To examine our next product architecture, we take another trip across the Atlantic to visit Critical Links and their edgeBOX product. Critical Links is a wholly owned subsidiary of Critical Software SA. Established in 1998, it has over 100 employees and headquarters in Portugal, plus subsidiary offices in the UK and USA. The company has a reputation for producing mission- and business-critical networking and telecommunication solutions for the telecoms, public sector, industry, aerospace, and defense markets. Its customers include Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Infineon Technologies, NASA, the European Agency for Defense and Aerospace (EADS), and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Critical Links’ edgeBOX product is a fully integrated network device that includes an IP PBX, with comprehensive security features and integrated Quality of Service (QoS) functions that are designed to support small and medium-size business enterprises (SMBs). One of the interesting aspects of the edgeBOX is that in addition to its IP PBX functions, it typically replaces between four and seven single-function devices, such as a router, security appliance, network access server, file, web, and email servers, VoIP gateway and Wi-Fi access points, but with a fully remotely managed system, and a significantly lower total cost of ownership. The product’s name, edgeBOX, is thus indicative of the comprehensive suite of functions it performs.
Network integrators market edgeBOX to enterprises for deployment at their branch offices, while telecom service providers (TSPs) and managed services providers (MSPs) offer it as a service to their SMB customers. The edgeBOX runs on a Linux-based system, and is therefore compatible with standard servers that are available from a number of hardware vendors, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Depending upon the hardware platform deployed, the edgeBOX system can support up to 500 end users.
The integrated edgeBOX features include:
- IP PBX: based upon the open source Asterisk software that runs on a number of off-the-shelf hardware platforms. The phone system supports the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and provides standard business communication features, but also includes Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), voice mail with optional email forwarding of voice messages, and telephone number mapping using ENUM (Electronic Numbers).
- Router: with support for ADSL, Cable, UMTS, LAN, WAN, and DMZ ports; plus Network Address Translation (NAT), Domain Name System (DNS) and the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) protocols.
- Network security: with a stateful inspection firewall, support for virtual private networks using IP Security (IPSec) and the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), plus fine grained access policies, content filtering, anti-virus, and anti-spam measures.
- Network access control: including authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA), an embedded or remote RADIUS policy server, and either local/remote Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) service.
- Quality of service: with both inbound and outbound QoS functions, supporting the DiffServ protocol and traffic prioritization using a number of industry-standard methods, including Random Early Detection (RED) and Weighted Fair Queueing (WFQ).
- Wi-Fi applicance: compliant with IEEE 802.11b, with wired equivalent privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encrypted authentication, this function turns the edgeBOX into a Wi-Fi access point.
- Storage: including file and print servers, with automatic backup and anti-virus checks.
- Email server: with associated services, such as SMTP and POP for email hosting or relaying.
- Network management: supporting the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), versions 1 and 2, with both local and remote management options.
Further details on the edgeBOX architecture can be found at www.edgebox.net. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ architectures.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.