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7/24/2006
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Vyatta Takes On Cisco With New Open-Source Router

But an open-source product is no better than those working on its code, and that number is much larger for a company like Cisco than it is for Vyatta and the small open-source routing community.

Networking startup Vyatta today released what it says is the first enterprise-grade, open-source router platform in a bid to pull routing away from the proprietary world of big names like Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks.

Open source has already shown some limited promise in the networking and IP telephony arenas. In the hallways at almost any IP telephony conference, attendees will inevitably hear someone mention Asterisk, an open-source IP PBX that's gotten backing from IBM. The Department of Defense uses Sourcefire network security products based on Snort open-source intrusion dectection and prevention.

Open source routing projects like GNU Zebra and the related Quagga project are barely a blip on the radar. Vyatta seems to have been more lucky out of the gate, as 10,000 people downloaded the beta software in the last several months. Vyatta VP of strategy Dave Roberts says interest has mostly come from small- and medium-sized businesses looking for value, but major financial houses have called asking for details and large ISPs have downloaded Vyatta software.

Instead of purchasing an expensive piece of hardware, all Vyatta requires is an Intel-based PC with at least a 500 MHz processor, 256 Mbytes of RAM, 500 Mbytes of free disk space, a PCI-based T1 interface card and the company's Open Flexible Router software.

Roberts says customers should look to Vyatta for value, security and flexibility, and also took the opportunity to rip on proprietary systems. "Closed-source is like Stalin and central planning," he says. "At the end of the day, the company knows best. With open source, that's not a barrier."

However, Vyatta needs to take several significant steps before users take talk like that seriously. Though the bureaucracy of a major vendor isn't a stumbling block, the tiny size of the Vyatta community is. At the end of the day in open-source, the product is no better than those who are working on its code, and that number is much larger at a company like Cisco than it is with Vyatta and the small open-source routing community.

Businesses today want more than just a router, and they know they can get it from major networking vendors that consistently put innovative features into their equipment. That's why Vyatta wants to add support for VPN, wide area file services, multicasting and possibly IP telephony. However, they talked about adding that support when they announced the company in March, and so far none of it has been included.

Meanwhile, traditional networking companies make their products easier to deploy by bundling hardware and software together instead of making customers install the router operating system themselves onto an old computer that's sitting unused in a closet somewhere. That's why Vyatta intends to launch a hardware appliance sometime this summer.

Version 1.0 of Vyatta's software can be downloaded for free. Subscriptions, which include software upgrades, maintenance, and support, cost between $497 and $647 a year depending on the level of support.

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