Vyatta Vaunts Open Source Router
The new Vyatta program, launched today, packs the Vyatta open-source software, the Open Flexible Router, onto a Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) server. (Dell, because that's what Vyatta has been using internally; other platforms are certainly possible, Vyatta officials say.) The router has 2 Gbit/s of throughput and holds its own against a Cisco 2821 or 3845, according to Vyatta VP of marketing Dave Roberts, and costs less than $2,000, versus $4,000 and $13,000 for the respective Cisco routers. (See Vyatta Offers Hardware.)
That price includes a support agreement. Like Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) and other open-source companies, Vyatta expects to make its money from support and maintenance contracts.
Vyatta launched in February, offering its code on the Web free of charge. Since then, the company has claimed 15,000 downloads, aided by a couple of Slashdot mentions. Vyatta has also picked up $7.5 million in venture funding. (See Vyatta Raises $7.5M.)
Despite the success of Linux in the server world, and networking's open-source heritage of the GateD router stack, Vyatta is charting unexplored territory. Most of the success of open-source products has been "for purely software-based applications," says Matthias Machowinski, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. "You could argue a router is just a piece of software on purpose-built hardware, but that's not how people buy it," he says. (See NextHop: Fast-Food Routing? )
In other words, routers don't have the DIY fan base of PCs and servers. "Networking guys are not used to buying hardware and installing software themselves. They're not used to CD-ROMs and all that," Roberts says.
Offering an appliance "widens the appeal" for Vyatta, Machowinski says.
It's not just buying habits that Vyatta has to combat. Routers retain a mystique that says proprietary hardware is necessary. "This puts a stake through the heart of that myth. It says that proprietary hardware, at least in a certain price band, doesn't matter," Roberts says.
Having just launched this year, Vyatta is still feeling out its market, watching the demographics of open-source router users take shape. Many early customers have been small businesses, the type that can change quickly (and, probably, where the IT department is one guy who can impose his will on the company).
Others have been surprises, though -- Roberts notes the company has been contacted by a Tier 1 service provider, one that Vyatta didn't solicit.
As a point of comparison, Vyatta can look to the modest but growing success Digium Inc. is enjoying with Asterisk, the open-source telecom platform that can be the foundation of PBXs and other types of equipment. Asterisk is "starting to show up in the end-user base, but the numbers are still very small, one person out of 200," Machowinski says. (See Open Source Eyes Telecom.)
It seems reasonable to expect the same kind of cult following for Vyatta. Roberts adamantly points out that Vyatta doesn't intend to take down Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) (spoiling some great possibilities for headline hyperbole). Just as some people aren't into baseball or hunting or dogs, some users just aren't open-source types.
"Our aim is to get all the open-source folks. It's not right for everybody, but it is right for a large fraction," Roberts says.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading