AutomatedBuildings.com
Interview - March 2003
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EMAIL INTERVIEW  Jack Chadowitz & Ken Sinclair

Jack ChadowitzJack Chadowitz has 27 years experience in industrial and building controls. Since 1994, he has been involved in the design and marketing of Internet based monitoring and control systems.

Jack founded BostonBase Inc. in 2001 with the goal of providing affordable Internet solutions for buildings where the solutions provide a quick payback through energy and operations savings. With his IT and controls background and the experiences of integrating web gateways into solutions, Jack has acquired an insight into gateway solutions and their applications to real problems.

Jack Chadowitz, President, BostonBase Inc.
www.bostonbase.net  
jack@bostonbase.net


Common pitfalls in implementing Web Gateways in Buildings

BostonBase Inc. specializes in software solutions that use Web Gateways from a variety of manufacturers. Following Jack's active participation in the AutomatedBuildings.com sessions at the AHR show in January, we thought we would get some of his views on the subject through an interview.

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Sinclair: Jack, we enjoyed your participation in our sessions. What are the major points you made at the forums?

Chadowitz: The main point is that we cannot ignore the IT folks and their requirements if we want to share their infrastructure.

Gateways promise solutions for remote site management by taking advantage of low or no-cost IT networks. However there are pitfalls!

The touted feature in web-enabled gateways is the embedded web server. It publishes building information on the Internet or a WAN (Wide Area Network or Intranet) in the form of web pages. This is a great solution for remote views of what is going on in a few buildings, but the following should be considered:

a. What are the tools available to build these pages? Are they hard coded? What are the costs per page and the cost for modifications?

b. Scalability and an integrated view of information. Gateway Web Server solutions are not scalable and multiple site information cannot be integrated.

The gateways typically cannot serve more than a few browsers simultaneously.

A browser window is required per gateway making comparing more than a few sites unwieldy, if not impossible. Pulling data off the pages for comparisons, if at all possible, is labor-intensive, requiring manual cut and paste.

These gateways require fixed IP addresses as well as open incoming ports, often an IT or communications cost showstopper for a project.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair: Where is the value in Gateway solutions?

Chadowitz: The value is in having gateways use the Internet or corporate WAN to communicate with a server. The gateway acts as an interface between existing EMS systems or actual inputs and outputs. The gateway should not require a fixed IP or opening of ports in firewalls. It should be possible to plug a gateway into a local LAN in the same way as one would add a computer. This conforms to corporate IT standards and prevents the IT showstopper. After all, it is the IT networks we want to use and IT administrators have legitimate concerns about security and the use of their time. Where gateways are connected to DSL or broadband Internet connections, dynamic IP addresses cost typically 50% of fixed IP connections; in addition, by not having to listen on open incoming ports, security risks are minimized. A low cost ($50) router can also then be used to block all incoming ports further enhancing security.

As an enterprise software supplier and integrator, I am pleased to see that gateway manufacturers have started to take this approach.

 


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