Evolving RIM edge requirements
While the 21st century has brought us a staggering new array of tools, I see the smart phone being the quintessential communication and personal productivity tool. These mobility tools have become the primary method we use to interact with our organizations, websites, on-line stores and applications.
So, some time back when our product management team approached Engineering requesting an extension to our RIM edge device solutions, I quietly thought to myself:
Can a smart phone device play a role as a RIM gateway solution?
Opengear was already delivering a cloud solution (VCMS) with a family of smart edge appliances (ACM5000) for managing distributed infrastructure. The high level functional spec for extending the edge appliance line was along the lines of:
We’ll need smart configurable devices, with a broader array of communications capabilities. More processing power and storage – to be capable of managing the computing, networking, power, environmental and other smart IoT devices in a remote site. But the device still must be small, robust and affordable ”
So it became clear that while smart phones have evolved to be great human interface devices – user-friendly with hi-res screens, good audio and cool applications – and they are somewhat ruggedized and most certainly affordable; they are not an appropriate solution for infrastructure interface RIM devices to be deployed at the edges of enterprise networks.
A RIM gateway needs to cater for an array of device connectivity
Since the release of the ACM5000 we had learnt that the devices to monitored and accessed in RIM sites were very often Ethernet connected (e.g. industrial PCs, IP cameras). Sometimes wireless connectivity was needed for OoB access to isolated locations on the site. Also the edge devices needed RS-232/422/485 for serial; USB for consoles and UPSs; digital inputs for sensors (temperature, humidity, water leak, vibration, fire) and digital outputs for alarms.
RIM gateways should operate stand-alone much of the time
An additional level of automation was needed in these smart devices allowing them to be simply programmed to take actions based on a hierarchy of local events. For example if a UPS switches from mains to battery it automatically shuts down managed devices, power cycles dumb devices and sends an SMS to HQ. The managed devices are restored when mains power returns or a remote administrator sends a secure SMS to it. As the site could become isolated, local storage is desirable for logs which an expert can analyse later. Hardware-level triggers to recover from errant states should bring the smart device back to stable operating conditions.
Out-of-band connectivity and failover from LAN or wi-fi
Failover between the main and out-of-band connection through automated link monitoring was also necessary. Therefore these smart devices required additional Ethernet (for broadband), embedded cellular or dial-up modems – no nasty plug-ons – another big space and power headache.
So my Engineering team developed the new ACM5500 range
Creating these new dedicated smart devices was a challenging but rewarding engineering task. Ultimately through the new ACM5500 line (coupled with expansion of existing ACM5000 and IM4200 families – and coupled with significant firmware enhancements) our team delivered a full range RIM gateways.