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Vyatta 10 gigabit open router throws down gauntlet for Cisco

With its 10 gigabit open router, networking pioneer Vyatta has boosted router performance and created a price-competitive alternative to Cisco's offering.

Vyatta Inc., an upstart open networking company vying to take on mighty Cisco Systems Inc., reported recently that its beta version 4 router software achieved a 10 gigabit (Gbit) throughput, nearly 10 times the scalability of version 3, qualifying it for mission-critical applications, according to CEO Kelly Herrell. The test was performed on an IBM's X3550 server and a Neterion Xframe E 10 gigabit Ethernet card using open standard hardware.

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Due for release in the next few months, version 4 will be powerful enough for use in data centers and wide area network (WAN) deployments, and offer twice the expansion capacity of the Cisco 7200 router series at a quarter of the cost, Herrell said. The independent Tolly Report quantified the difference as a tenfold price-to-performance advantage for Vyatta.

Cisco defection to Vyatta
Tier-two or tier-three Internet service providers who are tech-savvy, cost-conscious and willing to defect from a name-brand product, he said. But the scalability boost should get the attention of enterprises and service providers, if not the entire market, he predicted.

Cisco has 80% of the market, and at that rate, it's difficult to make inroads.
Matthias Machowinski,
directing analystInfonetics Research

Founded in 2005,Belmont, Calif.-based Vyatta makes open software for routers, firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs) that run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. To date, Vyatta has tallied 100,000 free downloads of its software and has more than 100 customers paying for support. Annual costs range from $647 per server for the professional edition to $897 per year per server for the enterprise edition. Vyatta also announced the debut of Vyatta 514, which is a router, firewall and VPN, all wrapped in a small hardware appliance. Other features include WAN load balancing and a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) operating system. Including subscription service, pricing begins at $697.

Herrell compared Vyatta's potential impact on the $8 billion networking market with the Linux's successful shift in the proprietary software market. Until now, Cisco has been insulated from the price-to-performance pressure of Moore's law, but businesses may be more willing to consider replacing aging Cisco 7200s now that Vyatta can offer such a significant performance boost, he said.

Herrell said that Vyatta offers 80% of Cisco's capabilities but also noted that the major shortfall is lack of backward-compatibility with older systems that companies phase out. Another gap is traffic management, which Vyatta will resolve in the upcoming version 4, he said.

Matthias Machowinski, the directing analyst at Infonetics Research, said there definitely is demand for a router with greater speed at Vyatta's price point but added that Vyatta faces an uphill battle in truly competing with Cisco.

"Cisco has 80% of the market, and at that rate, it's difficult to make inroads," particularly among large, conservative companies that want the stability and support of the biggest vendor, he said. "I don't think [the 10 Ggigabit test] changes much from a fundamental perspective."

Machowinski predicted that Vyatta will continue to draw most of its customers from tier-two and tier-three Internet service providers and small- to medium-sized companies that haven't yet made a significant commitment to Cisco.

"Vyatta's idea is certainly disruptive," Machowinski said. "I don't expect a radical change in the router landscape, but there definitely will be a segment of the market that is looking for good value, and that segment will be very receptive."

Paul Wheeler, the IT manager for the city of Madera in California, is one of Vyatta's true believers. An enthusiastic early adopter, Wheeler switched the city from Cisco to Vyatta a couple of years ago to create an affordable router for T1 lines on HP Compaq rackmount servers. The city layers security with Linux-based iptables and netfilter packet filtering and uses the same host-based firewall it has for its servers, he said. And because Vyatta is not proprietary, Madera combines it with other applications and tools such as the TShark packet sniffer for traffic monitoring and VoIP telephony via Asterisk, he said.

Although Wheeler doesn't need the 10 Gbit power to transmit data on his WAN, Wheeler said he is glad Vyatta has positioned itself to serve large-enterprise customers.

"Vyatta gives you the greatest bang for the buck," he said. "Universities and research centers aren't going to pay [proprietary prices], so Vyatta's move to work into that larger space is a natural."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer .

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