Local firms develop diskless Linux firewalls

Two Auckland security firms have produced their own diskless Linux firewalls, which they say can be switched on and off like a kettle.

Two Auckland security firms have produced their own diskless Linux firewalls, which they say can be switched on and off like a kettle.

Traditionally imported, the Kiwi-made products have been branded “a breakthrough” by their developers. A rival security specialist, who declined to be named, says such systems have been available from overseas for some time and are already in use in New Zealand, but it was "significant" local firms are now producing their own versions. He says these are “appliance level” firewalls, most suited for SMEs.

Linux development company Asterisk has produced a diskless version of its Firefly Gateway, which co-owner Christopher Hegan says does not need to be put through the usual "power down," removing one of the major obstacles towards wider Linux use.

Hegan says his existing Firefly models have been on the market for a year, with many customers on the Walker Wireless network using them for security and VPN connectivity.

“They are secure, stable and affordable, but their acknowledged weakness is that they have a conventional hard drive, which always presents the possibility of failure. Also, because of the way the Linux file system works, a cold reset such as may be experienced in a power failure can sometimes damage the system, meaning that the device may not come back on line properly,” he says.

The new diskless Firefly Gateway is built with a Flash RAM device, holding a complete Linux operating system, with IPSEC VPN software, running in less than 20MB of storage medium. All the variable data is written in conventional RAM and discarded at each power down.

“Consequently, the firewall can be turned on and off without any adverse consequences,” says Hegan.

Asterisk, formed by Hegan and Igor Portugal 18 months ago, will sell Firefly Gateway for $1900 for the firewall and $2250 with the IPSEC VPN added. The firm has also developed and brought to market an e-commerce system, an interactive voice response server and a range of single-function Linux servers.

Until now, Hegan says the firm has funded its developments itself, but is seeking further backing to pursue developments in the embedded Linux space.

Auckland security company Co-Logic director Arjen de Landgraaf called the Asterisk diskless Linux firewall “very significant,” saying his firm is developing something similar.

“They (Asterisk) have developed a great software product and they have an opportunity to open up the SME market,” says de Landgraaf.

“Their main problem was that originally it had to run on a fully configured PC based server, with all the related issues, maintenance, management and costs around it.

“A diskless Linux based firewall is a very powerful alternative to this. It will reboot from flash memory, taking two seconds at the most,” he says.

De Landgraaf says his own product, EKiss, will soon be released. The book-sized unit is solid state with no hard disk, works on a Linux 2.4 server, with 4Mb-16Mb flash memory and 16-64Mb RAM.

Co-Logic’s product will retail for under $NZ1000, he says, and the firm plans future versions featuring full firewalling, active virus management, 4 and 8 port hub, DMZ, and any type of PCMCIA based modem, in a single unit.

De Landgraaf says Asterisk knows Co-Logic has been working in this area, but is unaware of the details.

“We may well propose Asterisk to combine our solutions, as it would run their software, straight out of the box,” he says.

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Tags Linuxfirewalldiskless firewallsFirefly

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