SBE’s wanXL is designed to provide fast LAN-to-LAN connectivity, running at rates in excess of 1Mbps. The wanXL is a PCI-based adapter designed to run under SCO UnixWare 7, Windows NT, Solaris, and BSDI. Both two and four port versions of the wanXL are available. An on-board CPU and memory are designed to offload the host from connectivity management. To extend the flexibility of the wanXL, SBE offers a software API kit that allows for application customization using the board.

Our two-port wanXL review unit included the regular-sized PCI card with a 4MB RAM daughterboard attached, a breakout cable that terminates in two DB25 connectors, and two DTE Personality Modules. There is no printed documentation included, which is unfortunate. A diskette does hold the User’s Guide, and two other diskettes have UnixWare 7 drivers. The on-board processor is a RISC unit which works with a Motorola 68360 communications controller. The design allows SBE to configure the wanXL for many different protocols, including Frame Relay and X.25.

We installed the wanXL in a SCO UnixWare 7 system running on an ALR Revolution 2XL system with two 266MHz Intel II CPUs. The system was configured to allow connection between two 100Mhz Fast Ethernet networks and a dedicated Internet T1 router connection (hence using both ports). Installing the wanXL is easy, but we found having to use a Windows machine to print out the documentation was annoying. Why can’t companies spend a few bucks and print a decent manual? On-line documentation doesn’t work well when you’re trying to install hardware and software in system administrator mode! We configured the wanXL after a few attempts, taking well over two hours to get everything working right. Having completed this step, though, the system worked well.

Using the RS-232 connections is not as fast as some of the other options supported by the wanXL, including X.21 and EIA-530, but it is a common configuration so represents a good test of a typical installation. Our LAN to LAN connection ran at an average throughput of 530kbps, with bursts to just over 800kbps. A different configuration may well have provided the promised T1-like performance (1.544Mbps) but we didn’t exceed half that except in isolated cases. The T1 Internet connection faired a little better, with bursting to 960kbps. An average throughput for an Internet connection is not a valid measure of the wanXL as the servers are usually slower than the phone line. Plug-in "personality modules" let you modify the behavior of the wanXL, which is an excellent way to preserve the investment and allow for future growth.

The wanXL is not an inexpensive PCI card but it does offer one of the more flexible solutions for fast LAN-LAN connectivity, as well as Internet access. It could also be used to provide a backbone connection for servers that run much faster than our SCO systems. The wanXL performed well and deserves credit for offloading UnixWare 7 to the extend it does. A sensible, flexible system.