real hardware router VS linux router

Leen Besselink leen at
Sat Feb 21 19:27:26 UTC 2009

mike wrote:
> Well,
>    Our operation uses linux everywhere and we have our own in house tiny
> embedded flavor with all the tools and things that make it suited for
> use in big and small boxes as many kinds of router and general packet
> flipping appliance. I have confidence built on long term, real world
> experience that says I can do this sucessfully, but the price I pay for
> it is the knowledge curve and having had to invent the 'right' mix of
> stuff, which includes compact flash based boot media, read-only
> filesystem, and minimal management (command line via ssh, you need to be
> an expert), and as well as having had to select the right hardware
> (constraints include power on always, no dumb bios to stop the boot
> process, and other issues).
>    I would never ever reccomend that anyone just 'use linux' for network
> appliances. It *can* do the job, but all the baggage of 'pc hardware'
> typically conspires to make for less than rock solid. Stuff like hard
> disks, which crash malfunction corrupt, and issues like - does the box
> power on when power is applied or does someone have to press a button?
> (You will note, most commercial hardware like routers and switches
> either don't have a power button, or simply default to being 'on' unless
> you take pains to flip buttons somewhere. But, PC's typically have a
> power button you have to press to make it come on). And there's other
> issues too - PC Bios's also conspire to get in the way and stop the boot
> process. If they detect some sort of error, a key press, a missing disk,
> or many other excuses, they stop cold waiting for someone to 'press f1
> to continue', or worse. Also most PC systems also have single power
> supply units, and that which are less sturdy construction and are more
> likely to burn out at some point than the more heavy duty commercial
> grade units you see in commercial router/switch equipment).
>    The difference then between linux and 'a hardware router' then is
> that the manufacturer - cisco, juniper, whomever - has a large degree of
> control over the integration between their software and the hardware it
> runs on, and can dictate all of the things that makes the product work
> like the boot process and it's internal storage and wether there are
> sufficient fans and what kind of power supplie(s) are present and wether
> there's a hardware watchdog (that works!) and the type of chips serving
> as the ethernet controllers (which dictates all kinds of things that the
> mnf considers 'features'). It's a long list.
>    To summarize, you can do many jobs with linux. How WELL you do them,
> however, is more of a function of how much exerience and knowledge that
> you have. You can also do many jobs with commercial boxes, but how well
> you do that job can be expressed more in terms of selecting the right
> platform and plugging the right configuration lines into it, and both of
> these can easilly be 'done well' in exchange for money (router vendor
> support team, etc).

If you had to choose, it's probably smarted to go with OpenBSD, it has a
lot better integration of packet filter, bgpd-daemon, ospf, vrrp-like, etc.

Also depending on the structure and needs of your network, PC-routers may
be cheaper and thus you can buy more of them for redundancy.

Linux has other qualities, for smaller router and firewall setups I would
prefer OpenBSD. But people can do whatever they want, hell even my (Sony
Bravia) TV runs Linux.

> Mike-
> Deric Kwok wrote:
>> Hi All
>> Actually, what is the different hardware router VS linux router?
>> Have you had experience to compare real router eg: cisco VS linux router?
>> eg: streaming speed... tcp / udp
>> Thank you for your information

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