Friday, April 28, 2006

Sacramento, staying awake and migrating from closed to open

Last night I was on a TechCoire panel moderated by Christine Herron in Sacramento about open source software and it's readiness for use in the enterprise. I was joined on the panel by:

Not surprisingly, all of us on the panel were passionate about how best to use open source in an enterprise environment and how we felt that the open source software market is on the cusp of being viable in nearly every aspect of an enterprise. On the long drive home late last night (finally hit the pillow about 1am) I tried to listen to some talk radio to keep my mind awake, but I could not tolerate the bombastic commentary from the left and right on a variety of political issues. The main hot topic of the night was gas prices and since I was doing about 80 on interstate 80 I did not want to think about how much gas I was burning...

So, instead, I started thinking about what it might take to migrate from a closed-source based enterprise to an open-source based enterprise. When you have a blank sheet of paper, like we did with Vyatta a few months back, it was relatively easy to decide to do everything we could using open-source (and if we didn't, well that was a problem in my book :). So, we deployed a number of open-source solutions for our company (Vyatta, Asterisk, RedHat, Apache, Bugzilla, Subversion, etc.) and they have served us well to date. But, what if you're a Fortune 1000 company that has been buying closed-source software licensed for the past few decades and are now contemplating moving from Siebel to SugarCRM or Oracle to mySQL? There are clear TCO and ROI advantages of using open-source, but the migration issues and business process reworking much be time-consuming and difficult.

I'm sure this migration has been done successfully many times by enterprise software folks much smarter than I am (I'm in networking :) and I'd appreciate hearing some of the stories. As we start to migrate some closed-source networks toward using the Vyatta OFR I am sure we learn from those that have worn a path before us. Maybe I can hear from some of you on Tuesday night in Vegas?

See you at the party in Vegas!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Microsoft and open-source?!?

In case you missed this a few weeks back, you should check out Port 25 the open-source portal and discussion group at Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. I know, you picture Darth Vader or Billgateus of Borg, but I think this site is worth a read. Never hurts to get another perspective....

And, in case you're wondering, I'm not going to use IE7, run IIS for our website or install an Exchange server anytime in the near or distant future. We're clearly not part of the collective here at Vyatta!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The reach of open source software

I've been continually amazed over the past month or so how far and wide the message of Vyatta and what we are doing with the OFR has reached. Being somewhat narcissistic, we tend to use Google to search for "vyatta" every few days to see if someone new is out there trying the OFR and writing about it. More often than not, we find a new site writing about us or blogging about their experiences with the router/firewall. We truly try to reach out to all of these folks and thank them for trying the OFR and see if they have any good input for us.

Tonight, we found this article on the PC World Iran website. As you may guess, I can't read too many words of this article, but I'm assuming that this is a translation of one of the recent articles about us from Network World when I look at the byline.

I'm pretty amazed about the fact that a company that has been in the public spotlight almost exactly 2 months has some PR coverage in Iran! I guess I can attribute this to three factors: 1) The power of the Internet to disseminate information, 2) The power of search engines and the web to provide connections between sources of information and 3) The power and lure of open source software in the router/firewall market.

Now, if someone could please translate the article and tell us what it says and if we should be pointing to this as a shining example of the reach of open source software, that would be ideal :)

See you in Las Vegas next week! Party next Tuesday night!

Friday, April 21, 2006

ADD in the real world

I was having a conversation with a colleague the other day that seems to point to an extreme case of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I'll change the name in the below transcription, although I am not sure that the ADD would allow them to read the rest of this blog post anyway... The conversation went something like this:

Allan: Thanks for the idea, when we are done here I'll give them a call and follow up. [...1 second passes...] ADDInfected: Great - have you called them yet? Allan: Um, I'm talking to you. [...1 second passes...] ADDInfected: Yes, but I called you on your mobile phone and you have a landline. Allan: Yes, but I'm talking to you. [...1 second passes...] ADDInfected: Have you called them on your landline yet? Allan: No, we are still talking. [...1 second passes...] ADDInfected: What did they say when you called them? Allan: Um, I have not called them yet as I am talking to you. ADDInfected: I've got to go, I've got another meeting I am late for right now.

I hung up the phone and shook my head in disbelief. And then, I made the other call. Ever see the movie Memento?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Juggling for the Complete Klutz

I used to think that I'd never learn to juggle three bean bags. I've not very coordinated - that's why my main form of exercise is running (and even at that I sometimes mess up as folks who know me can attest :). One day my mother bought me this book called Juggling for the Complete Klutz. Remarkably, a few hours later (it takes most folks like 15 minutes, but with my coordination, well...) I was juggling. I can still juggle three items almost at will and almost for 15 seconds at time. I've been known to juggle whiteboard markers when I'm teaching at UC Berkeley just to see if the students are paying attention.

I was reflecting on this tonight as I thought about juggling the various activities that we have in process at Vyatta - we have lots of balls in the air, so to speak. We're adding team members, getting ready to release another bi-monthly software build, preparing for InterOp in May, working on future product direction and spending lots of time with our community. It's enough to make an uncoordinated person dizzy at times. But, then, I think of my skepticism about juggling and remind myself it's all about focus.

We're focused on delivering on the promise of open source networking software on commodity hardware. Routers, firewalls and much more with the help and inspiration of our community. When you're focused it's not too hard to juggle successfully.

Any thoughts on where you'd like to see us focus in the future? Drop us a line using the usual methods - lots of you seem to know how to reach us and that is a great thing! Keep the questions and comments coming!

Open source: Ready for prime time?

In case anyone is in the Sacramento area next Thursday evening, I'll be on a panel at TechCoire speaking about open source. This should be a fun event, so if anyone is in the area, it would be great to meet!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Advisory Board, part 2

It's another busy day here at Vyatta galactic headquarters :-) A few more words on our recently announced advisory board members....

Dave Newman has been helping us for some time on product direction and recruiting great engineering talent into our company. When I first met Dave via a VC connection, he was somewhat skeptical about our company direction and technology. Yet, to paraphrase him "the more I thought about this, the more it made sense! How else do you make an impact on this market?!?" I spent a bunch of time getting to know Dave and now value his input on multiple areas of our business. We're glad to have Dave around and use his time and energy as much as we can. Free food in the office helps! (inside joke :-)

I've been friends with Simon Crosby for a number of years now and was an advisor to one of his past companies, CPlane. Everyone I know that knows Simon agrees that he is one of the sharpest people in networking and open source on the planet. His energy and enthusiasm in these areas is intense - eating dinner with Simon is part education, part networking technologies and part trying to keep up. :) I talk fast, but he thinks quicker! I bounced the idea of Vyatta past Simon before we built the team and he really liked it - so when the time came to form our advisory board he was a natural. It's rare to find someone who knows networking protocols inside and out and is conversant on open source licensing models. Now, let your mind bend around running multiple instances of the Vyatta OFR on a multi-core x86 platform for a large enterprise or service provider..... Pretty cool!

As I mentioned before, we'll be adding more folks to the advisory board in the future. Stay tuned!

The Vyatta Advisory Board

We announced the first two members of our advisory board today. Dave Newman has been helping us for some time on our product development and Simon Crosby has been helping us on many aspects of open source and getting Vyatta working with Xen.

More to come on this subject later and look for more additions to our advisory board in the near future!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Open source gets frothy

The announcement this week of JBoss being acquired by RedHat for $350M (plus $70M earn out) is generating more interest in the open source market from a variety of vendors. Taking a short look back, you find that RedHat acquired Sistina in 2003 for around $31M in stock, Novell acquired SUSE the same year for $210M in cash and Checkpoint was on the verge of acquiring Sourcefire last year for $225M in cash and stock before that transaction ran into the US government. To top it off, the Oracle acquisition machine has announced that it will start acquiring open source companies.

Not all of these events are directly related to our work at Vyatta, but they do point to a general frothiness and excitement in the open source market. While we enjoy being in a market full of excitement and press, I've been working hard to make sure that we stay focused on building our business. As the old Navy saying goes, "Keep your head and eyes in the boat." If you're half as excited as we are about the community growth and open source networking movement that we've started, stay tuned - froth comes on top of a latte and from waves crashing on the shore. For now, I'm hoping to raise my cup to the seeds of the coffee plant :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Either you get it or you don't

I've been speaking to folks about Vyatta publicly for about 6 weeks now and there really seem to be two camps of people who I met - those who get open source and those that don't. Those that don't get it usually greet me with a chorus of "you need custom hardware to build a router" (wrong - strike one), "you need routing done in hardware to perform at the level that most enterprises need" (wrong - strike two) or "routing is so complicated only Cisco and Juniper can get it right" (wrong - strike three). We, and many others, have shown that open source router and firewall software combined with commodity hardware can suit the needs of an enterprise.

