Roll Your Own – A Smart or Dumb Decision?

Bridging the networking world to physical infrastructure

Do your engineers have a “roll your own” or DIY philosophy for custom embedded applications? If you plan to use generic embedded computer boards without regulatory approvals, you are already on the back foot. Unforeseen challenges often arise when bridging the networking world to physical infrastructure.

Plug and pray!

It’s not that easy to find a system board with all the right interfaces and connectors, DIMMs, flash sockets, cable headers and so forth, all in optimum positions. Then there’s the tendency nowadays to fit missing interfaces via a USB or other dongle. Already it’s looking like a high-school project. Next you need to find an enclosure which may have connectors and power in poor locations and leak RF. You’ll also need to find an approved power supply.

No zaps or rays

The potential for significant pain now begins. Multiple rounds of expensive regulatory compliance testing (EMC, safety, and carrier) may be needed for your combination of components. You run the real risk that you may not be able to deploy the final solution due to design issues with components which you don’t control and cannot change.

Real-world firmware

Beyond that you need to select and tune the embedded OS, storage model, additional subsystems, device drivers and finally applications, to create a firmware image. You have to stress test both the hardware and firmware in real-world environments. The appliance needs to be ultra-reliable for critical installations that must stay operational when core managed devices are down. This is rarely the case with “roll-your-own” appliances which may not be equipped with watchdog circuitry and support firmware. You also need to monitor the currency of the embedded OS for security and other significant patches.

A box for all seasons

The Opengear engineering team applied decades of experience to make the ACM5000 and ACM5500 appliances as flexible and modular as possible, allowing a wide matrix of interfaces without re-engineering core components. This makes remote site management installations more future-proof. The Opengear appliances are compact (palm-sized) and tough (metal case) and can be mounted in a wide range of environments, especially where space is at a premium.

The ACM5000/5500 family is packed with a wide range of interfaces (Ethernet, 3G/4G, Wi-Fi, RS232/485, USB, and Digital I/O) and powered by a 250MHz ARM9 System on Chip with 32-64MB RAM, 16MB boot flash and 4GB of storage. These products are perfectly suited to monitoring, management, connectivity and security applications and start at only USD $300.

 Here’s a snapshot:

232/485, USB, ETHx5, 4G, WIFI











Novices or experts can customize for verticals

The appliances have a strong core feature set including console management, event and data logging, email/SMS alerting, PDU/UPS management, environmental monitoring, firewall, routing, VPN, etc. Running on a stable embedded Linux platform, Opengear regularly releases additional features and patches to keep your product up-to-date and secure.

In addition, partners, integrators and OEMs needing that special software piece to solve challenges in vertical applications have options available for customizing the firmware:

  • Automated Remote Management and Support (ARMS) with default scripts
  • Automated Remote Management and Support (ARMS) with alternate scripts
  • Customized firmware using the Custom Development Kit (CDK)

ARMS enables monitoring and management of interfaces, connected devices and the environment including serial/USB console control; IP/IPMI/SNMP access to networked servers and devices; control of UPS and PDU power infrastructure using USB/serial/network connections; and digital IO and environmental sensor interfaces. Auto-responders run scripts based on specific trigger conditions for problem remediation and notification with email and SMS alerts.

The default scripts can be replaced or augmented with alternatives unique to your vertical application. A simple example might involve using a digital output to energize a solenoid and trigger an alarm when a particular string of characters is detected on an RS-232 serial interface.

For those occasions where you need to add new applications or drivers to the underlying embedded Linux platform, Opengear offers its Custom Development Kit (CDK). This solution is aimed predominately at Linux experts.

The CDK can be used to generate a firmware image with custom applications, drivers and configurations.

ACM5000/5500s solve a wide range of needs

Opengear partners have created unique solutions in many vertical markets worldwide. By leveraging ARMS, the CDK and the ACM5000/ACM5500 appliances they have created smart edge solutions that intelligently bridge the networking and physical world.

Here’s what some industry experts have to say –

Experts on hand

Your needs may be fulfilled straight out of the box or with minor or major customization. Either way, Opengear has experts ready to help you deploy your vertical solutions anywhere in the world.

Posted in Industry Trends, Recent

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