Portugal may not be well known as an IT hotbed, but it's the source of edgeBOX, the latest entrant into the increasingly competitive business gateway market. With a starting price of £1500 for a 20 user system, edgeBOX rolls some 50 open source apps plus proprietary management tools into an all-in-one device aimed at smaller businesses and the service providers who sell to them.

The company behind it, Critical Software, claims that the device does everything a business might need, from a wireless router, through web, e-mail and DNS/DHCP services, to IP telephony - it includes the Asterisk IP PBX. It's also a firewall with VPN, authentication and anti-spam/anti-virus capabilities, all on a Linux base, of course.

According to Peter Tyndale, Critical Software's UK business development manager, it's all about enabling small and mid-sized businesses to adopt the latest technologies, such as VoIP and VPNs, by making open source easier to use.

"Our expertise is in understanding open source packages and how to integrate them," he said. "We have pre-configured the packages and added our own modules for authentication, QoS, management, and so on."

He added that the software includes a remote management feature, which enables service providers to sell edgeBOX as the customer premises equipment (CPE) element of a managed service, as they can then deploy updates en masse.

"We see it as a platform for value added services," he said, noting that 50 open source packages isn't a lot when you think about all the components you need for a complete office system.

"It's equivalent to Windows Small Business Server," he said.

Tyndale acknowledged that breaking into the business gateway market will be a challenge, but claimed that edgeBOX's range of features beats its rivals. For example, it includes file services and the LAMP application development stack, unlike branch office gateways from vendors such as Cisco and NetD.

He said that its VoIP and remote management capabilities differentiate it from many of the office-in-a-box rivals aimed at single site companies.

It also runs on standard PC-type hardware - Tyndale said the software is the same throughout, and is licenced per machine, so users could upgrade their servers. He added that a 200-user edgeBOX would sell for approximately £20 a seat, including hardware.