A low-cost alternative for high-end WAN routing

Your CIO asks you to connect the company's remote offices to the central office using frame relay technology but allots less than $1000 per site for equipment. A Digital Service Unit/Channel Service Unit (DSU/CSU) costs $1000, and you need to buy a router to communicate with your LAN. You have a solution: Sangoma Technologies' WANPIPE router card.

The WANPIPE router card is an integrated PC Card that is also a DSU/CSU. It ships in several configurations. For example, the S508/FT1 model includes a built-in fractional T1 DSU/CSU for easy connection. Each router card supports frame relay, Synchronous Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), and X.25 WAN connections.

Installing the Router Card
Installing the WANPIPE router card is similar to installing other network adapters. You can install as many as eight cards in one server.

To test the WANPIPE router card, I wanted to install it in an HP network server running Windows NT Server 4.0. However, before I could install the card, I had to verify its I/O base address. I accepted the factory default of hexadecimal 360 to 363. Installation was easy: The WANPIPE is an ISA card, so I installed it in an available ISA slot. The card connected to a remote site within the state (i.e., Rhode Island) using a T1 frame relay with a permanent virtual circuit (PVC). An RJ48 jack on the back of the router card connected the card to the frame relay termination point in a building.

To complete the installation, I had to boot the computer into MS-DOS and run a batch program that tests and lets you configure the router card. You can issue 24 commands to configure the card's encoding, framing, and clock modes.

Configuring WANPIPE
Configuring the router card is more complicated than installing it. You need to understand your WAN's topology, including the data link connection identifiers (DLCIs) that your frame relay circuit provider supplies.

After you install and configure the hardware, you need to install a device driver--FPIPE--to support traffic the WANPIPE card routes from NT to the frame relay link. You can install this driver through the Network applet in Control Panel.

Before you can use the WANPIPE card, you must configure the routing table so that the device driver can properly route IP packets across your link. (The card also routes IPX traffic.) I tested a point-to-point frame relay connection to interrogate the existing WAN equipment (an Adtran DSU/CSU and Cisco router) for the information I required. After I set the necessary WAN configuration parameters for the frame relay connection, I rebooted the server and had my communications link to the outside world.

Features and Additional Software
Each WANPIPE router card supports as many as 100 DLCIs when using frame relay, and 255 logical channels when using X.25. This support feature lets you use the router card in a centralized office environment in which you have several WAN connections terminating at your LAN. If security is a concern, the router card supports Password Authentication Protocol (PAP) and Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP).

The hardware ships with software packages that make administration easy: SNOOPER is a software utility that lets you debug the router card and find network problems (e.g., whether DLCIs are active on your WAN links). Another software utility, the FPIPE Monitor, lets you monitor the status of the card's operation in realtime from any location on your WAN. For example, you can capture and display trace data (e.g., WAN traffic statistics) to analyze activity on your WAN.

A Reliable Connection to the Outside World
The WANPIPE router card's price is reasonable if you consider the expense of purchasing a stand-alone T1 DSU/CSU and router. The unit would be an excellent addition to a networking environment that requires remote connectivity.

WANPIPE Router Card
Contact: Sangoma Technologies * 905-474-1990 or 800-388-2475
Web: http://www.sangoma.com
Price: $869
System Requirements: Windows NT 3.51 or 4.0, ISA slot, Available IRQ line and I/O base address