Using either the Red Hat Linux 6.1 or Windows NT 4.0 operating systems,
Ariel's RS4200 delivers a robust remote access system that provides four
T1/E1/PRI lines for up to 96 or 120 modems, and also has ISDN BRI, analog,
and V.90 56 Kbps support. On a call-by-call basis, the RS4200 automatically
detects the type of data (analog or digital) of the incoming call and routes
it to the appropriate modem. The system delivers remote dial-in, LAN
dial-out, and voice/fax-over-IP capabilities.
Originally, we intended to set up the RS4200 system on an older computer
that had Red Hat Linux 6.1 installed. After reading the warning in the
manual which stated that 3.3 volts of power must be supplied, we used
Mapletree Networks' LED card that Ariel had included with their boards to
test the computer we were going to use. We simply installed the card into an
available PCI slot and turned on the computer. The board showed a solitary
red light, which indicated that the computer only supported five volts of
power. For this reason, it was good that we checked the manual and tested
the voltage before installing the cards. If we had not, we could have
damaged the Ariel hardware. Immediately, we took out the LED card and tested
another computer that was accessible with enough free PCI slots available.
Thankfully, the card showed both a green and red light, which indicated that
this newer computer supported both five volts and 3.3 volts of power. This
particular computer had Windows NT 4.0 installed, so it turned out that we
would use this operating system for testing the product.
According to the flow chart in the manual, we had to install Service Pack
6 and then the Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) on our Windows NT
Server 4.0 system. We did not have any trouble downloading this software
from the sites indicated in the manual. Unfortunately, we were required to
reinstall Service Pack 6 just in case the RRAS software changed any of the
original settings, but this procedure still did not take very long.
It was now time to install the hardware, which consisted of an RS4200
line card and a modem pool card. These sizeable cards were a little tricky
to place because of some intrusion from cables already connected in the
computer. With a little maneuvering, we were able to place these cards in
two available PCI slots. Connecting the H.100 cable from one board to the
other was more difficult. Fitting the cable in the slot on the RS4200 line
card took a little effort because the cable would not easily fit snugly on
When this was finished, we connected all of the cables required and
powered the computer up. We installed the RS4200 software from Ariel's
CD-ROM, which includes the drivers for the cards. To do this, all we needed
to do was go to our network adapters screen, click add, click have disk,
select our CD-ROM drive, select the Ariel RS4200 card set, and wait a few
moments for the adapter and modem installation to complete. To configure the
ports, we switched to the services tab, selected the RRAS option, added the
RS4200 digital modem, configured the port usage, and cloned the information
95 times. Sixty ISDN BRI ports can also be configured in the same manner.
Finally, we installed the management console. This procedure was similar
to installing most of these types of applications and did not take much
effort. Overall, the whole installation process was simple compared to that
of many remote access systems.
The Installation and Users Guide for the RS4200 gives you virtually
everything you need to know about the product. The guide is almost like
following the yellow brick road to Oz; the instructions are informative,
concise, and easy to follow. It also provides plenty of screen shots and
tables. The only drawback is that the guide does not have an index.
While the manual does give information about the Ariel management
console, there are not any help files associated with the GUI, except for an
almost useless "About" dialog box. Detailed help files would make
it easier to navigate the management console.
The following is a list of the key features of the RS4200:
* PCI plug-in solution that provides four T1/E1/PRI interfaces for up to
96 or 120 modems, and can support analog connections as well as V.90 56 Kbps
and ISDN BRI connections;
- Supports dial-in and dial-out, is voice/fax-over-IP capable (supports
T.38 for FoIP and G.711, G.723.1, and G.729a/b codecs for VoIP), and
- PowerPOP Architecture -- aids reliability and performance of the
product with such functionality as DNS and Web caching in each POP and
- Supports both Windows NT 4.0 and Linux and provides PAP, CHAP
authentication, MPP, FTP, e-mail, Web hosting, and automatic callback;
- Java-based console to manage any ports on the system with the use of
status reporting, statistics, call screening, event logging, and system
Since we not only had one but two T1 simulators available for our tests,
we felt that we could do a few interesting demonstrations. First, we had to
make sure that both of our T1 simulators contained the appropriate settings
so that they could communicate with the RS4200. The settings for GL
Communications' simulator (reviewed in the July
2000 issue of Communications Solutions) were already set up correctly,
so all we needed to do was run the software. Gordon Kapes' simulator,
reviewed in the September
1999 issue of Communications Solutions (formerly CTI), needed a little
tweaking but was ready once we changed the appropriate settings so that it
would be performing on the network side.
