ROUTERS<@VM>Know your WAN access technology before you choose any one of these affordable IP/IPX routers<@VM>Know your WAN access technology before you choose any one of these affordable IP/IPX routers (cont.)
By J.B. Miles
Special to GCN
A popular current misconception holds that network routers will soon be as rare as rotary telephones. Don't believe it.
The SmartSwitch Router 600 from Cabletron Systems works with a variety of connections and includes optional hardware encryption and VPN support. Its price ranges from $2,495 to $2,995.
It's true that Gigabit Ethernet-class switches with Layer 3 routing modules are replacing high-end routers for handling traffic at the core of high-speed networks. But as the Internet becomes a more strategically important information pipeline for organizations inside and outside of government, the jobs of standalone IP access routers at the edges of departmental LANs will increase in importance.
Routers work by directing data packets from one network to another according to various network protocols and network operating systems. Most new routers can also bridge LAN traffic over a WAN by keeping track of the logical addresses of workstations on another LAN and passing data packets directly on to them.
The main challenge routers face is the inherent difficulty of efficiently managing multiple protocols. If overpowered by this task, routers themselves can become major network bottlenecks. But for groups of users on small branch office LANs that need to be connected to their main offices over various types of WAN connections using Internet protocols, the routers listed in this Buyers Guide are hard to beat for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
I scoured router manufacturers' Web sites for access routers based on IP/Internet Packet eXchange protocols that were designed primarily for use in remote, small branch offices. (Keep in mind that the routers featured here are generally part of much larger product families; I couldn't list them all, so contact the manufacturers or check out their Web sites for more information.)Basic connections
The simplest and most basic of these routers employ analog 56-Kbps telephone connections or the Integrated Services Digital Network basic'rate interface of two B-channel 64-Kbps lines for top uncompressed throughput speeds of 128 Kbps. Most of them employ a single 10Base'T Ethernet connection for up to 10 LAN users; others incorporate a small Ethernet hub of six or eight ports for several dozen or more users.
Models such as Chase Research Inc.'s IOLink SOHO, Ericcson Datacom Inc.'s Congo Data and FlowPoint Corp.'s FlowPoint 128 can cost as little as $500 and represent a true bargain for network administrators seeking to connect a small branch office with a limited number of users to a central office site.
The multiprotocol routers listed perform at slightly higher levels of functionality than basic IP, ISDN or basic telephone service models, but are also designed primarily for connecting small branch office LANs to central sites. In addition to using standard telephone or ISDN access lines, many of them also provide leased-line 56- and 64-Kbps, dedicated T1, fractional T1, X.25 or frame relay connections.
D-Link Systems' DI-106 has one ISDN and six Ethernet LAN ports, along with an ISDN BRI line, and uses Stac LZS compression. It's priced at $499.
The units often feature optional access modules for combining variuos types of connections. Such a module adds several hundred dollars to the cost of a base unit, but it can be well worth the expense if you need dedicated access.
ADC Kentrox's Pacesetter Pro, Develcon Electronics Ltd.'s Orbiter 5100 and Eastern Research Inc.'s SpanNet 2500 Series fall into this category and are also generally capable of handling a wider range of interior and exterior routing protocols than their lower-end relatives. Base prices for this class of router can be as low as $1,295; additional models for various WAN access options generally cost $500 to $1,000.
A new category of products dubbed multiservice routers is beginning to emerge. The products in this category are capable of adding analog voice, fax and voice over IP to basic data services. Cisco Systems Inc.'s 1720/1750 Modular Access Router Series, IBM's 2210 Nways Multiprotocol Routers, Motorola's Vanguard 6435/6455 Series and Xyplex Networks' EdgeGuardian Integrated VPN/WAN Access Router are good examples.Range of routers
Multiservice routers are flexible and scalable, providing modules for servicing all or most of the standard WAN access technologies ranging from ISDN to T1, as well as providing support for most IP/IPX-related routing and network protocols. They generally come in a variety of models that bundle options for enhanced security, including encryption, firewalls, advanced network management features and virtual private network support.
