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 Farallon NetLINE Broadband Gateway

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 11/13/2000


Model: PN8511

Pros: - Dependable basic router with good feature set
- Can handle triggered port mapping
 
Cons: - Slower than similarly priced products
- Expensive for what you get


Updates

9/3/01 - Farallon aquired by Proxim

 

The Basics

Indicators
  • "Broadband Modem" Link/Activity

  • "Local Network" Link/Activity

Connectors
  • One RJ45 10BaseT for the WAN

  • One RJ45 auto sensing 10/100BaseT LAN 

  • Power

Comes with
  • CDRom with PDF copy of User guides, and other info

  • one page printed Quick Start Guide

  • one normal UTP cables

  • power supply

Other 
  • Hardware Reset switch

  • NO Uplink or Normal / Crossover switch for LAN Port (see this page if this concerns you!)

 

An oldie, but goodie.

Farallon's latest addition to their NetLINE product line, the Broadband Gateway (BG), is pretty much a Maxgate Ugate Plus with minor cosmetic differences, but with official support for both Windows and MacOS users.  Both routers, by the way, look like they are sourced from Sercomm.  

Firmware is not the same as the Maxgate, with the BG having a higher revision number and different screen layouts.  Although I expect that you'll be able to upgrade the firmware via TFTP clients that Farallon will supply, there is no mention of firmware upgrade capability in the User guide, and there are no firmware files or upgrade information posted on the Farallon Support Web site.

 

Decent features!

Even though the BG has an older design, its capabilities are comparable to many newer products': 

  • The "Special Applications" feature allows you to specify outbound and inbound ports numbers (or range of numbers) that UDP or TCP traffic can pass through. You can also specify an outbound trigger. (Go here for an explanation of how "Triggered Maps" work.) 

  • The "Virtual Servers" feature provides an easier way (than opening up specific port numbers using the "Special Applications" feature) to allow users outside your LAN to access servers on your LAN. The most common server types (WWW, POP, Telnet, News, etc) just require checking a checkbox and filling in an IP number of the computer running the server.  There's also a provision for defining your own types of "Virtual Servers".

  • Finally, you can use the "Exposed Computer" option to effectively place one computer at a time on your LAN outside the BG's firewall, allowing complete Internet access.

NOTE: Opening holes in your firewall can compromise your LAN's security if done incorrectly.

The BG also has a flexible set of outbound access controls:

  • You can define access groups that consist of specific workstations and assign different privileges to each one.

  • You can filter common applications/services (FTP, News, WWW, etc)

  • You can define your own UDP or TCP packet filters.

There isn't provision, however, for filtering by time periods.

Things that the BG won't do are typical for routers in this class.  It doesn't support logging or content filtering. and although it does support PPTP clients, you'll be out of luck if you try to use IPsec clients on the LAN, since it lacks IPsec passthru capability.

 

Fast enough for ya?

I put the BG through my throughput tests, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything, and I'm glad I did:

(Tests run with 7.0 Release 01 firmware)

Test Description

Transfer Rate (Mbps)

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@200kbps]

File Xfr

Qcheck

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

WAN-LAN

2.1

1.7

< 10

183

 8%

LAN-WAN

0.5

0.5

< 10

not measured

 

(Details of how we tested can be found here.) 

LAN-WAN routing speed is 3-4 times slower than WAN-LAN, so you wouldn't want to run a server behind the BG.  I also found that if you set a computer as the "Exposed Computer" (same as "DMZ computer" on other routers), the WAN-LAN performance on that computer drops to the slower LAN-WAN speed for all net access.

The UDP stream test indicated that the streaming performance degraded sharply above 200kbps or so.

 

Summary

The BG is a good basic router that will serve many people very well.  Although it's slower than current designs, many broadband connections don't run much faster than 1 to 1.5Mbps, so can't benefit from a faster router anyway.

The good news is that the router's firmware has been fairly stable.  The bad news is that for about the same money (or less, depending on rebates), you can get faster routers, some with built in hubs or switches.  Perhaps realizing this, Farallon bundles a "Get 25% off selected hubs or switches from Farallon" coupon in with the BG. But frankly, I'm puzzled that given the present generation of routers that are available, that Farallon would try to break into the market with a previous generation "me too" product that isn't aggressively priced.


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