Mandac developed a pre-pay platform, Wireless-To-Go™ (currently commercialised as MultiSpotTM), which helps ISPs to retail Internet access in developing regions. Designed for the Middle-East and Africa, it supports a range of languages, currencies and payment options.
The original system has been developed for stand-alone kiosks, but additional business can be generated by offering customers the possibility to use several locations using e.g. their laptops or smartphones.
The intention of this project was therefore to move all of the centralized functionality of Wireless-To-Go™ into the Cloud so that it can be used to control access to Internet access to a much wider range of customers. This in turn meant that the accounting and authorisation functionality had to be moved into a central location, organized in a high-availability cluster to offer hot redundancy. The cluster consists of two machines which present as a single interface to the outside world, so that in the event that either machine fails, the other will immediately continue offer service seamlessly.
The Cloud-based version of Wireless-To-Go features all of the same functionality as before as shown in the diagram below, and offers some further down-stream benefits. In particular, since the customer database is in the Cloud, a customer buying credit at one location operated by a particular ISP is able to use that credit at any other site operated by the same ISP.
Scalability was also a requirement, allowing the system to grow with the number of users.
There were a number of challenges in this project, despite being, what at first sight looks like a simple migration. One of the biggest challenges was to meet the security requirements. Given that the service is now operated from the Cloud rather than a single device which was maintained within the customer's premises, security was one of the biggest issues.
Another project challenge was to specify and select a commercial wireless access point which could meet the requirements of low power and low cost while still delivering the necessary functionality.
Regarding functionality, scalability was an important requirement to ensure that as the network grows, it is easy to simply slot in more machines to share the load.
The Multi-Spot Cloud-based platform allows local satellite-based ISPs to retail affordable internet access The flexibility and reliability means it can now even compete favourably against “home-grown” systems because of the economies of scale. We already have customers in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe and we continue to grow these networks. Our plan is to visit East Africa and Central Africa to assist local ISPs further in bringing affordable Internet access to rural Africa.
The Cloud-based version of Wireless-To-Go™ is implemented as a scalable multiple machine cluster, featuring high-availability between the units. This is implemented using distributed replicated storage among the two machines across the network, in a shared-nothing architecture.
As mentioned above, the machines present a single interface to the outside world, so that any incoming request can be dealt with by any machine, and all machines operate on the same data.
Kick-off for this project was at the start of November 2011 and the project progressed almost exactly on schedule. The Final Review was held at the beginning of 2013. The project is now complete, but the contract has been extended to develop additional functionality following customer feedback and these new work packages are on-going.
The project is complete. An extension is on-going for additional functionality.