Hot air party

Cisco recently announced a Linux-based add-on board for the ISR router models. It might not be the best thing ever invented, it's probably overpriced and we still have to see what we really get; the materials available on the Cisco's web site are another good example of a great marketing machinery (when I see a title "Our Strategy is Integration and Convergence"on the slide #11 of a Technical Overview presentation, I start wondering whether it's worth my time to continue looking at the presentation). But at least this time they talk about supporting Perl and Python, not Tcl :))

However, what really prompted me to start writing this post was the "wisdom" spread by industry journalists. Network world was still moderate; the gentleman at LinuxWorld had some strong opinions. It would be OK if they would stop at bashing the new module (and questioning the value-for-price is always fair), but of course it's more fun being all over the place, evangelizing the beauties of PC-based open-source routers and the demise of traditional router vendors. While there's (yet again) nothing wrong with open-source, let's bring a bit of the history into the picture:

  • 15 years ago, someone had a great idea to install WAN cards and routing software into PC servers. The journalists greeted that idea as the downfall of dedicated routers. Guess what ... it flopped and the router market continued to grow.
  • Cheap Layer-3 switches have been greeted as the next router killer. We still have routers and switches in our networks.
  • People have been using Linux as their home firewalls for years ... and it hasn't really impacted the low-end router market; SOHO users are still preferring to buy Linksys (or whatever other cheap low-end brand) over configuring firewall on Linux.
  • Public-domain BGP implementations have been around for as long as I can remember and they are not bad. Some people with very low budget use them for route servers ... but Cisco and Juniper are still selling high-end boxes.

In the real world of networks that have more than a few routers, if you have enough budget to buy yourself a good night's sleep, you usually install dedicated routing hardware ... but I guess this is not the sort of story that would sell the industry journals.

8 comments:

  1. Let's not forget that most of this cheap Linksys hardware runs Linux inside. What people want is convenience and a pre-packaged product. Open-source crowd alone is rarely good at delivering that unless the product is really mass market.

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  2. Careful Ivan

    Next thing you will be telling us is the emperor has no clothes!!

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  3. I've also been told you can put Linux on a 2500 as well!!

    http://www.kdvelectronics.eu/uClinux-cisco2500/uClinux-cisco2500.html

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  4. You have to be careful not to expand the debate over an integrated server to full-blown open source network infrastructure. While the AXP seems like a neat idea to me, it also seems overpriced and underpowered, and Cisco will probably cripple available functionality.

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  5. @vladimir: thanks for the information. Never touched a Linksys box in my life :) And I completely agree with you.

    @whisper: I've seen that a few years ago, but could never figure out why I'd do it (if nothing else, a 2500 is way louder than an old low-end PC :).

    @stretch: Absolutely agree .. and that was exactly my point - the writers I've quoted should tell us something useful about AXP.

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  6. @stretch: ... and, yes, it looks like the functionality is severely limited, but mainly for security reasons that I can fully agree with.

    Maybe, just maybe, if I could get my hands on a sample ...

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  7. I am a huge open source kind of person, but one thing I like not having to worry about is a hard drive failure in my router :). We lose PC hardware everyday here.

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  8. @Carl Yost Jr
    use Compact Flash card instead of spinning hard drive :)

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Ivan Pepelnjak, CCIE#1354, is the chief technology advisor for NIL Data Communications. He has been designing and implementing large-scale data communications networks as well as teaching and writing books about advanced technologies since 1990. See his full profile, contact him or follow @ioshints on Twitter.