Open Source Hardware Routers

by Dustin Puryear

This is by no means new news, but I just read a blog from Matthew McKenzie about WRT54G-based open source routers and it got me thinking.

First though, for those not in the know, the Linksys WRT54G can be loaded with a custom Linux kernel and other features so that instead of getting the stock Linksys feature-set, you can run a more powerful router package and do everything from IP- and port-forwarding (most Linksys routers only do port-forwarding) to web filtering (well, to some limited extent because of the limited memory available).

Anyway, the real question: Where are the open source ENTERPRISE routers?

Matthew mentions that it is viable to run a custom WRT54G for a SMB, but I do not see this happening in the enterprise arena anytime soon. That said though, why isn’t there a big move toward open source enterprise routers?

I understand that the big profit in the network world, even for mostly hardware vendors like Cisco, are the up-sells of software, but it does seem to me that a hardware market is a hardware market, and that having a suite of routers that are based on open source could be a viable route to go.


2008-06-19 11:15:13
Is something like Vyatta ( what you're looking for?
2008-06-19 12:24:25
You may have a look at Vyatta if you don't already know them. They don't build dedicated hardware (ASICs) but their solutions are based on open source software, and that's a great point.
2008-06-19 12:41:29
It seems to me that the largest issue with this would be variety... I think the preferability is in the commercial realm, and the requirements for networking from office to office can be so different. There definitely should be a major movement towards this though. I think there are still to make IT professionals who prefer a low maintenance server, and are familiar with the current vendors...
Ken Hansen
2008-06-19 20:22:34
I think you are missing the point - the "enterprise-grade" routers I am aware of are designed for commodity hardware - by design there is no room for a markup/profit in such a market. If someone were to design their own platform and make the design generally available (for a price or freely), how would they recoup their investment, and how would they encourage "experimenters" to try out the solution (organizations like Vyatta can simply offer unsupported ISOs that boot on generic hardware).

I also suspect many are projecting their SMB and SOHO habit of trying new software on a whim and assuming a major corporation would want to do the same. An enterprise needs their infrastructure to run 24x7, 365 without issues, while many SMB/SOHO users relish the learning opportunities software failures provide...


Dustin Puryear
2008-06-23 12:00:36
Oh, yeah, Vyatta! I took a look at that a while ago but forgot about it.
Dustin Puryear
2008-06-23 12:06:17
Ken- No, I am definitely aware of what you mean about enterprise-grade routers. We don't do networking, but we rub elbows with those that do at our larger clients, and those clients definitely qualify as enterprise.

I guess I'm more concerned about the ability an expansion of the market and accessibility of features, but there is the trade-off, as you note, with reliability.

2008-06-24 09:47:23
I don't think that Linux or even other open source OS (like NetBSD, OpenBSD) would work so well on enterprise routers, because they use proprietary hardware and general purpose OSes might not be as fast as a custom OS.

But of course, Cisco or other vendors could open source their OS. By the way, it would be even more interesting if Foundry Networks or Juniper Networks would do this, since they're the leaders when it comes to high-end stuff.

2008-06-25 17:24:49
OpenBSD on standard x86 hardware works great. OpenBSD default install supports ipsec vpns, packet filter firewalling (pf), ospf, bgp, and can act as a wireless access point. It's FREE, FUNCTIONAL, and unlike others, SECURE.
2008-07-09 16:50:52
Waitasec, my understanding is that Cisco routers run a BSD backend. When you say 'enterprise' I'm assuming that's the category of type routers you're referring to is the commercial types that Cisco pioneered? So open source management software like BSD Ports could be used at least as a source repository wouldn't it?

Dustin Puryear
2008-07-10 12:09:26
arias- I've never heard that Cisco IOS or PIX is based on a BSD kernel, but I could be wrong. Where did you hear that?
2008-07-11 17:25:09
Скажите а занятия сексом,можно считать диетой?
2008-07-14 07:48:29
Cisco class I took in 2000. Eight years ago, so maybe outdated information? But I somehow doubt they did a complete infrastructure overhaul. Also worked with its BSD back end to some extent on a job I did in early 2002.