As mentioned, they usually offer voice over IP support along with connections for several analog lines for standard voice and fax transmissions.
Most provide options for two or more autosensing 10/100-Mbps Ethernet ports, integrated 56-Kbps channel service units or T1 data service unit/channel service units, automatic ISDN backup and more. The bare-bones cost of such units can be as low as $1,295 or slightly more, but expect to pay $4,000 or more for a model featuring all the options you want. Nevertheless, that can be a bargain for a powerful standalone device powered by a RISC processor that can provide dozens of users with instant high-speed Internet access for less than $100 per user.
How do you pick a router from the large selection available? You can start by checking the following features to see if the access router you have in mind will meet your performance requirements:
Security. Anytime you move data from one device to another, especially from LAN to LAN over a public WAN or VPN, security concerns are inherent. Even at the low end, IP access routers should include user authentication measures such as support for the Password Authentication Protocol and the Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol. Remote access dial-in user service is another user authentication tool.
ZyXel Communications' Prestige 641 has an asymmetric digital subscriber line modem that provides throughput of up to 8M upstream and 640K downstream. It's priced at $399.
Software- or hardware-based firewall protection, such as Cisco's optional IOS Firewall, guards LANs against outside attack by filtering out illegitimate data packets, as well as offering other features, such as Java blocking, denial-of-service detection and prevention, audit trail and real-time alerts.
For mission-critical applications, consider a router with a built-in or optional 64-bit key IP Security Data Encryption Standard module or a triple DES module with a 168-bit key.
When moving traffic across a VPN, look for support for tunneling standards such as IPSec, Generic Routing Encapsulation, and Layer 2 Forwarding and Layer 2 Tunneling and protocols. Cisco and other makers of modular access routers generally provide these as options with their families of products designed for remote users, branch offices or large departments.
Quality of service. QOS controls let routers provide high levels of traffic availability and predictability. This can translate into determining which users or applications have access to how much bandwidth, with priority going to mission-critical applications.
High-end multiservice routers such as Cisco's 1720/1750 series provide such services as committed access rate, whereby traffic types are classified and specific allowable bandwidth is allotted for each type.
Policy routing also classifies and prioritizes traffic by IP precedence but doesn't set allowed bandwidth, as does CAR.
Weighted fair queuing provides consistent response time by scheduling low-bandwidth traffic to the front of the queue to reduce response time. Generic traffic shaping controls and smooths outbound WAN traffic to a specified bandwidth.
The Resource Reservation Protocol reserves guaranteed bandwidth for specified applications from one end of the WAN to the other.
Management protocols. Most of the routers listed in the accompanying table support Simple Network Management Protocol and Telnet protocols that allow them to be managed from central consoles elsewhere on the network.
If vendor-specific management software such as Cisco's CiscoView or Cabletron Systems Inc.'s clearVISN is included, it usually is an SNMP version optimized for its own product.
|Tips for buyers|
'Determine which WAN access technology you'll need before buying an access router.
'Remember that modular routers offer the most flexibility.
'Add Data Encryption Standard options for mission-critical applications.
'Keep in mind that virtual private
network access'which offers secure, cost-effective connections'is the wave of the future for Internet routers.
'Don't get confused by protocol acronyms. Ask your vendor what they mean.
Cost-cutting measures. IP/IPX protocol spoofing and Network Address Translation/Protocol Translation help manage the costs associated with using access routers over WANs.
Protocol spoofing saves money for users by getting dial-up ISDN lines to shut down when inactivity is detected, thereby reducing online costs.
NAT/NATP protocols help reduce Internet charges by allowing users to map multiple local IP addresses to a single IP address provided by an Internet service provider.
The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol saves money by allowing configuration of devices to be handled by a central server. The need to install a DHCP server on a separate PC on the network is eliminated, thus reducing LAN installation and maintenance costs.
Compression. With compression technology such as Stac LZS, the data transfer rate passed through the router can increase by up to 600 percent, reducing online costs.
