management through existing LAN server tools. It can also be upgraded to support new applications.

The 2900 uses MPPC compression for throughput of up to 8:1 on Windows-to-Windows connections, and also supports point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP) to encrypt traffic for secure Internet transmission. It supports as many as 30 PRI/T1/E1 spans or 690 ISDN users, and up to eight units may be mounted in a standard 19" rack, with support for up to 1,920 digital modems or 7,200 ISDN users. The unit comes with redundant, hot-swappable components, as well as a real-time fault identification maintenance subsystem for high-availability environment. It also includes hot-pluggable power supplies, disk drives, intake and circulation fans, and a segmented backplane architecture. For more information, visit RAScom's Web site at www.rascom.com.

Analog Devices
One Technology Way
P. O. Box 9106
Norwood, MA 02062-9106
(800) 262-5643

Analog's new ADSP-21mod970-510 gateway processor offers dense remote access server solutions within a compact space utilizing 12 modem ports. The processor offers 960 KB of on-chip, fully downloadable SRAM, and all voice-over-IP (VoIP) and modem functions may be implemented without using external memory. The design ensures field upgrades and infrastructure applications may be added through software.

The processor seamlessly connects users to the Internet, regardless of whether they connect through a V.90 or V.34 modem, or fax modem. It supports any protocol on any port, and enables a single-point interface so multiple lines may transmit voice, data, and fax. Multi-application support allows exchange operators to avoid traffic jams by terminating data calls before they enter the central office, thereby also reducing operating costs. For more information, visit Analog's Web site at www.analog.com.

SuperStack II Remote Access System 1500
3Com Corporation
Santa Clara Site
5400 Bayfront Plaza
Santa Clara, CA 95052
(408) 326-5000

3Com's SuperStack II Remote Access System 1500 is made up of two stackable components that integrate multi-protocol RAS and WAN router technology with 56 Kbps V.90 or ISDN modems, offering customers a complete remote access solution. The solution automatically supports dial-in access for SOHO and mobile users, LAN to LAN connectivoty for branch-to-headquarters data access, and dial-out services for LAN to ISP/Internet access.

Small and medium size companies can benefit from the SuperStack II Remote Access System 1500's flexible architecture that allows the system to cost effectively grow in performance and density as the company's business and remote access requirements increase. For more information, visit 3Com's web site at www.3com.com.

Choosing The Proper Remote Access Equipment


The only constant is change. This adage certainly rings true for today's Internet access equipment. Servers once known as modem banks are now connectivity platforms. While much of the installed base of equipment was designed when modems were primarily for text-based BBS access, the customer demand is for Internet access. And the services these customers seek to access include fax, ISDN, and voice over IP (VoIP) today -- perhaps DSL and upstream pulse code modulation (PCM), or any other emerging application, tomorrow.

A remote access server (RAS) must reliably transport data between a multichannel digital line such as a T1 or T3 line (also referred to as DS1 and DS3) and a network with high throughput. The data on the multichannel line can represent a variety of signal modulations and data protocols such as V.34, V.90, ISDN, fax, and VoIP. The ease of connecting, the data throughput, and the quality of the connection can be greatly impacted by the integrated circuits (ICs), which implement the modem and protocol processing functions.

Other properties of the ICs, such as physical size, power dissipation, and the number of ports which can be processed by a single device, are also important. RAS system designers must worry about efficiently handling all the required signal modulations and data protocols, as well as designing in the flexibility to handle any future modulations or protocols.

To properly design a useful RAS system, designers need to look at the problems faced by today's ISPs and IT managers. A RAS system based on technologies expressly developed for Internet access can reduce many of the operating costs ISPs encounter, and allow ISPs to offer a wider range of services to their subscribers. It's not enough to have flexibility at the box level -- it must be at the board or channel level, namely the technologies inside the box. Having a single system board that can handle any call makes system management and technical support much easier and increases the ISP's effective capacity.

A good collection of diagnostic information provided by the RAS system can also allow ISPs to monitor connection integrity and ultimately provide better service to users by allowing them to take part in evaluating a connection. And choosing a box that can be upgraded via software can extend the life of the equipment and make responding to new protocols and implementing system improvements much easier and faster.

At the heart of a remote access server is a DSP processor, which performs the base modem functions. In today's systems, some of these DSP processors are fixed-function and some are general purpose. By using a general purpose, RAM-based, programmable DSP, the designer can construct a system that is flexible, can be dynamically configured to handle any protocol, and can be easily upgraded to new emerging standards such as VoIP and upstream PCM. This equates to having a processor with the proper amount of computational horsepower, on-chip memory, and an I/O configuration in an open architecture environment.

The channelized data from the multichannel serial line can be directly connected to the DSP if the I/O of the processor properly supports this. A direct parallel connection to the system host also relies on having a DSP with the correct I/O configuration. This parallel path can be used to load program code to the DSP, dynamically configuring it, as well as passing data, status, and command words.

The breadth of services demanded by subscribers and the pace of innovation throughout the telecommunications industry is a "wake-up call" for access providers to think about business differently. RAS equipment needs to be viewed as a connectivity concentrator, not simply a modem. From this perspective, the advantages of systems based on programmable solutions become clear.

Bob Fine is the product line manager for the DSP modem product line at Analog Devices. Analog is a semiconductor company that develops, manufactures, and markets high-performance integrated circuits (ICs) used in signal-processing applications. The company's largest single product group is general-purpose Standard Linear ICs (SLICs), which include data converters and amplifiers. For more information, visit Analog's Web site at www.analog.com.

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