Although xDSL and cable have made significant inroads, the reality is
that people often have access to only plain old POTS telephony lines. In
fact, dial-up modems remain the primary means to get on to the
Intranet/Internet. Now Communication Servers come turbo charged with the
V.92/V.44 dial-up modem specification from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
that introduces new features providing convenience and performance for the
modem user. This specification enhances primarily three areas over the
previous standard, namely faster upstream speed, quick-connect, and
ISPs and call centers for example who have to serve a variety of users
accessing the Internet/Intranet including telecommuting/dial-in
telecommuters and road warriors as well as remote agents, home workers,
and travelers will benefit from V.92/V.44. It will enhance the userï¿½s
dial-up modem experience. Faster upstream speed translates to faster
uploading of files, and the bandwidth to make dial-up VoIP, low-rate video
conferencing, and multiplayer online games more feasible.
For an ISP or call center, the shorter connect times would equate to
operational cost savings. Modem-on-hold means their users can accept
incoming calls without crashing the connection meaning users can access
the Internet or corporate network without missing telephone calls; they
can pause browsing to make a call that again translated to less need for
second phone lines at home. It can make resumption of the data call
quicker and more seamless. All this augurs well as businesses move to a
unified voice/data-networking model.
We decided to check out Multi-Techï¿½s CommPlete 4000 communications
server equipped with eight V.92 modem ports. ï¿½Under the hoodï¿½ is an
industry-standard single-board computer with industry-standard PCI slots
and you can use any combination of modem, serial, and BRI ISDN server
cards to suit your application, an integrated 10/100 Ethernet NIC, a
high-performance processor, memory, and preinstalled RASExpress remote
access software. A 3.5ï¿½ floppy drive, hard drive, and universal power
supply are also included.
The product is able to handle a scalable mix from eight up to 32
dial-in/dial-out analog or ISDN ports using Multi-Tech serial, analog
modem or hybrid ISDN/56K modem cards, with the potential to support up to
32 concurrent sessions.
If you find yourself needing more than eight ports, the solution is
scalable. Simply get the server card (modem, serial and BRI ISDN server
cards) that suits your application, and slip it into the spare PCI slot;
the RASExpress software then recognizes the card and adds it to the
configuration. You assign IP ports, the new card starts handling calls.
Security is a part of the package at no additional cost. Multi-Tech
provides a built-in client for authentication to third-party RADIUS/TACACS+
servers, and a bundled RADIUS server application for installations not
currently using RADIUS security is good value for potential customers.
As for manageability, the tools offer easy management and are quite
comprehensive. The bundled management software Multi-Manager 1.43 and the
RASExpress remote access software provides extensive reporting using a Web
browser; Windows-based GUI, telnet, or SNMP. Local and remote
configuration and management can be handled using Web browser, terminal,
modem, telnet, ftp, and SNMP etc. All of this meets the common objective,
which is to effectively manage remote access.
For time keeping, the built-in Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP) client
enables RASExpress to synchronize its clocking with a remote time/clock
server on the Internet/ Intranet. This feature is useful for accounting
We deployed the CommPlete 4000 on a test bed configuration and used a
client PC equipped with a modem for our tests. We accessed MS e-mail,
Oracle apps, and the like. Before that we used a serial cable between a PC
and the CommPlete 4000 serial port to access the unit for the first time
using windows HyperTerminal application. Moving on we selected Quick
Configuration of Server option from menu logged in with user id as
supervisor and then keyed in the relevant IP address and the corresponding
IP subnet mask. We then restarted the system.
Next, we launched the Multi-Manager version 1.43 and completed the system
setup relevant to our network including some test users. We also tried the
Web access option, which is also very handy for remote operation and
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The chassis could be smaller now in the age of blade servers and 1U
appliances. There are no visual indicators/status LEDs on the front panel
or on the back except for the indicator on the power on/off switch. It
would be good to at least get some indicators on the system, which tells
you at basic things like which specific modem port is handling the call,
whether or not the LAN port is communicating, etc.
A 1U chassis with an LCD display coupled with a directional keypad push
buttons could prove useful so that we can set the IP address and IP subnet
mask right there on the unit and ask for a reboot and then manage it from
another PC or management station. These could help Network Administrators
in doing simple monitoring and configuration changes right in the wiring
closet or computer room.
All in all, we felt the product scored well on the aspect of
Price/Performance, for it is well priced for all the bundles price and
features, which include appliance management, monitoring options, Radius
server, expandability, and the like. The CommPlete 4000 does its job well
and is an affordable, simple, scalable, effective, and easy solution to
implement. It does not entail any hidden costs like licenses to buy and
Multi-Tech offers all remote access upgrades for RASExpress for free. We
recommend you take a closer look at this product.
- Written by Biju Oommen
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2003 Table Of Contents ]