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7/28/2006
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Analysis: Is The World Ready For Open-Source Networking?

Vyatta, Sourcefire, Groundwork, and the Asterisk IP PBX represent the open-source push for networks. They're gaining traction, but it could take years to make significant headway.

Open source networking has been around for years, but most businesses haven't bitten. Reliability and support are the main concerns. "Open source code for those mission-critical infrastructure components would be dangerous," says Jim Brown, CIO of nonprofit organization United Cerebral Palsy of New York City. In a recent survey by research firm TheInfoPro, fewer than 10% of businesses said they'll evaluate or use open source routing within the next year.

Vyatta hopes to change that perception with last week's introduction of its Open Flexible Router, which transforms any x86 computer into a router. The software is free; Vyatta offers support for a fee.

There were about 10,000 downloads of the software while it was in beta in recent months, and Vyatta is seeing interest from some large financial services companies and ISPs, says VP of strategy Dave Roberts. Intel and Microsoft are among the investors in the open source project on which its software is based, called Extensible Open Router Platform, or XORP.

Other open source platforms focused on networking are gaining some traction. The U.S. Department of Defense is a customer of Sourcefire's Snort for intrusion prevention; GroundWork's network management software was used to manage the Interop conference's network in May; and the Asterisk IP PBX has a loyal fan base.

Open source offerings can provide businesses with considerable savings on networking costs. Still, without something to unify such efforts, as Linux has in the operating system market, it could be years before open source networking makes significant headway.

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