How Cradlepoint Stream Protocol Enables Remote Management in the Wireless World

Stream Protocol

Unique Protocol Help Organizations Save Time, Data & Money With Wireless WAN

At Cradlepoint, we strive to make products that “just work.” We want our customers to be able to focus on their business, not their network. But every once in a while, we like to highlight how our solutions work, because we also think it’s important for enterprises to understand how their network devices affect the bottom line.

One of the key ingredients of our 4G LTE routing solutions is Cradlepoint Stream Protocol. This proprietary protocol is part of what makes our solutions unique, and it’s what allows our customers to remotely manage their entire wireless and wired WAN from a single, central location in real time — without expending a lot of data in the process.

Why Wireless WANs Require a Unique Protocol

In the world of wired networks, typically Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is used by the management platform to talk to and from the router. This protocol works just fine for wired networks, but its limitations make it a bad option for managing wireless 4G LTE networks.

Reason #1: The first problem with SNMP is that it’s very chatty — it’s constantly checking in to make sure the router is still there, still on, and still functioning correctly. That’s not a problem on a wired network, where data usage is unlimited. In contrast, on a 4G LTE network, SNMP is constantly using up little bits of data just to check in with the router. Scale that across dozens, hundreds, or thousands of routers on a 4G LTE network, and you’re looking at massive costs just to keep your routers in contact with your management platform.

Reason #2: The second challenge is that a server using SNMP has to know the IP address of the router in order to make the connection from the management platform. Again, in the wired world, this isn’t a problem — static IP addresses are standard. That’s not the case on cellular networks, though.

A router on a cellular network utilizes dynamic and private IP addresses. The cell tower typically has a static public IP address, but uses Network Address Translation (NAT) to assign the 4G LTE router a private IP address behind the towers NAT’d public address. That private IP address is one of potentially billions of private IP addresses mapped out behind cellular towers.

Every time the wireless router turns on or connects to a different tower, it’s likely to get assigned a different IP address. When the router management platform tries to reach out and connect with the router using SNMP, it won’t be able to reach it because it doesn’t know the IP address and can’t route past the NAT’d cell tower. Think of it like trying to call someone when you don’t know their phone number, or trying to find a street address without a map. Where would you even start?

How Cradlepoint Stream Protocol Works

Cradlepoint Stream Protocol reverses the process described above. With our protocol, the router uses a built-in discovery mechanism to contact Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Manager platform (NCM). Once the router establishes a connection with NCM, the router and cloud manager perform a handshake and establish an encrypted TLS connection. This real-time connection works regardless of carrier, network topology, or how frequently the router’s dynamic IP address changes.

Once the router has connected to NetCloud Manager, the organization’s IT team can easily monitor, manage, and make updates to the router.

The Bottom-Line Benefit

Most legacy management platforms use SNMP to manage wireless routers, but they are not efficient. One major disadvantage is that management platforms using SNMP can easily utilize upwards of 100 MB of data each month — remember, that’s just to manage the router. In contrast, Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Manager utilizes an average of only 6-8 MB of data per month.

Scaled over a whole network, Cradlepoint Stream Protocol saves enterprises time, data, and money.

There are a number of bandwidth optimization features that allow our routers to minimize the amount of data needed to communicate with NetCloud Manager.

  • Adaptive Compression. To limit how much data the router and management platform utilize to communicate, Cradlepoint uses adaptive compression. When there’s just a little data being sent to a router, go ahead and send it. If there’s a large sum of data that needs to travel between the router and NCM, Cradlepoint will compress it first. This optimizes data usage in both situations. It’s also advantageous if you’re using a wired connectivity source with the Cradlepoint router, because it still helps free up available bandwidth.

  • Bi-Directional Communication. The router can talk to NCM at the same time that NCM is talking to the router, which additionally contributes to an efficient, real-time connection between the two .

  • Real-Time Event Triggers. When the router is in trouble, or something changes, it will automatically send an event trigger to NCM. This keeps the management platform from being so chatty; it knows that it doesn’t need to check in with the router constantly.

  • Efficient Data Transfer. If your IT team needs to make, say, 10 configuration changes to a router, instead of sending each configuration change separately (with a lot of overlapping and redundant data), our protocol sends all the changes together so there’s no redundant data traveling over the encrypted tunnel.

Regardless of the application — failover or primary connectivity, mobile or stationary, fully wireless or wired/wireless — if you’re using 4G LTE as a wireless WAN connectivity source, it’s critical to have the ability to manage the network efficiently and cost-effectively. NetCloud Manager and Cradlepoint Stream Protocol make it possible.

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