Open source routers in the news
EDIT: After lot’s of searching and a number of conversations, I have not found anything that backs up the Network World story – even from Vyatta. All of the tests I could find only look at 1Gbps ports, not 10Gbps. I still feel that the progress in x86 based routers is exciting, but 10Gbps is not yet achievable. From what I can tel, packets per second is the limiting factor — lots of small packets can crush a software based router at relatively low bits per second. One very good study by Martin Pels illustrating this can be read here. </EDIT>
This weeks NetworkWorld includes an article about open source router start up Vyatta and their claim of 10G capable routers (also see the Vyatta press release here). I find it very intriguing and somewhat validating to hear that Linux based routers are becoming more commercially viable. This is mostly because my first telecommunications experience (at a WISP called WavMax) included work with Linux / x86 based routers which we developed in house. I have always seen great potential there and am happy that Vyatta seems to be doing well.
These routers are currently aimed at small and medium sized businesses but I wonder if they may be able to have an impact on networking and telecommunication at some point. If they prove to be reliable alternatives to traditional proprietary hardware routers, perhaps they could help pave the way for better last-mile bandwidth. The main bottleneck for the last-mile is physical transport; getting fiber or high-cap copper to the end user. Router cost does not directly equate to physical medium availability but I do see an opportunity here. The availability of high-speed edge routers for 25% the current cost would bring down the per user cost of last-mile bandwidth even if it does not affect transport cost at all. This may create (at some point) a reasonable ROI for carriers to push the bandwidth out. It may also help to generate a more fertile breeding ground for new creative methods of transporting this last mile bandwidth. Or it could just be my wishful thinking…