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Vyatta offers more robust open source router and security appliance

Vyatta Inc. debuts its third open source router and security networking appliance in less than nine months, edging further into the enterprise space.

Vyatta Inc., the Belmont, Calif., open source networking startup, has introduced its third networking appliance in less than nine months, each with more power and features than its predecessor.

Vyatta, known for open source software that can turn x86 servers into networking gear, sees its new family of appliances as a low-cost alternative to pricier networking gear from such vendors as Cisco Systems Inc.

"We see our role in the market as the open source alternative to Cisco," Vyatta marketing director Tom McCafferty said. "The down economy is playing into our hands, with customers asking us to help them expand or replace outdated Cisco equipment at a price they [can] afford. They're saying their budgets have been cut and they have projects to complete and they want to start working with us."

Tony Iams, an analyst with Rye Brook, N.Y.-based Ideas International, said the networking market continues to grow, but Vyatta faces a challenge because Cisco has such a strong brand name, and companies are reluctant to gamble with networks because they are so critical to operations.

"Open source can be disruptive with a cheaper product," Iams said. "But Vyatta has to overcome a lot of skepticism and reassure customers that they aren't sacrificing quality."

The new Vyatta 2502 router and security networking appliance has a 2.4 GB, dual-core processor and 2 GB of memory, compared with the 2501 model with a 1.8 GB, single-core processor and only 1 GB of memory.

The new model offers dual-core forwarding, which enables the appliance to do memory- and processing-intensive tasks like running a big virtual private network (VPN) and transporting large numbers of packets along individual encrypted tunnels to multiple destinations, McCafferty said.

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The 2502 also provides virus protection and intrusion detection, he said, and it has dual RAID disks for high availability and complete failover protection.

While Vyatta's first appliance was suitable only for the "low-hanging fruit" of small offices or branches, the 2501 gave the company a toehold in small enterprise deployments. The more powerful 2502, in turn, extends to the midmarket enterprise or hosting service providers, McCafferty said.

Vyatta's 2502 appliance, which sells for $2,747, is comparable to the Cisco 2800 to 3800 class, which sells for more than $12,000 without as many features as the 2502, he said. In addition, Vyatta's x-86-based hardware is easy to modify with more memory or disk space or other off-the-shelf components without having to wait for a vendor upgrade.

Vyatta's differentiator is not only lower cost but flexibility, McCafferty said. With the open source Linux kernel, Vyatta appliances can be modified for additional functionality such as network monitoring, he said. Also, users who don't need the convenience of a packaged appliance can download Vyatta software free of charge, with or without paid support.

Although venture-backed Vyatta is not yet profitable, downloads have been doubling every six months and currently average 20,000 a month, McCafferty said. Sales are growing into bigger and bigger deals, he added, with roughly half of the company's revenues from subscriptions and half from appliances. The appliances have been available since late March.

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