First Linux router appears

NBase-Xyplex this week will announce what analysts say is the first router based on the Linux operating system.

The company will unveil the OSR8040, a 40G bit/sec, 18-slot chassis with 10/100 Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet modules. OSR8040's Linux operating system brings a level of programmability and flexibility to routing that proprietary operating systems - such as Cisco's IOS or Nortel's BayRS - do not, analysts say.

"There's a lot of people writing routing software on top of Linux," says John Freeman of Current Analysis in Sterling, Virginia. "They can put in different types of features on top of Linux, and they don't have to be force-fed particular routing algorithms and protocols that would come with a proprietary routing operating system."

In addition to routing algorithms and protocols, users can write specialised quality-of-service applications, enhanced security or Web caching services on a Linux-based router such as the OSR8040, NBase-Xyplex says. But these benefits will have limited appeal to enterprise users, according to Kathryn Korostoff, president of Sage Research in Natick, Mass. Enterprises want products they can "set and forget," Korostoff says.

"They won't appreciate the value of Linux," she says. "Enterprises typically don't write their own add-ons. All they want is stuff that acts like an appliance."

Carriers and ISPs, however, do like to write their own programs, Korostoff says. Linux will give them flexibility they're not accustomed to with proprietary router operating systems, she says.

That's why one user is looking forward to beta testing the OSR8040. Broadband Network Integration, a State College, Pa. service provider for educational institutions, wants to write applications that will help it manage its network and track service levels, says Tejas Vashi, vice president of marketing.

"Currently, what we're using is (Symantec's) pcAnywhere to (remotely) dial in to the network manager on-site and take control of the entire system," Vashi says. "However, as we move forward and have the capability to configure switches based on applications specifically for management, that's going to be a big plus."

The OSR8040 can sport up to 128 10/100 ports, 32 Gigabit Ethernets and 64 ATM or packet-over-SONET OC-12s. Future modules will enable the router to support 128 ATM or POS OC-3s, and wave division multiplexing and other long-reach optical interfaces. The OSR8040 also includes a full suite of commonly used network and routing protocols.

The OSR8040 costs $300,000. It will ship in the third quarter.

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