SUMMARY: Routers

From: Seth Bradley (
Date: Fri Jan 11 1991 - 17:25:18 CST

No big surprises here. Most people recommended Cisco. A couple of
people also mentioned ACC, of which I was already aware. The ACC
product isn't nearly as versatile or as fast as the Cisco, but is
considerably cheaper, and may be well suited for some sites.
Following is an excellent discourse on the topic by Timothy Smith from

From: tgsmith@East.Sun.COM (Timothy G. Smith - Technical Consultant Sun Baltimore)

What follows is my opinion and is based on several years of work with
a bunch of different networks. I currently work for Sun and divide my
time between building networks for customers, working on Sun's
internal network (SWAN), and doing special engineering projects. Of
course I am speaking off the record and am in no way speaking for Sun
-if I was I would have to bill you for my time and have the lawyers
interpret and disclaim everything. :-)

I am not associated with cisco, Proteon, Wellfleet, NSC, etc. I have
done business in the past with both cisco and Proteon and am currently
doing business with cisco.

So what I am saying is here is some info from net.person to another
net.person; don't quote me without asking and don't sue me for being

NB: I am under a major time crunch these days- I took time to answer
your message since there is no way I am going to meet my deadlines so
what the hell. Just remember that I haven't really proofed this.
Errors or inconsistencies should be taken with a grain of salt.

In past lives I have worked with cisco, Proteon, and NSC routers. I
have a fair amount of experience with cisco and Proteon boxes. I am
not very familiar with NSC routers although I have had a bit of
exposure to them.

It is fairly widely held belief that there are only 3 "real" vendors
of routers- cisco, Proteon, and Wellfleet. NSC is also building some
routers. There are some other vendors like CMC and a bunch of others
but I consider cisco, Proteon, Wellfleet, and sometimes NSC to be the
"real" router vendors.

First a bit of history as I understand it (I am probably wrong about
some of it but hey- no warranties right?).

Proteon is the original router vendor. Their routers are based on
Noel Chiappa's "MIT C gateway" code which as far as I know was the
first router code written. From the name "MIT C gateway" it should be
apparent that the code was developed at MIT and was written in C.
When I worked for the Army we had our own PDP11 routers that were
orginally based on the MIT C gateway code- our routers had mutated and
changed a lot over the years and eventually became known at least
internally as the "BRL LOS routers" (LOS == Little Operating System).
The PDPs limited performance quite a bit but the code also had some
inherent problems and limitations (after all the MIT C gateway code
was the first attempt at trying to develop a router). The biggest
problem I remember with the LOS code (and which I also belive was a
problem with MIT C gateway code) was that it had multiple processes
and had to spend a lot of time context switching to forward a packet-
3 context switches per packet rings a bell but is has been a long time
and I didn't get too involved with the LOSs. Some people swear by
their Proteon boxes (Milo Medin of NASA Science Internet immediately
comes to mind). Proteon is more up to speed on OSPF than cisco is- I
believe that Proteon is offering OSPF now whereas cisco won't be for a
little while yet. You can contact for
more info about Proteon.

As far as I know cisco was the next vendor to come onto the scene. In
my opinion cisco has surpassed Proteon as the vendor of choice for the
Internet at large and is currently the generally recognized leader in
the field. cisco was founded by two people from Stanford and like Sun
is a spinoff os the DARPA sponsored Stanford University Network
project. cisco builds high-speed, multiprotocol routers. Based on my
past life experience I much prefer the cisco boxes. cisco boxes are
are fast, reliable, flexible, and generally nice to work with. They
are really VERY fast and VERY flexible. Contact for more info.

Wellfleet started out as a bridge vendor and then mutated into a
router company. They are fairly young and have pretty decent
performance but I personally don't think Wellfleet has enough of a
track record for me to use them in any of my designs but to each his
own. I don't know how to contact Wellfleet.

NSC is an older company. They have been around for a while and their
claim to fame (or is it their claim to infamy) is that they are the
folks responsible for Hyperchannel. They are building some reasonably
fast boxes but based on past experience with some of their other
hardware I really have no desire to work with them if I can avoid it.
At least until they can convince of some good reasons I should work
with them. NSC routers are also VERY expensive. The only reason I
can think of to use NSC boxes is if I absolutely have to have fast
Hyperchannel connections (hmmm, come to think of it "fast
hyperchannel" may be an oxymoron.) NSC has recently announced support
for linking FDDI rings over T3 circuits if that sort of thing
interests you.

I would suggest that you look the December issue of Data
Communications for some potentially useful info. You should probably
also take a look at the "Bradner Reports" and Hank Nussbacher's
"Multi-protol router scorecard".

One of these days in my copious spare time I should sit down and write
up a history of router technology as I think it is important to
understand the history before you buy a router. Maybe even get it
published somewhere...

Some things to look at in selecting a router are:

- Performance

- Protocol support (TCP/IP, IPX, XNS, Appleslop, DECnet, etc)

- Routing protocol support (RIP, EGP, BGP, IGRP, OSPF, etc)

- Interface/media support (IEEE 802.3, Serial lines (1822, T1, T3,
Frame Relay), Token Ring (4mbps, 16mbps), FDDI, etc)

- Boot/Configuration (How long to boot? Where does the config live?
How easy is it to configure the box?)

- Reliability

- Features
        - packet filtering
        - packet accounting
        - management

- Service (If you find a bug how long do you have to wait for it to be
fixed? How much do software updates cost? What kind of maintenance
is available?)

- Price

It is my opinion that cisco generally comes out ahead of all of the
other vendors but then again what do I know...

good luck and have fun,
        Tim Smith (formerly formerly of the US Naval Academy and now
                      formerly of the US Army BRL)
US mail:Sun Microsystems E-mail:
        6716 Alexander Bell Drive
        Suite 200 uucp :sun!tgsmith
        Columbia, MD 21046
MaBell :(301)290-1234

For those with some extra PC's lying around, here's a REAL low
cost alternative:

From: Stefan Mochnacki <>
If you want CHEAP, I recommend PC-ROUTE, a software package you
run on a dedicated PC. You need stripped down XT turbo or AT plus
2 WD8003E interfaces; in Canada that would cost well under $1K,
which means under US $800.

The software is available from Northwestern University (
and the archive.

I installed a setup over a year ago and it has run fine since.

No SNMP, but does support RIP, SLIP, Appletalk, more than 2 interfaces,

Thanks to all who responded, including:
James Wong <>
mdisea!edm@uunet.UU.NET (Ed Morin)
era@niwot.scd.ucar.EDU (Ed Arnold)
Carlo Musante <>
fsg!paulm@uunet.UU.NET (Paul J. Mc Carthy) (Robert M. Enger)
SysGnome <>
Stephane Tsacas <>
SysGnome <>
sparc2!ts@sacto.West.Sun.COM (Troy Schumaker)

Seth J. Bradley
UUCP: uunet!!sbradley

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