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1 марта 2005, 00:00

Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 Router

The high speed of traffic routing between WAN- and LAN-segments, as well as between WAN- and WLAN-segments, allows using this router for establishing a shared access to the Internet using the fastest communication channel without any risk of restricting the network traffic by it.

SOHO routers – inexpensive but efficient alternative to various costly software solutions requiring a a dedicated PC and installation of two Ethernet controllers – take one of the central places in Gigabyte's network produce assortment.

Up till now, the company's assortment has been presented solely by external SOHO routers, both complemented with a wireless access point (wireless routers) and classical ones not requiring support for wireless connections.

However, quite recently Gigabyte has announced an internal wireless router of the PCI Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 interface.

Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01

Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01

The Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router is aimed at implementation of a secure shared access to Internet via the dedicated connection.

On the router plane, there are connectors for two ports: the WLAN port to connect a DSL modem, and the LAN port to connect a network segment being internal relative to the router. Besides, on the same plate there is a connector for a removable area integrated into the wireless access point router of 802.11b/g standard. Note that the router's package bundle includes a remote aerial on a magnetic support of 3 dBi gain (Fig. 1) which can be easily installed on the housing of a CPU unit.

External aerial of Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router

Fig. 1. External aerial of Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router

Typical scheme of using a Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router is presented in Fig. 2.

Typical scheme of using a Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router

Fig. 2. Typical scheme of using a Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router

The setup and tuning of the router are straightforward.

The only shortcoming that we found in the router design is the need for plugging in an external power supply. The external supply voltage (5V) is fed from the motherboard's power connector using a special adapter (Fig. 3), but unfortunately far not every motherboard allows doing that.

Adapter for plugging in power supply to the router

Fig. 3. Adapter for plugging in power supply to the router

The thing is, there are two types of power connectors for motherboards: wide 24-pin ones, and regular 20-pin. Wide connectors are aimed at new PSUs and new motherboards although they are compatible to regular connectors in wiring. Therefore, it is quite possible to use a new-type wide connector PSU with a motherboard in which a regular connector is installed, and conversely - PSUs having regular connectors are compatible to motherboards on which wide connectors are installed. However, in practice such compatibility may come up against the insurmountable obstacle – attempting to use a wide connector for the PSU with a regular connector on a motherboard may result in the the 4 protruding pins touch the adjoining connector. Since the vast majority of users resort to motherboards having the regular connector, this may prove an unpleasant surprise.

To be fair, note that use of an adapter having a wide connector is the destiny of an engineering sample of the router. As they assured us at Gigabyte's customer support service, batch-produced routers would be shipped with a 20-pin adapter. Moreover, it turned out that on most motherboards use of additional power supply is not a must at all, that is, the power supply received over the PCI-bus will be enough for the router.

At that, the annoying surprises are over, and in all the remaining aspects the router showed its best.

Once the router is fitted to the PCI slot, it is ready for work. No additional drivers are required, so the hardware installation wizard doesn't start up either.

To carry out the router tuning, it should be connected to the computer's LAN port within the same subnet as the router is from.

Among the main advantages of the router is the ease of setup. The router can be controlled over the network with a built-in Web server and does not require any additional control software.

To set up the router, it suffices to enter the IP-address into the Web browser. By default, the IP-address of the router (IP-address of the LAN port) is 192.168.1.254 (by the way, this port is used by default for all Gigabyte routers).

In so doing, to set up the router you don't have to use another computer. It suffices to connect the Ethernet controller of the computer where the router is installed to the LAN port.

Using a the Web browser, we enter the IP-address of the router's LAN-port and enter the router setup main menu (Fig. 4).

Setup main menu

Fig. 4. Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router setup main menu

The Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 setup utility is quite traditional, and in terms of the interface it doesn't make any difference from setup utilities of other Gigabyte wireless routers. With this utility you can configure the settings of WAN- and LAN-ports of the router, set up the wireless access point, tune the Firewall, the DMZ, etc.

Basically, an entirely different approach to configuring the Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 wireless router is possible – that is, using the Smart Setup 3 proprietary utility. To that end, while configuring the router connect the WAN-port to the DSL-modem. The Smart Setup 3 wizard automatically detects the type of Internet connection and will guide you through the setup procedure suggesting that you should enter all the required settings to enter the Internet. To connect to the Internet provider or establish connection with an external network, it is possible to define both the static IP-address and the dynamic address (DHCP-client) received from the provider or from an external DHCP-server. Besides, there is support for PPPoE (makes sense for DSL-modems) and PPTP.

Since by default the DHCP server is enabled in the router, then on the PC connected to the router's LAN port it is necessary to select the «Get IP-address automatically» option in the TCP/IP connection settings.

After a short tour round the Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router setup, let's consider the main features.

The built-in access point that complements the LAN port allows establishing a wireless segment of internal network following the 802.11b/g standards. The access point operated within the range from 2.4 to 2.4835 GHz at 1; 2; 5,5; 11; 22 Mbit/s data transmission rate (802.11b/b+), or 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54 Mbit/s (802.11g). The data transmission rate is automatically reduced in a noisy environment and on increasing the distance. Among the technologies used is DSSS, with the DBPSK, DQPSK, CCK, PBCC, or OFDM modulation.

To protect data transmission over the wireless segment, the WEP encryption protocol (with the 64/128/256 bit key) and IEEE 802.1x network authentication are used.

The interesting feature of this router is the possibility to change the MAC-address of the WAN-port (Change WAN MAC address) which can be quite useful to those users whose providers use the MAC-address referencing. The thing is, some providers who use cable modems sometimes practice user authentification by the MAC-address of the computer connected over the DSL modem. If the user tries to connect the modem to another computer or router, connection with the provider won't be possible. Such authentification method is a source of problems while installing a new router.

Apart from the support for NAT (Network Address Translation), this device offers an embedded firewall that prevents unauthorized access to data inside and outside the wireless network. To provide compatibility of the router operation to certain network applications incompatible to the NAT protocol and provide access to services located in the internal network, the router supports the feature for creating virtual servers in the DMZ.

Testing the router

We did the testing of Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router in two stages. At the first stage, we assessed the performance of the router itself, and at the second stage - performance of the built-in wireless access point.

The test bench consisted of two workstations of the same configurations, with the router installed at one of them and the other was imitating a DSL-modem, therefore was connected to the WAN-port. The router's LAN port was connected to the network adapter of the PC where the router was installed.

We used the following configuration of the workstations:
 operating system — Windows XP Professional SP1;
 motherboard chipset — Intel 865;
 CPU — Intel Pentium 4 3.0 GHz;
 RAM — 256 MB DDR400;

Performance tests for the routers were effected with the specialized software NetIQ Chariot version 5.0 developed for testing network equipment.

Test 1. Routing speed for WAN — LAN (hard-wire segment)

Initially, we measured the router's bandwidth during data transmission between WAN and LAN, for which we connected PCs to these ports over the 10/100Base-TX interface. The network settings of the router's port and for network adapters connected to the PC are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Network settings during the router's tests
 Computer connected to the WAN portRouter's WAN portRouter's LAN portComputer connected to the LAN port
IP Address10.0.0.1010.0.0.254192.168.1.254192.168.1.10
Subnet Mask255.255.255.0255.255.255.0255.255.255.0255.255.255.0
Default gateway10.0.0.25410.0.0.10-192.168.1.254

Then, using NetIQ Chariot 5.0 we measured the TCP traffic between the computers connected to the router, for which we ran the script High_Performance_Throughput.scr for 10 minutes. The data was transmitted both from WAN-port to the LAN-port and vice versa. Since the router does not allow disabling the NAT protocol, to implement access to the local network from outside, the computer in the internal network was laid out in the DMZ, with the IP-address of the WAN-port (10.0.0.254) specified as the end point of the internal network on starting up the NetIQ Chariot 5.0 suite.

Fig. 5 presents the results of testing the Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router on data transmission from the LAN-port to the WAN-port (LAN-to-WAN) and vice versa (WAN-to-LAN).

Network traffic on data transmission between LAN- and WAN-segments of the network

Fig. 5. Network traffic on data transmission between LAN- and WAN-segments of the network. The brown line stands for WAN-LAN data transmission, the blue one for the data transmission in the reverse direction.

As the test results suggest, the average speed of routing from the WAN- to the LAN-port is 58 Mbit/s, and the speed of routing in the reverse direction is 51 Mbit/s.

If this router is used just for setting up a shared access to the Internet using a broadband connection, such routing speed is more than enough. In fact, even if the router is used following a different scenario (i.e. to connect two IP-subnets), such a high speed of routing essentially raises the attraction of this solution.

Test 2. Routing speed for WAN — WLAN (wireless segment)

At the next stage, we estimated the speed of routing during data transmission between the WAN-port and the wireless segment of the network (WLAN). To that end, a PC was connected to the WAN-port via the 10/100Base-TX interface, with a wireless connection over the 802.11g protocol established between the built-in access point and the notebook PC having an installed Gigabyte GN-WMAG01 wireless PCMCIA-adapter that supports 802.11g/g+ connection. The routing speed was measured in precisely the same way as in the previous test.

As the test results suggest (Fig. 6), the speed of routing in this case is a bit higher than during data transmission from external network to the internal wireless network (19.6 Mbit/s). The routing speed in the reverse direction is 17 Mbit/s.

To understand the idea of produced results, remember that in the previous test the speed of routing was about 60 Mbit/s, so the performance of the router itself cannot affect the results of this test. The network's bottleneck that restricts network traffic in this case is the interaction of wireless segment of the network with the integrated access point over the 802.11g protocol. As is known, this protocol restricts the maximum data transmission speed to 20-25 Mbit/s, so we can say the speed of routing in this case meets the protocol speed of the wireless segment of the network.

Network traffic on data transmission between WLAN- and WAN-segments of the network

Fig. 6. Network traffic during data transmission between WLAN- and WAN-segments of the network (brown line – data transmission in the direction WAN->WLAN, the blue curve stands for the transmission in the reverse direction)

Test 3. Access point performance

To test the access point embedded into the router, we connected the PC to the LAN-port over the 10/100Base-TX interface, with the embedded access point interacting via the 802.11g with the notebook PC equipped with a Gigabyte GN-WMAG01 PCMCIA-controller. The variation of data transmission speed was measured in precisely the same way as in the previous test.

As was assumed (Fig. 7), the speed of data transmission between the wireless segment and the router's LAN port was 23 Mbit/s, that is, approximately the same as in the previous test. Similarly, the speed of data transmission from the LAN-port to the wireless segment amounted to 20.5 Mbit/s, that is, again the results of the previous test were reproduced.

Network traffic on data transmission between WLAN- and LAN-segments of the network

Fig. 7. Network traffic during data transmission between WLAN- and LAN-segments of the network (blue curve – data transmission in the direction LAN->WLAN, the brown curve stands for the transmission in the reverse direction)

Therefore, in fact, the speed of data interchange between the wireless segment of the network and the internal network coincides with the speed of data interchange between the wireless segment of the network and external network, with the maximum value of the speed restricted by the transmission protocol 802.11g.

Summary

Summing up with the tests of the Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 router, we can make the following conclusion.

The Gigabyte AirCruiser G GN-BC01 PCI-router offers a number of advantages relative to external applications. First of all, it doesn't take space on the desktop, absorbs less electric energy and does not require additional power supply. And of course, the main advantage of the router is its price which is advantageous over the cost of the external analog.

By its functionality, the internal router does not differ from external solutions, and its settings allow setting up a rather flexible and, importantly, a secure network infrastructure.

The high speed of traffic routing between WAN- and LAN-segments, as well as between WAN- and  WLAN-segments, allows using this router for establishing a shared access to the Internet using the fastest communication channel without any risk of restricting the network traffic by it.

Автор: Vasiliy Leonov