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Network Computing: Kill the Router, Build the WAN

Jul 28, 1999, 13:40 (9 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David Willis)

Thanks to Bob Grabau for this link.

"Right now, you probably have a router sitting on your network's every WAN connection. Most likely, it's moving your data traffic just as it should. And I bet it's one of the least utilized devices on your network. Even at T1 speeds, your router is forwarding just a few thousand packets per second. Admirable in 1993, but in 1999 we've got DSU/CSUs that exhibit three times enough MIPS for this. Any general-purpose computer purchased in the past five years could adequately handle routing for the WAN."

"Open interfaces don't require manufacturers to give their code base away, but rather simply to provide APIs to other processes. Third-party code could run on the router in special-function cards or on an external host. Nbase-Xyplex has taken a few steps toward this goal with plans for the OSR8040, a large, carrier-class switch/router that uses onboard Pentium processors to host Linux for applications and provide high-level aggregate information to third-party software. That's a start, but it doesn't go far enough."

"If routers don't open up, the more realistic option is a pure play for Linux in the WAN. A Linux-based PC can host a wide variety of applications, routing included, at a lower cost than going proprietary--and it's not as risky as you might think. As a platform for Internet services, Linux has already been proven and is the only network operating system worth considering here. It's leaner and more stable than Windows NT. It has a huge development community--the size of which NetWare will never achieve. And no other Unix can match its value for low-cost services."

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