Linux Enters Router Market
With Internet traffic doubling every six months, networking is one of today's hottest markets. Linux has always played a key role in servers, but now the door is open for Linux to penetrate the heart of the Internet: the high-speed router. These devices, made popular by Cisco Systems, create the Internet by moving data from place to place.
Today, Cisco owns about 80% of the router market. Its products use a proprietary software stack called IOS to handle all of the routing functions. But, as the router market continues to grow rapidly, many new companies are attempting to dethrone Cisco. Rather than designing their products entirely from scratch, many of these vendors use a new model that relies on third-party hardware and software.
The catalyst for the new model is the network processor. This new device burst onto the scene a year ago and has already racked up more than 100 design wins with routers and other networking equipment. It replaces the custom silicon that Cisco and others painstakingly develop for each new product. Intel, Motorola, IBM, AMCC (through its recent purchase of MMC Networks), Lucent and Vitesse have all jumped into the network-processor market, and several start-ups are also developing products.
Internally, network processors are much like standard CPUs, but their architectures are optimized for handling the packet data that passes across the Internet. They bring the advantage of programmability to routers, allowing network equipment vendors to add features more rapidly to their systems, even in the face of quickly evolving standards. Buying standard silicon can eliminate the expensive and time-consuming design cycle for custom chips.
This model greatly reduces the barriers to entry that have helped Cisco repel invaders for the past several years. In this new world, the router market will begin to look like the PC market, with many new vendors jumping in building equipment using off-the-shelf silicon. This competition will reduce Cisco's dominance and provide router customers with more choices and lower prices.
To enable a more PC-like market, however, standard hardware must be joined by standard software. This is where Linux can play a role. Linux would not run on the network processor itself, which executes a fairly limited set of code at high speeds. But every router contains one or more control processors that oversee the system and perform any complicated or unusual tasks. For example, the control processor updates the routing table, an ever-changing map of the Internet, and translates any packets that are not in the standard protocols or formats.
For the control processor, many router vendors use internally developed software, such as Cisco's IOS, or a real-time operating system such as VxWorks. But some are moving toward Linux as a more open environment. For example, MMC recently joined with MontaVista Software to demonstrate an open-router platform running Hard Hat Linux. The platform was based entirely on standard silicon from MMC as well as open-software from MMC and MontaVista. Using these products as a starting point, an OEM could quickly develop and deploy a networking system that competes with Cisco's products. Even with the emergence of off-the-shelf hardware and software, the router market won't become as commoditized as the PC market. PCs are customized by their application software, whereas router vendors must develop all of the software that their equipment will use. Off-the-shelf products can greatly accelerate time-to-market, but OEMs will still add features and customize the product to gain an advantage in a competitive market. Most of this customization will be in the control-processor software. For this application, Linux has the advantages of a robust toolset and source-code availability.
As the networking market expands, more opportunities emerge for Linux. As the Internet grows, much of the new traffic is coming, not from corporate networks, but rather from DSL modems, cable modems and wireless connections. Network processors are starting to play a role in the aggregation points for these connections (known as DSLAMs, cable head-ends and cellular base stations, respectively). Where off-the-shelf hardware leads, open software is likely to follow.
Linux does not have an open path in this market; traditional RTOS vendors are also pushing their products. But, the networking community is certainly familiar with the cost and time-to-market benefits of Linux. Control-processor software can reach millions of lines of code, so software development becomes a critical issue in networking products. Smashing through $10 billion in annual revenue, the router market presents another sizable opportunity for Linux.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
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- Non-Linux FOSS: Caffeine!
- Murat Yener and Onur Dundar's Expert Android Studio (Wrox)
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- Doing for User Space What We Did for Kernel Space
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide