The Silicon Review
“We have clients from almost every industry. Since we started, we’ve worked with over 160 companies such as VMware, Shopify, and Google.”
VyOS Inc. is a Linux-based network operating system that provides software-based network routing, firewall, and VPN functionality. VyOS is a powerful, open-source operating system that can be a foundation for networks of many sizes, from a small office to an enterprise or a managed service provider. Thanks to support for multiple dynamic routing protocols, diverse VPN solutions, flexible NAT, firewall, QoS, DHCP, and many other network features available via a unified management interface, VyOS can fulfill many roles even in highly heterogeneous networks.
Interview Excerpt: Daniil Baturin, Co-founder of VyOS Inc.
Rewind: How it All Started
Daniil Baturin along with Yuriy Andamasov, and Kim Hagen co-founded the VyOS project back in 2013 and began commercializing it in 2016. Daniil and other co-founders fundamentally believe that internet access is as vital to human development as air, food, water, and healthcare. Previously, poor countries and institutions were cut off from the benefits of open networks. As engineers, they wanted to change all of that. Today, VyOS offers an open source operating system (OS) that provides advanced networking capabilities for networks of all sizes, regardless of economic means, geographic location, or environment (e.g. bare metal, virtual or cloud platforms).
Since its inception, VyOS has worked with over 160 companies such as VMware, Shopify, and Google to provide advanced networking capabilities and a universal router at a fraction of the cost of proprietary solutions through its open-source software and virtual platforms. In February 2021, VyOS was ranked amongst the top network operating providers in the U.S. by GigaOm next to industry leaders such as NVIDIA and The Linux Foundation.
Historically, VyOS is a continuation of the discontinued Vyatta Core project. When the original company, Vyatta, changed its strategic direction and made Vyatta Core a proprietary product, VyOS took the latest publicly available source code and picked it up where the Vyatta team left off with it. “We used the Vyatta Core project ourselves, loved it, and knew there wasn’t a real alternative. Our vision is a radical version of the original Vyatta Core concept,” says Daniil Baturin,
Co-founder and Lead Architect of VyOS.
“We didn’t merely want to take advantage of open source technologies to make an enterprise-grade router, but also wanted to be a part of the community that created those networking projects and brought open-source networking to a wider audience.” The original Vyatta project was open source in name only. The code was available to the public, but the product Vyatta sold was always a proprietary fork of the public code, and there was no official contributing process (even if some employees managed to sneak in community patches).
“VyOS is actually an open source project,” says Baturin. “We provide access to prebuilt LTS release images as a service, along with support and consulting, but our images are built from public source code and we encourage everyone to test the build process and contribute to every area of the project, from adding new features to proofreading and editing the documentation.”
VyOS: Making Advanced Networking Available to Everyone
VyOS is completely unbundled from any hardware or software platform and functions as a universal router that can work in any environment e.g. bare metal, virtual, or cloud. This enables all individuals and organizations globally to create and build their dream solutions, not just the few who have a budget for proprietary products. Individuals and organizations shouldn’t have to overpay for advanced networking capabilities and face restrictions that only benefit corporations. Many proprietary hardware routers have planned obsolescence built in: once the hardware is unsupported by new software versions, there’s nothing you can do about it. In contrast, open source networks have a longer and more flexible life span. Baturin shares that, “We don’t have a vendor lock-in built into our product design. You can bring VyOS to your existing hardware, VMs, and clouds and upgrade the hardware as needed.”
Advanced networking used to be a luxury only large companies could afford and classic networking products from other vendors are still priced accordingly. Cloud routers from Cisco and Juniper are still priced in the dollars per hour territory. That’s the software price alone, not counting the hardware resource usage fees!
VyOS provides the features and the user experience of classic hardware routers. Unlike other providers, VyOS also works on commodity hardware and all popular virtual and cloud platforms and buying access to prebuilt LTS images from VyOS is a lot less expensive.
“For on-premises deployments, we don’t limit the number of routers one can deploy from an image, so the cost of deployment doesn’t grow with scale,” says Baturin. “Individuals and organizations who can’t afford our LTS access subscriptions can build their own images or apply for a free subscription if they actively contribute to the project. We also offer free services to non-profit organizations, first responders, and educational institutions.”
Offering an Open and Customizable Platform for Various Network Devices
VyOS is not just a packaged product. “We offer open and documented extension APIs and image build tools that allow anyone to adapt VyOS to their own needs and create the network solution of their dreams,” says Baturin. “We pride ourselves in being the most customizable, flexible, universal, and cost efficient solution on the market. We offer a wide variety of routing and network security features, from dynamic routing protocols to zone-based firewalls.”
In fact, VyOS offers more VPN protocols than any other solution on the market, from enterprise DMVPN to OpenVPN. “We also offer an HTTP API and an open API for developing extensions that will look indistinguishable from built-in features,” adds Baturin. “When customers use VyOS as a part of their solution and need to deploy at scale, they can build a custom installation image with their configuration files or additional software. We provide Software Access Subscriptions and Cloud Packs that allow users to deploy an unlimited number of instances for a flat yearly fee. We also do not limit the number of users, tunnels, or anything else—the only limit is your hardware capacity.”
Most router OSes, even open source ones, are in relatively “closed form”. Their license may make modifying the source and building custom images legal, but few make an active effort to make it that straightforward for users.
In contrast to other players on the market, VyOS offers a stable, documented API for interfacing with its configuration subsystem so that everyone can add a new feature and make it look as if those features have always been there. In fact, a number of now official features at VyOS started as community add-ons. That same mechanism allows managed service providers to create and maintain custom images and integrate VyOS into their solution without concerns that it will break in the near future.
A Spectacular Path Onwards
“Currently, there are military contractors among our customers and we assume the fact that VyOS is open to even the most detailed security audit was a major factor in their decision,” notes Baturin. “Other clients include MSPs, ISPs, universities, and research laboratories—pretty much any industry sector that can have a more or less complex network with diverse platforms and a hybrid on-premises/cloud infrastructure.”
Many big players and new startups still focus on the datacenter market because that’s where the major profits are. Whitebox L3 switches and SDNs are examples of datacenter technologies that are useful, but their use cases are narrow. “We are serving many industries because networking is a common need today,” says Baturin. “Small and medium sized businesses are relatively neglected sectors that have a major need for advanced networking solutions.”