Review: 6 slick open source routers
DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWRT, M0n0wall, PfSense, and Vyatta suit a wide range of devices and networking needsFollow @syegulalp
Vyatta is a Linux-based network operating system available in both a core open source implementation and a commercial edition. The commercial edition can be had in the form of a software subscription or by purchasing a hardware appliance. Vyatta is commonly deployed as a small- or branch-office gateway, as a VPN concentrator, and as a bridge between data centers or between data centers and clouds.
Supported hardware: Like OpenWRT and M0n0wall/PfSense, Vyatta comes in incarnations that allow it to be used in stock 32-bit x86 PC hardware, so any such system can be transformed into a high-efficiency router, firewall, and network services box.
Features: You name it, Vyatta probably has it. Among the most recent additions as of the March 2012 build of the product are a GUI and dashboard that displays graphical statistics (in the commercial edition only), RFC-compliant VRRP, an enhanced connection tracking and logging subsystem, and stateful inspection firewall -- professional features all. Vyatta also comes built for drop-in use in many virtualization environments, with support for VMware vSphere 5 templates just added too.
Limitations: The single biggest limitation of Vyatta, vis-à-vis the other products in this roundup, is that it's designed entirely for x86 devices. And not just any old x86 device, either, but one with a fairly large amount of storage (1GB minimum), especially by embedded-device standards. In short, Vyatta is best for full-blown PCs. Also, while a 64-bit edition does exist, it's still considered experimental at this time and shouldn't be used for production systems.
Finally, a number of key features, including the Web interface, are only available in the commercial edition. The command-line interface is designed for network admins and may pose a hurdle to more casual users. A free 30-day trial of the commercial edition is available, though.
Recommendation: Vyatta is a business-oriented product with routing and security features beyond the needs of most small offices and home offices. That said, those building a network appliance using full-fledged x86-based PC hardware -- especially for larger environments -- will find everything they need in Vyatta.
Vyatta's Web-based configuration panel is one of the big assets for its commercial edition, but its open source core version preserves all the under-the-hood functionality for this x86-based network OS.
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