Enlazza is a provider of hostname services in the industrial space. The company launched out of Wamtech, an authorized distributor of Digi solutions in Chile, to solve problems associated with the limited number of IPv4 addresses. Enlazza’ s proprietary host name solution leverages a customized set of APIs in Digi Remote Manager® – Digi’s application for secure monitoring and management of IoT devices. The solution uses a customized interface to securely connect to a router over a cellular network using a public cellular IP address, providing complete and secure manageability with a local language interface as an SD-WAN (Software-Defined Networking) solution.
Untangling the Shortcomings of IPv4
In the Chilean market, utilities have deployed thousands of devices to monitor their critical assets. And Enlazza provides the solution to make it happen. However, as Internet devices around the world gobbled up all available public IPv4 addresses, customers soon found it impossible to reliably connect to their Digi devices over a cellular network. So then Enlazza was born as a way to support Digi customers for their operational continuity and also to improve Digi customer loyalty; without understanding that the source of the challenge was changing IP addresses, they otherwise began to evaluate alternative solutions.
According to Alejandro Figueroa, CEO of Enlazza, the shortage created security and manageability issues for its customers using cellular industrial routers. “Given the sensitive nature of these devices monitoring utility networks, those customers don’t want public-facing IP addresses,” he said. “But that meant it wasn’t possible for technicians to ‘see’ devices with private IP addresses. They needed a solution to reach their devices over a cellular network – whether the IP address was public or private.”
The challenge occurred industry-wide. Enlazza, which specifically supports Digi cellular routers such as the Digi WR11 XT, WR21, and WR31, as well as some legacy models, solved the problem for all of their customers using the APIs built into Digi Remote Manager – Digi’s secure remote device management solution.
Host Name Solution: A Secure Communications Route to Devices
To build the solution, Enlazza created Host Name Solution (HNS), a customized, localized interface to communicate over cellular networks to any Digi routers using private cellular IP addresses. “For HNS, we created our own API that continuously communicates with Digi Remote Manager using a command-line interface to maintain a full connection with the remote device through a domain name constantly synchronized with its IP address,” said Figueroa. “After a simple registration process, we send them a link that can automatically create a VPN tunnel to immediately reach the device.
This process occurs automatically. The customers just need to complete three steps and then wait five to ten minutes for the synchronization with the Enlazza servers. They can then reach the equipment behind the Digi router such as electrical meters, PLCs, video cameras and weather stations.
“Once connected, they can interrogate the router, verify its power status, connection status, and signal strength. They can also review any synchronization errors and notifications, and modify configurations and settings to restore or maintain the device’s performance.”
In the next edition of their solution, in beta at the time of this writing, customers can create alarms using data from different sensors. For instance, if a sensor detects that a maximum value for a water tank has been exceeded, it can send a text or email alert about the variance. They can set different levels for each sensor and they also can manage device groups, so that many people can receive notifications via SMS and email, according to the sensor behavior. In the case of a fire alarm, for example, those messages will be sent to firefighters, police, the building owner, or technician, as appropriate.
In addition, since Host Name Solution leverages Digi Remote Manager’s open architecture, Enlazza was able to easily create its interface in Spanish for the Latin America market.
Keeping Tabs on Remote Devices – Securely
Digi routers – such as the Digi family of 4G LTE devices– provide crucial connectivity in distant and rugged environments. They gather data from electrical meters, video feeds, weather stations, and other sensors and feed it to monitoring centers. That granular data is mission-critical, so when a router is down, the disruption must be addressed immediately.
One of Enlazza’s key customers is an IT specialist in Latin America that uses the Enlazza Host Name Solution to help the city of Santiago manage its public transit agency. The Digi TransPort router sends data to the IT company’s control room in compliance with strict service-level agreements. “These are ‘can’t-miss’ reporting metrics,” said Figueroa. “They’re tracking bus operations, fare-collection information, and other important data. If a site goes offline, they can simply send a reset code via a button in the Enlazza Dashboard to bring the device back online.” This action sends the CLI command to the router through Digi Remote Manager.
According to Figueroa, “With our HNS connecting to Digi Remote Manager, we’ve solved the problem of reaching Digi Routers using private connections on IPv4. And that provides excellent value to our customers.”