Open Source Routing

I’ve written about competition to Cisco products in the past, most recently about a college in Texas switching from Call Manager to the (fantastic) open source Asterisk PBX. It seems there’s more trouble in paradise. The networking market has been moving towards commoditization for some time but remains stratified, for example when Linksys got too close for comfort Cisco bought them out and made it clear such products were not suitable for the enterprise customer.

Another threat should be on the radar at Cisco. A company called Vyatta has released an open source product set to compete directly with Cisco routers called Open Flexible Router (OFR). The software runs on standard x86 PC hardware and is based on Linux but boots up and runs in much the same way a Cisco router does, right down to the command line interface that closely paralells Cisco’s. It seems the marketing is currently targeted and small and medium sized businesses but there’s no real reason that such a company couldn’t convice some educational and enterprise users to switch if they were convinced the support was good enough.

The two main things Cisco has going for it are the dedicated hardware which allows for (theoretically) more stability and optimized processing and the history of customer satisfaction and excellent support that Cisco has built into its brand. Of course with an open source program such as OFR another company could come up with a customized hardware solution that would erode at least one of the Cisco advantages, the other one will just take time if Vyatta can build a name for quality and stability.

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