The New Uses of Computer Based Routing

The computer-based router's flexible platform and multitasking capabilities enable it to perform many more different functions than a standalone router. The key to benefiting from a computer- based router is to take advantage of these features, which cannot be duplicated on a standalone router.

A computer-based router can be used to authenticate dial-in users, for example, before granting them access to an internal, and secured, internetwork. Figure 15-2 demonstrates how a computer- based router can be used in this fashion. It is important to note that, in this figure, a standalone router is still required to support traditional WAN access.

Figure 15-2: A computer-based router can be used to augment a network's capabilities.

This example demonstrates that a computer-based router is not a replacement for traditional standalone routers. Similarly, a general- purpose computer running Windows NT Server can interconnect two different LANs and provide a routed interface between them. Obviously, that NT device needs to have two network interface cards (NICs), but is another example of the flexibility of computer- based routing. All such devices must be considered a complementary service that enhances the usefulness of routing technologies in a network. The specific benefits of the configuration illustrated in Figure 15-2 include the following:

• The ability to use a general-purpose computer rather than a specialized, and possibly more expensive, standalone router

• Support for dial-on-demand transmission technologies (POTS, Switched 56, ISDN)

• VPN tunnel construction

• Management of router via client/server administrative infrastructure rather than through a fully separate network management infrastructure

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