Monday, 11 October 2010

It just works!

OK, this is slightly blowing my own trumpet, well the trumpet of the whole FireBrick team really, but I have been involved in a fun project for the last few weeks to deploy a FireBrick in a completely new environment - mobiles.

An LNS, as this is, handles the endpoint of connections to the internet, typically from broadband lines these days. We have tested from dialup, and broadband. We have tested from BT and Be. We have tested the way things are done in the ISP world and we are selling them (albeit prototypes, technically). They work well.

The mobile world is a challenge though. We are talking to very different kit (A Nokia GGSN) and it is not quite what we expected. The PPP negotiation is faked in the mobile network, and the RADIUS responses were not what we expected, and lots of little snags and differences.

Throughout the work I have ended up making all sorts of changes only to find that, after hours (or days in some cases), what we were doing was right all along and no changes were needed. The end result is a richer set of features on the FireBrick, which is good, but mostly a lot of work for no reason.

The final solution is handling layer 3 termination as well as lots of L2TP relay to all sorts of different manufacturers kit in ISPs.

Basically, "it just works". I should not be surprised, and I know customers using this kit are not surprised, but it is always scary when you are launching any new product. You worry about every little thing - from "is there some subtle bug that will break things?" do "did we design a product people actually want to buy?". When it goes out there in to the world on its own and just works you are always relieved, and it is always a surprise no matter how many times you have done it before with other products that "just work".

So, onwards and upwards - the new smaller FireBrick products are due to launch real soon now, and we have much to do.

Code code code!


  1. It still strikes me as odd that HSDPA gets presented to the EU as PPP, even on USB dongles. I guess it's just a hangover from the days when PPP really was how mobile data worked though. Three with no fallback to orange presumably has no real need for PPP anywhere at all though other than where it's been inherited.

  2. We see PPP our end, and the dongle sees PPP, and the mobile network did not actually mention that they were not, well, "point to point"... So that creates all sorts of "fun".