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Free Range Routing project takes aim at Cisco with server-as-router project

'Quagga' gets new name, code injection from Linux Foundation, Cumulus and pals

By Richard Chirgwin, 4 Apr 2017

A group of open networking companies have dispatched a fleet of X-Wing fighters in the direction of the biggest target in networking: Cisco.

Under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, Cumulus Networks, Orange, 6WIND, Architecture Technology, LabN Consulting, NetDEF (OpenSourceRouting), and Volta Networks have launched the Free Range Routing (FRR) project.

As Cumulus Networks' co-founder and CTO JR Rivers told The Register shortly after the project launch, the project started with a barely-active routing project called Quagga.

Cumulus was interested in routing from launch, Rivers said, and put “a ton of work” into the largely-dormant Quagga. Over time, he said, “we came across other groups that had done the same thing”, so it made sense to bring the disparate groups together.

The first release – “2.0 because engineers are strange” – FRR has routing protocol daemons for the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), Intermediate System-Intermediate System (IS-IS), the Label Distribution Protocol (LDP), Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) and the venerable Routing Information Protocol (RIP).

Turning Quagga into something useful to the modern virtualised or containerised white-box networking user took a lot of work: the project needed support for 32 bit route tags in BGP and OSPF; BGP also got update groups, next-hop tracking, and better reachability advertisements; there's IPv4 connectivity on IPv6 infrastructure; virtual routing and forwarding; a CLI overhaul (hope you didn't even glance at Cisco's CLI while you were doing that...) and more.

What's all that mean for the sysadmin? At this point, Rivers said, the target deployment is in data centres, rather than trying to take on Cisco in telco networks.

“If you put this on a regular server, you have a router,” Rivers said. “If you're at an Internet exchange point … you get policy maps, support for large tables, fast convergence times, and so on.”

Deployed to a virtual machine, FRR provides a router as a virtual network function – something useful if a customer is running NFV (network function virtualisation).

Whether in a virtual machine or in a container, Rivers said, FRR lets the VM or container be advertised as a route to the rest of the network, fully portable with service advertisement. Or it can be added to a switch running a suitable network operating system.

Rivers is optimistic about the performance achievable if FRR is deployed to a Cumulus-based switch, because the underlying platforms are hardware-accelerated switches “with silicon from Broadcom or Mellanox” – the technology running in hyperscale data centres like “Amazon AWS, Facebook, Microsoft, Google”.

Further into the future, Rivers said, Cumulus expects to see customers joining in development with their own extensions, whether that comes from improving routing performance, or extending the protocols with customer-specific features.

The FRR GitHub repository is at Open Source Routing, here. ®

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