Vyatta - changing the world of routers, firewalls and VPNs

Kelly Herrell, CEO of Vyatta, and I were introduced recently. The folks making the introduction said "Kelly is CEO of Vyatta, the open source routing company.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Kelly Herrell, CEO of Vyatta, and I were introduced recently. The folks making the introduction said "Kelly is CEO of Vyatta, the open source routing company. They are going to change the networking world." With that sort of introduction, how could I possibly turn down a chance to learn about Vyatta's technology and why it was "going to change the networking world."

Here's a snapshot of the project. Vyatta and the open source community behind the company have developed a complete enterprise-class router/firewall/VPN that can be hosted in a virtual machine, installed as a software appliance on systems already owned by the organization or purchased as a ready-to-use hardware appliance.

Yvatta's software is based upon an open architecture that allows many functions (Firewall, VPN, VoIP, Load Balancing, WAN optimization and others) to be plugged into the same software or hardware appliance. Since it's an open source project, if the list doesn't contain something your organization needs, it would be possible for your team to add needed functions to the list. Yvatta and it's community would be very thankful.

Other than the fact that the software is open source and can be used, modified and replicated without charge, I didn't understand what was market changing about this technology. As I thought more about our conversation, it began to dawn on me why this was so very interesting. Here are some of the ramifications of Vyatta and it's products.

  • World-class routers are often very expensive and are based upon proprietary microprocessors, custom operating systems and have not really undergone the same standard-systems and systems software revolutions as had the rest of the market for IT solutions. Making this type of routing software on industry standard systems could lower the cost of an important component of a data center while also improving overall performance.
  • Since this software can be deployed as a software appliance or a hardware appliance, organizations have the choice of installing a machine that was purchased using a standard hardware volume agreement to lower the cost of purchasing and acquisition of their systems. It can also be part of a standards maintenance agreement with the supplier of the hardware and lower the cost of support. It would also be possible for older systems that are no longer large enough for other tasks to be given a "field promotion" to handling virtual network functions.
  • The kicker for me is that it can be just another task that is provisioned and managed by powerful virtual systems management products from suppliers such as Cassatt, DataSynapse, Hyperic or Scalent.

This last bullet is really important in my thinking. In the past it simply was not possible to treat this level of network infrastructure as a service subject to the same policies and service level agreements as other applications or services without purchasing a number of very expensive special-purpose routers to create an environment with sufficient levels of redundancy. With Vyatta, now organizations can do what they need to do to create a reliable network infrastructure without busting their budget.

Another interesting aspect of virtualizing routers is that, in a green data center, even the functions of routing, firewall and/or VPN could get all of the benefits of being virtual, not physical functions. If the workload rises beyond a set guideline, more virtual routers or VPNs could be started. If the workload falls lower than some set figure, routers could be consolidated onto a smaller number of systems and some shut down to save on power.

The best part of this approach is that I have no doubt that organizations would save money by placing this function somewhere in their Grid or Cluster rather than by purchasing a special-purpose, single-purpose router. It is very likely that the organization would also save money on installation, administration and operations as well.

If you're interested in trying it out, members of the Yvatta community have loaded the software into a virtual machine and have made it available here.

What would Vyatta need to do to make your organization consider a virtual router rather than automatically purchasing routers from Cisco, Juniper networks, etc.?

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