Aug 14 2014
It seems these days that small embedded devices that run Linux are everywhere. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and with different processor types. The most popular of these seems to be the Raspberry Pi device. All of these devices have their own merits and situations where they are better than the other for a certain application or use scenario. My goal here is not to debate the merits of each of these devices. Rather, it is to add the µWARP Open Source appliance from PIKA to the list of available embedded devices.
The µWARP appliance is a complete platform including an enclosure, power supply, and extensive approvals. This means it is ready to productize and deploy in the field without purchasing any additional components. It is based on a versatile network processor with two Ethernet ports capable of processing packets at wire speed. The development platform is completely Open Source and based on OpenWrt GNU/Linux distribution for embedded devices so you can customize the firmware as much or as little as you want.
Additionally, work has been done to simplify developing for and installing firmware to the µWARP embedded device. All you need is a computer to compile firmware images on and a USB key to burn the firmware to the µWARP. It even has an automated recovery option using a tftp server if you happen to burn a “bad” firmware image to your µWARP.
While the µWARP appliance could be used in many ways, its network processor and layout with a network interface on each side make it ideal for performing in-line operations on network traffic. Some ideas for applications, as posted in an earlier blog, where this would apply are:
- SIP Proxy
- SIP to SIP TLS Proxy
- Smart Redirect (SIP)
- Open VPN
- QoS Traffic Shaper
- Content Filtering
- Data Firewall
- SLA Reporter
- Gateway to TOR Network
Due to its small size and portability, many of these ideas could become easily carried on the road devices. For example, the µWARP could be programmed with Open VPN installed and configured by your IT department. Then all your home and road users could simple plug the µWARP in front of their computers wired Ethernet connection to get access to your corporate network with no interaction or software required by the user.
The Raspberry Pi device is a great embedded device that can act as a little computer with Video and peripherals. There are many accessories available for it and many projects created for it. The µWARP appliance cannot do all of the things that the Raspberry Pi can do. It does however fill a niche in embedded devices that the Raspberry Pi and many other embedded devices, that only have a single NIC, cannot. It is perfectly suited for sitting in-line with a network connection to modify, protect, obscure or shape the network traffic to/from an end device.
So to leave with a couple of questions. Which embedded device(s) do you use for your project(s) and do you select the device on a project by project basis? Can you see scenarios where the µWARP appliance would be the correct device for you?