Linksys last month switched the standard model of its ubiquitous WRT54G wireless router from Linux to VxWorks, starting with the “series 5″ version. Now, Linksys is shipping a Linux-based WRT54GL model that it says it created specially for Linux hobbyists, hackers, and aficionados. The L version is identical to the “series 4″ WRT54G units that Linux hobbyists have long enjoyed hacking, according to the company.
Linksys's director of product marketing, Mani Dhillon, said Linksys made the switch because, as a more deeply embedded system, VxWorks allowed the company to halve the amounts of Flash and RAM in the device, while retaining similar functionality. Apparently, reducing memory-related BOM (bill-of-materials) costs more than offset the costs of licensing a proprietary OS, given the WRT54G's extremely high sales volume. “We sell literally hundreds of thousands per month,” Dhillon said.
The new, VxWorks-based WRT54G “series 5″ models have 2MB of Flash, and 8MB of RAM, compared with 4MB of Flash and 16MB of RAM in the earlier, Linux-based versions. Although the “series 5″ devices offer Linux hobbyists less elbow room to load alternative firmware (assuming they could get around the bootloader to install it), it seems likely the hacker community will rise to the challenge.
Linux hackers and hobbyists have long hot-rodded their WRT54Gs, adding features such as Radius authentication, bridge capabilities, VoIP QoS (voice-over-IP quality-of-service), and so on. The L model will continue to offer 4MB of Flash, and 16MB of RAM, in order to support the various freely and commercially available alternative firmware images for the devices that depend on those memory capacities.
According to Dhillon, Linksys's biggest competitors in the wireless access point market, including NetGear and D-Link, switched from Linux to VxWorks long ago. “Linux has a larger memory footprint. To be honest with you, a lot of companies in the networking space have already switched,” he said.
Dhillon adds, “We still wanted to have a Linux SKU for the Linux audience. In general, we want to make sure our Linux community is protected.”
Dhillon's feel-good Linux-friendly message notwithstanding, Linksys probably has a large — and growing — enterprise clientele willing to void their AP warrantees in order to gain access to high-end features by upgrading the devices to more sophisted Linux-based firmware. Traditionally a consumer electronics house, Linksys is being shifted into the SMB market, parent company Cisco announced last month.
Linksys expects to sell about 10,000 “L” model WRT54Gs per month, “if we're lucky,” Dhillon stated. Dhillon said no availability guarantees are offered on the L model.
The WRT54GL is currently available from Amazon.com, priced at $70. The page is here.
Information about how to tell series 4 (Linux-based) WRT54Gs from series 5 devices may be available from LinksysInfo.org, an unofficial site not connected with Linksys. “James has a list of serial numbers,” Dhillon said.
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.