Flexibility. There are a couple of factors to consider here, the first of which is the router's ability to handle the various existing WAN technologies such as leased lines, frame relay, ISDN, Switched Multimegabit Data Service and others.
Second is the router's ability to handle various IP routing protocols such as the Routing Information Protocol and RIP2, ARP Address Resolution Protocol, the Proxy, the Internet Control Messaging Protocol and others. Finally, you may want the flexibility of adding voice and fax services to your high-speed data routing.
Obviously, if your needs are simple, keep it simple with an inexpensive, straightforward router.
But if you need more, a high-end modular unit will be the answer.
Easy setup. Routers used to be a bear to install. Users often had to write their own lines of code to make them operate properly.
Most of today's models, particularly at this end of the service scale, come with Microsoft Windows installation wizards that make it possible even for nonprofessionals to install them in minutes.J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.
| Vendor|| Product|| WAN access options|| Security|| Management|| Price|
| ADC Kentrox|
| Pacesetter || ISDN, plain telephone service|| PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, IP filtering || SNMP Enterprise MIB II|| $795|
|SOHO Pacesetter Pro||ISDN, frame relay||Same||SNMP Enterprise MIB II||$795|
| Pacesetter T1|| T1, ISDN|| Same|| SNMP Enterprise MIB II|| $1,695 |
| Alpha Telecom Inc. U.S.A. Networking Division |
| NetRouter 1040|| ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, Caller ID|| SNMP MIB II, Enterprise MIB|| $1,295 |
| Cisco Systems Inc.|
San Jose, Calif.
| 1720 Modular Access Router Series|| ISDN, POTS, leased line, 56/64Kbps DDS, T1 fractional T1|| PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, IPSec DES and 3DES encryption|| SNMP, Telnet, CiscoView, CiscoWorks 2000|| $2195 up|
| 1750 Modular Access Router Series|| Same|| Same|| Same|| $1,495 to $2695 up|
| Cabletron Systems Inc.|
| SmartSwitch Router 100 || ISDN, ISDN leased line|| Optional 56 Kbps DES encryption, firewall|| SNMP|| $565 to $725|
|SmartSwitch Router 500 Series||T1, leased line, frame relay, X.25||Same||SNMP||$1,595 to $1,695|
| SmartSwitch Router 600|| Same|| Same|| SNMP|| $2,495 to $2,995 |
| Chase Research Inc.|
| IOLink SOHO|| ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, NetSAFE Firewall|| SNMP MIB II, Enterprise MIB, Telnet|| $549 to $799|
|IOLink Pro||Dual leased line, ISDN||Same||Same||$995 up|
| Develcon Electronics Ltd.|
| Orbitor 500|| ISDN|| NetSAFE Firewall|| SNMP, Telnet|| $500 up|
|Orbitor 530||Leased line||NetSAFE Firewall||SNMP, Telnet||$699|
|Orbitor 5100||Optional ISDN, leased line, frame relay||NetSAFE Firewall||SNMP, Telnet||$1,199 up|
| D-Link Systems Inc.|
| DI-300 (W & MW)|| ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, RADIUS|| SNMP, Telnet|| $399 to $499|
|DI-106 (W & MW)||ISDN||PAP/CHAP, RADIUS||SNMP, Telnet||$499|
| DI-1137C-1TP|| ISDN, leased line, T1/E1, fractional T1, 56-Kbps DDS|| PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, NetProtect Firewall|| SNMP, Telnet|| $1,299 |
| Eastern Research Inc.|
| SpanNet 2500 Series|| ISDN, leased line, frame relay, T1, fractional T1, switched 56 Kbps|| Secure software updates|| SNMP, Telnet|| $1,375 to $3,995 |
| Efficient Networks Inc.|
| SpeedStream 5621|| Digital subscriber line || PAP/CHAP|| SNMP MIB II, RFC 1695 for ATM, ADSL Forum MIB|| $500 up|
| SpeedStream 5660|| DSL|| PAP/CHAP|| Same|| $500 up|
| Engage Communication Inc. |
| IP Express XL Series|| T1, fractional T1, frame Relay, 56/64-Kbps DDS|| Password protection, IP filtering|| EngageView, SNMP, Telnet|| $895 to $1,195|
|ExpressRouter XL Series||Leased line||Same||Same||$1,195 to $1,495|
| Advanced ExpressRouter|| Leased line|| Same|| Same|| $1,495 to $4,495 |
| Ericsson Datacom Inc.|
| Danube|| Leased line, switched 56 Kbps, ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, IP firewall, IPSec|| SNMP MIB II, Telnet|| $1,095|
|Congo||ISDN||PAP/CHAP, Caller ID||SNMP MIB II, Telnet||$495 to $675|
| Emerging Technologies Inc.|
| ET/R1000-2T/4T|| T1|| N/A|| SNMP|| $2,495 to $3,195 |
| FlowPoint Corp.|
Los Gatos, Calif.
