Vyatta, one of the most well-known open-source routing companies, is to split its product development process.
The company, whose main product is its Open Flexible Router (OFR), will offer two versions of the software to customers: a subscription-based version, to include regular updates and support; and the free and open Community Edition.
This forking will make its business model "very similar" to that of Red Hat, says Vyatta's so-called community cruise director Dave Roberts. "We are breaking out into two development streams. This will allow the Community Edition to move ahead more quickly in terms of features. The commercial version will be focused on bringing out higher degrees of testing," said Roberts.
Linux specialist Red Hat produces a paid-for version of its software, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and a free community version, Fedora.
Roberts sees Vyatta as a direct alternative to Cisco's routers, particularly in small offices or enterprise branch offices. He predicts that, even with subscriptions figured in, the cost of running a Vyatta router is only about one-third that of running an equivalent Cisco product.
Traditionally routers have been seen as hardware devices running specialised software, but companies such as Vyatta have divorced the software layer from the hardware allowing the routing protocols to be installed on any x86 hardware.
The OFR software provides basic router and firewall features. Customers are offered either Dell PowerEdge hardware on which to run the OFR, or they can use their own hardware. Extra features, including those based on the Debian distribution, can be downloaded onto the end device. Some of the more popular include OpenSwan (VPN software), Asterisk (the open-source PBX) and ClamAV (antivirus scanner).
Roberts says the OFR will appeal to networking professionals because of its user-friendly interfaces. "It's Linux at the core, but very networking-centric. The architecture is similar to what networking guys are used to. Networking guys are not used to Unix commands. They are used to typing in commands into a Cisco or Juniper CLI [command line interface]," he said.
The OFR is based on XORP, a free open-source router platform, and Quagga, which is open-source routing software. Subscriptions range from $497 (£254) to $1,553 (£793) depending on the support response time required.
Open-source networking is a new phenomenon, with many early offerings springing up. Vyatta itself is a new company, having initially launched the OFR only seven months ago. It now achieves around 25,000 downloads a month, of which the vast majority are free. It has managed to pull in some top networking expertise, having recruited several of its top executives from Cisco and Nortel, as well as open-source companies Red Hat and Novell Suse.
Headquartered in California, Vyatta has no employees in Europe, but Roberts said the company aimed to recruit a distributor in the UK in the near future. Vyatta is planning a further release of its community software as early as July this year.