To prove my point, here are some other things I do get:

  • Jerry and Elaine love each other and should never date other people
  • U2 is the best rock band of the past 25 years
  • Linux is at the core of many profitable and successful enterprise devices and applications
  • You put on the jelly first and then the peanut butter
  • Moby Dick, the whale, was neither good nor evil. Same for Captain Ahab.
  • The San Francisco Giants were 8 outs away with a 5 run lead in 2002 to win the World Series and still lost
  • Open source software is being used throughout many enterprises for webservers, application middleware and databases
  • MC Hammer's pants should have never left his closet in the 80s
  • The Blackberry is cool, but the Treo is cooler
  • MPLS is the new ATM which was the new Frame Relay which was the new X.25
  • Vanilla ice cream goes well with nearly everything

Like I said, some folks get it, some don't.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Old Intel server means a new router

I've been hearing about a lot of people taking our software and putting it on an old Intel-based server for trials and demos. In our minds, this is a great use of a server that may have reached the end of it's usefulness as a compute platform. As our performance tests have shown, you don't really need a high end CPU to get good routing and forwarding rates using commodity hardware. In fact, as many of you have pointed out, you don't need any proprietary hardware at all!

Thanks to Derick Winkworth who ran a series of performance tests on commodity Dell boxes and posted the results here.

This reuse of older Intel-based servers has me thinking about how service provider could cycle their old compute platforms to new network infrastructure and get more life out of their investment. A 20th century 1Ghz Intel-based server with 256MB of RAM would serve nicely as a Fast Ethernet/DS-3 router and firewall. New sites and services could be deployed for practically no capital expense! And, when you combine running the Vyatta OFR with a XenSource/VMware environment, you can deploy multiple virtual routers using old hardware. George Ou at ZDNet has been building this test setup as he explains here.

Old Intel hardware with Vyatta is your new router! Your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Vyatta as the next Google

Here in Silicon Valley everyone is looking for the next Google... In the VC world, it's almost a mantra. Still, we're not naive enough to think that we are really going to see the same revenues or market domination as Google, but I do think that we do have a few things in common. And, the title caught your attention, right? :-)

Google entered the search market when other believed that the market was already mature. When Google first came out, Yahoo!, Altavista, AskJeeves, and many others had been in the market for years. But, Google did not merely copy the companies in the search market, they invented a new market with new services. Similarly, we realize that at Vyatta we're entering a mature networking market and need to offer new and innovative services.

Google has a strategy of giving away their search product for free as a way of giving prospects an opportunity to work with their services. This has worked well and built a nice avenue for customers to find their advertising services. Likewise, we are giving away our OFR product with the thought that those that want a company to back the product with service and support will buy from us. If people want to use the OFR for free and never buy service and support from us, we applaud that as well - we want folks to be part of a user driven open source community rather than being handed products from a closed source vendor.

Google has continued to innovate and add customer driven services to their platform. Being an open source company, we need to foster this same innovative spirit. The growth of our community has been very encouraging and we need to keep the momentum building.

So, are we the next Google? Probably not, but I am generally an optimist. If we can emulate their ability to enter a mature market, build our community using our free products, provide exceptional service and support to those that desire them and innovate on services then we may have a chance for exciting growth.... Never say never :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

How We're Different

Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to talk to a number of people about the Vyatta and our OFR product. One question that seems to come up a lot is: how are you folks different than other open source networking projects?

This question is usually followed by a story that falls into one of three basic groups:

  • The story of a friend who has been running their network using Linux routers for years
  • The story of how closed source networking companies have used Linux/FreeBSD/NetBSD in their products since the dawn of time
  • How it's trivial to take Linux + iptables + busybox + gated and make a router

    We feel that the Vyatta OFR is distinct from each of these examples and at the same time, inspired by them. Without friends of ours (and some employees and community members) having the experience of running Linux routers for years we would not have had the information we needed to contemplate building the OFR. Closed source networking companies that take Linux or xBSD and use it for a commercial product accentuate the point. Not only do they use the open source products, they take them, add some features and sell their products.

    The third story above may be the most telling of all to our ears.... People are right - we have not developed any new technologies or protocols in the Vyatta OFR. We have taken numerous projects and built a distribution that we feel makes a whole router/firewall product. We integrated these projects into a distribution with a CLI (and a GUI to be released shortly), help system, logging system, install scripts, documentation, etc. We've spent lots of resource testing and qualifying our distribution to the point where we can confidently and passionately support it. If folks want to do this integration and testing on their own, that works too - but we think taking our free distribution may be a better use of your time :-) The way I look at it is this - if you want to get a Linux system that is more of less equivalent of Fedora you can go to,,, etc. and build your own. Or, you can go download Fedora, which, again, might be a better use of your time. So, the third story, like the first two are absolutely correct, and is a major part of our inspiration.

    This may explain why we are different from a product point of view. Yet, there is one final message about how Vyatta is different from vendors.

    We are focused on spreading the adoption of commodity software on commodity hardware. We're not in the business of selling technology or software features. We're in the business of integrating open source software into a distribution of commodity networking features, performing testing and qualification, building an inspired community, and providing commercial support to those that wish to purchase it from us.

    That's how we're different. Please let us hear your comments here or via email!