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Advantages of Using a Freeway versus Embedded ICP boards

Note: As of 2020, Protogate now only supports using the Freeway communications server to access WAN links, rather than the old method using embedded ICP boards. A Freeway server (with ICP boards installed into it) offers a number of benefits described below:

  • Minimizes Impact on Client Machine
    The Freeway requires only a simple socket interface to your client machine -- it just needs to be connected to the same IP network. On the other hand, installing embedded ICP boards requires opening the case of your client machine, installing ICP boards into PCIbus slots, installing an ICP driver, etc. The Freeway's lack of impact on your client machine leads to fewer cross-process bugs, easier client software debugging, and easier client machine hardware/software upgrades in the future.

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  • Simpler, More Capable Interface
    The Freeway offers a more flexible and capable client application-level interface than the Embedded solution. The Freeway can be accessed with the DLI (Data Link Interface), as opposed to the Embedded solution which offers only the DLITE interface. DLITE does not support Normal Mode, and has support for fewer operating systems than the Freeway DLI client interface.

  • Larger WAN link capacity
    A Freeway can hold more ICPs than may fit, or be comfortably handled, on a client system's PCI bus. The Freeway 3414 can hold up to eleven (11) ICP2432 cards, for a total of 88 EIA-232 ports, or a total of 44 EIA-449 / EIA-530 / V.35 ports.

  • Automatic Downloading of Protocol Code
    With the Freeway, the ICPs can be automatically downloaded from the Freeway hard disk drive, flash drive, or network, upon power-up or manual reset (whereas downloading embedded ICPs always requires a client program to be run).

  • Multiple Simultaneous Clients
    The user is not limited to a single client system when running protocols with the Freeway. Any client on the network can access the WAN links on a Freeway, without redistribution or reconfiguration of hardware resources. Also, multiple client systems can use a single Freeway ICP at the same time, whereas an embedded ICP board is limited to use by one system at a time, since it is physically available only to that system's PCI bus.

  • Simpler Recovery from Hardware Failure
    The Freeway allows swift recovery of protocol operations by a standby client system when the primary system suddenly becomes unavailable, without reconfiguration of ICPs or swapping of cables.

  • Standardized Driver
    The Freeway comes with Protogate's fully-supported Freeway ICP driver. Protogate does provide embedded ICP drivers for many common client operating systems; however, these drivers are under the constant threat of becoming obsolete as vendors introduce new versions of their operating systems.

  • Additional Internal Freeway Capabilities
    The Freeway server offers internal capabilities that are not possible with an embedded ICP board. These include:

    • The ability to offload special processing of protocol messages to Server-Resident Applications (SRAs).

    • The facilities of the Freeway's Message Switch for flexibly routing data streams between ICP WAN ports and UDP or TCP datastreams (including multicast) -- saving the user the trouble of programming such support in a client system, and avoiding the extra CPU load and PCI bus traffic load that this would impose.

    • Additional debugging and diagnostic capabilities, such as the ability to view status or error messages output by any ICP board CPU (icpprint), and the ability to extract a complete dump of the RAM on any ICP board (icpdump).

  • Fully-Autonomous Operation
    Because of the SRA and Message Switch capabilities, it is sometimes possible to offload all client activity to the Freeway -- while still allowing for client monitoring of status and statistics, if desired. The Freeway can be connected to an IP network, or even the public Internet, and perform its functions without depending on any particular client system to be up and available.

  • WAN (ICP) Development Environment
    The Freeway includes a complete WAN protocol development environment (editors, C compiler, assembler, linker, debugger, etc.) already installed and ready to use to write programs to run on the ICP boards. This makes it easy to develop your own protocols -- or to make slight modifications to existing protocols.

For a more detailed description of the methods of accessing WAN links using a Freeway and ICP boards, read Protogate's Description of how to access WAN data streams, or contact us to find out how we can put our products and our expertise to work for you.

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