We connected both systems to the RS4200 and plugged the RJ-45 cables into
two different ports. When one of the simulators synchronized with the
RS4200, the icon next to the remote access server's IP address, which we had
already entered into the management console as the host address, turned from
red to green. We tried both connections separately as well. Everything was
as green as Irish hills, which told us that it was working properly.
We then made sure that the appropriate T1 line configuration settings
were in place on the RS4200 so that we could call into the system. We
changed the line configuration settings so that the RS4200 was set for T1.
We also added the appropriate phone number required, which could be any
number as long as it consisted of the proper number of digits that was set
for that particular simulator. We did the same for the other three T1 ports.
From two phones that were connected to the Gordon Kapes' simulator, we
called any two numbers and heard them each register with the RS4200, i.e.,
we heard the fax/modem tone. When we clicked "refresh now" and
checked the channel status, we noticed that line ID 0, channel ID 1 and line
ID 0, channel ID 2 were active. We did the same with the GL Communications'
simulator and soon saw line ID 1, channel ID 1 and line ID 1, channel ID 2
were both active as well. The test results appeared in the management
But we were not quite finished with our demonstrations yet. We decided to
add a real-time atmosphere into our lab testing. We called the RS4200 from a
PC with a 56 Kbps modem that was connected to the Gordon Kapes' simulator,
which we used as if it were a "central office." The transmission
passed through the central office and reached the RS4200 (the ISP). We saw
that the call was active when viewing the management console. However, we
did not perform any benchmark throughput tests because the T1 simulators'
analog ports did not support full V.90 56 Kbps connectivity; thus, we were
only connecting at 33.6 Kbps.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
As in all our reviews, we thought of a few suggestions that would
improve the product. Integrating the RS4200 line card with the modem pool
card would be beneficial for small ISPs. Requiring only one card would free
up a PCI slot and would ensure an easier installation so that an additional
cable would not be needed. We realize that this integration might be
difficult to accomplish, possibly forcing Ariel to sacrifice the number of
modems from 96 to a lesser number. However, the beauty of this design is
that Ariel would already have modem pool cards and H.100 cables available so
that ISPs can expand modem ports if needed. For example, if the original
RS4200 comes with two T1/E1/PRI ports for an availability of 48 or 60
modems, then adding an additional modem pool card into the extra PCI slot
would allow for six T1/E1/PRI ports for an availability of 144 or 180
modems. Furthermore, additional boards can increase the number of modems
even more, giving the ISPs a very high level of scalability.
We also have a few suggestions for the management console GUI. We did not
like how we had to keep refreshing to see whether certain modems were active
or not. As it stands now, the fastest refresh rate is once every minute. We
would like to see the refresh rate in real time instead. Currently, the line
configuration option can only be chosen when "T1/E1 line interface
status" under "remote access servers" is highlighted on the
left side of the screen. We think the line configuration should be available
from any selection as long as the RS4200 is seeing the server's IP address.
In addition, there should be more right-clicking functionality, especially
when viewing the channel status.
We already talked to Ariel about our last two recommendations, which are
to provide support for Windows 2000 and to add actual voice/fax-over-IP
software to the RS4200 (the RS4200 currently supports voice/fax over IP but
does not provide any specific software for it). Ariel said that they were
already developing these capabilities and that they would be out later this
As Ariel's literature says, the RS4200 can indeed build a better network.
Even though some improvements could be made, the RS4200 still delivers on
that promise. This remote access system is certainly a solid product for use
with ISPs or companies requiring extensive remote access capabilities.