Vyatta Adds Security Tools to Open-source Routing Platform

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Open-source routing vendor Vyatta is adding SSL VPN, intrusion prevention, Web caching, URL filtering and other features in Vyatta Community Edition 5 (VC5), the latest version of its software, set to be released Monday.

Following the practice of Linux distributors, Vyatta distributes routing software in a free version and sells a more up-to-date version along with support. Customers can also buy the software on a standard x86 server. It offers a less expensive, more flexible alternative to the familiar enterprise routing products from the likes of Cisco Systems and Juniper, according to Vyatta. The platform is designed primarily for enterprises, and about half of its customers are outside the U.S., according to Dave Roberts, vice president of strategy and marketing for the Belmont, California, company.

In VC5, Vyatta supports OpenVPN, an open-source version of SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Network) software. SSL joins IPSec (Internet Protocol Security), PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) and L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) as VPN alternatives included in the routing platform. Frequently used to secure Web-based transactions, SSL is a relatively lightweight encryption system that works more easily with NAT (Network Address Translation) than do alternatives such as IPSec.

Vyatta is also adding an intrusion-detection and protection system based on the open-source intrusion-prevention system Snort Inline. It can detect intrusion attempts by using Snort-based signatures and network-based detection mechanisms. VC5 can then drop packets associated with a detected attack, preventing the intrusion.

Network administrators can now enforce policies on Vyatta by blocking users from accessing certain Web sites through URL filtering. VC5 acts as a Web proxy server, inspects the URL and blocks the site, sending an error message to the user.

VC5 also includes features for boosting performance. It can act as a proxy server for Web caching, storing data so it doesn't have to be downloaded over the Internet by multiple clients individually. The new Ethernet bonding capability allows users to group Ethernet links together into larger virtual links.

Other enhancements include a new Web-based graphical interface for managing VC5-based systems, DNS (Domain Name System) forwarding and Dynamic DNS for small enterprises and branch offices, improved drivers that boost the performance of VMware and Xen virtual machines running VC5, and support for additional hardware, including 3G (third-generation) mobile data modems.

SCS Engineers, an environmental engineering company, plans to adopt VC5 as part of a migration to a MPLS (Multiprotocol Label System) network between its Long Beach, California, headquarters and a Reston, Virginia, office. SCS works on a wide range of projects, including tapping into landfill gas to generate energy. Typical of engineering contractors, SCS works on thin margins and tries to minimize its costs, said Senior Systems Analyst Jerry Keene. But more than saving money, the company's intention with Vyatta is to use commodity hardware wherever possible and avoid proprietary platforms, Keene said.

"All major computer resources are going to be commodities, or should already be," Keene said.

No matter what systems SCS adopts in the future, Vyatta should work with them, Keene believes. The software is also consistent across all Vyatta routing platforms and is relatively easy for most network engineers to work with even if they haven't worked with open-source software before, he said.

"You definitely make life for your IT shop much easier," Keene said. "You don't lock yourself in. Lock-in is a terrible thing." SCS already deployed Vyatta in one small office in Alpharetta, Georgia, and has had good results, he said.

On the MPLS network, Keene believes the SSL VPN capability in VC5 will come in handy. SCS has been using an IPSec VPN for eight years. But trying to accomplish the same thing on the new network with IPSec could be complicated, requiring sometimes labor-intensive tasks such as creating static IPSec tunnels, he said. SSL will be easier to implement because it's more flexible, he said.

VC5 is available immediately as a free download at Vyatta's Web site. The free version is updated infrequently and doesn't include support. Commercial versions are available now starting at US$747, and appliances with the software start at $797.

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