| FlowPoint 128|| ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, FlowPoint FireWall|| SNMP, Telnet|| $499 to $599|
|FlowPoint 144||ISDL||Same||SNMP, Telnet||$499|
|FlowPoint 2200||Symmetric DSL||Same||Same||$599 to $1,198|
|2210 Nways Multiprotocol Routers||ISDN, leased line||PAP/CHAP, IBM VPN security software||SNMP/Telnet||$1,264 up|
| Intel Corp.|
Santa Clara, Calif.
|Express 8100 Series || ISDN, leased line, frame relay, X.25 || PAP/CHAP|| Intel DeviceView, SNMP, Telnet|| $549 to $699|
|Express 8200 Series||ISDN, leased line, frame relay, X.25, T1||PAP/CHAP||Intel DeviceView, SNMP, Telnet||$699 up|
| KarlNet Inc. |
| Remote KarlRouter|| 56/64-Kbps leased line, T1|| Firewall filtering|| SNMP MIB II|| $2,950 |
| Kingston Technology Co.|
Fountain Valley, Calif.
| EtheRX Internet Access Router|| ISDN, POTS|| Encryption|| N/A|| $479 |
| EtherFast 4-Port 10/100 Analog Router|| POTS|| Software-based|| N/A|| $199 |
| Vendor|| Product|| WAN access options|| Security|| Management|| Price|
| Lucent Internetworking Systems|
Murray Hill, N.J.
| SuperPipe 95|| ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, Caller ID, IPSec, DES encryption|| SNMP, Telnet|| $1,295|
|SuperPipe 155||ISDN, T1, frame relay||Same||SNMP, Telnet||$1,795|
| Memotec Communications Corp.|
| CL2500|| frame relay|| Optional|| SNMP|| $1,195 up|
| Microtronix Datacom Ltd.|
| Access 3000 || ISDN, frame relay, POTS, T1, X.25|| N/A|| SNMP, Telnet|| $1,100|
|Access 9000||Same||N/A||SNMP, Telnet||$1,800|
| Motorola Inc. Internet and Networking Group|
| Vanguard 100|| ISDN, frame relay, X.25|| N/A|| SNMP|| $890 up|
|Vanguard 320||Same||N/A||SNMP||$1,244 up|
|Vanguard 6435/6455|| Full range of options via enhanced daughter cards||N/A||SNMP||$2,500 to $3,530 up|
| Multi-Tech Systems Inc.|
Saint Paul, Minn.
| RouteFinder Series|| Leased line, frame relay || PAP/CHAP|| Bundled software, Telnet|| $799 to $1,139|
|MultiFRAD Series||Frame relay||PAP/CHAP||Bundled software, Telnet||$1,999 to $4,199|
| NetSpan Corp.|
| MultiRouter LT/Sync|| DDS, T1|| Bundled software|| SNMP|| $949|
|MultiRouter EN/Sync||DDS, T1||Bundled software||SNMP||$1,099|
| Netopia Inc.|
| R2020 Dual Analog Router|| POTS|| Caller ID|| Telnet|| $715|
|R3100 ISDN Router||ISDN, POTS||IP firewall||SNMP||$585 to $815|
| R5100 Serial Router|| Frame relay|| IP firewall|| SNMP|| $895 |
| Nortel Networks|
Simi Valley, Calif.
| BayStack Advanced RemoteNode (ARN)|| ISDN, POTS, leased line, T1, X.25, fractional T1, 56/64-Kbps DDS,|| N/A|| SNMP, RMON|| $1,745 to $4,495 |
| NX Networks|
| GT 60/70|| Optional modules for most WAN protocols|| PAP/CHAP, ARCFOUR, DES and 3DES encryption, RADIUS, firewall|| SNMP, Telnet|| $648 to 1,398|
| GT 90|| Same|| Same|| SNMP, Telnet|| $944 to $1,694 |
| GT 900|| Same|| Same|| SNMP, Telnet|| $1,695 to $1,995 |
Santa Monica, Calif.
|RouterMate R64/R64R|| Frame relay, POTS|| N/A|| SNMP, Telnet|| $995|
|RouterMate R56/R56R||Frame relay, POTS||N/A||SNMP, Telnet||$995|
| RouterMate RT1/RT1R|| Frame relay, T1|| N/A|| SNMP, Telnet|| $1,495 |
| Pivotal Networking Inc.|
| StarGazer 1700|| POTS|| PAP/CHAP|| SNMP || $395 to $945|
|StarGazer 1800||ISDN||PAP/CHAP, IPSec, DES encryption||SNMP||$495 to $1,395|
|StarGazer 1900||ISDN, frame relay||PAP/CHAP, IPSec, DES encryption||SNMP||$495 to $1,395|
| RAD Data Communications Inc.|
| LAN Ranger MBE Series|| Dial-up, leased line, frame relay, DDS, ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, firewall|| SNMP, Telnet|| $1100 up|
| Ramp Networks Inc.|
Santa Clara, Calif.
| WebRamp 310i|| POTS, ISDN|| PAP/CHAP|| SNMP MIB II|| $849|
|WebRamp 410i||ISDN, POTS||PAP/CHAP||SNMP, Telnet||$599|
|WebRamp 510i||SDSL, ISDN||IP filtering||SNMP, Telnet||$590|
| 3Com Corp.|
Santa Clara, Calif.
| SuperStack II NetBuilder 43x Series|| ISDN, leased line, T1|| IPSec, IP firewall, DES and 3DES encryption|| SNMP|| $5,295 |
| Shiva Corp.|
| AccessPort|| ISDN|| Smart Detect software|| ShivaRemote, AccessSwitch|| $717 |
| Sync Research Inc|
| FrameNode 3600 Series|| ISDN, frame relay|| Dial backup|| NetView/390, SNMP|| $995 up|
| Xyplex Networks|
| SOHO-Network 1000 Router|| ISDN, frame relay|| PAP/CHAP|| SNMP|| $500 to $675|
|EdgeBlaster MultiFunction WAN Access Router||T1, fractional T1, frame relay||PAP/CHAP, IPS+ D360ec-based VPN tunnels, Caller ID, RADIUS||SNMP||$1950 up|
| EdgeGuardian Integrated VPN WAN Router|| T1|| Same, with hardware-based encryption|| SNMP|| $5,445 up |
| Zoom Telephonics Inc.|
| ZoomAccess 2 || POTS, ISDN, leased line|| PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, IP filtering firewall|| WebManage software|| $1299 up|
|ZoomAccess 8||POTS, ISDN, leased line||Same||WebManage software||$1,377|
| ZyTrax Communications Inc.|
| WarpTwo|| ISDN|| Proprietary|| SNMP|| $400 to $480 |
| ZyXel Communications Corp.|
| Prestige 128 Plus|| ISDN|| PAP/CHAP, RADIUS|| SNMP|| $599|
|Prestige 641||Asymmetric DSL||PAP/CHAP||SNMP||$399|
|Prestige 310||Cable ADSL||PAP/CHAP||SNMP||$299|