For network administrators and IT professionals the world over, it doesn’t get more back office than network routing software. This back office obscurity, however, belies the importance of stable routing software. While end users may never know or care what network routing system is being used to deliver their e-mail and Internet access, you can bet they will hold their network administrators responsible if the system fails even briefly.

For UNIX/Linux-based networks, the question of which router software to use could be answered by GNU Zebra. GNU Zebra is free software, distributed under GNU General Public License, which manages TCP/IP-based routing protocols. Currently available in a 0.89 beta version, this open-source software supports several routing protocols, including BGP-4 and BGP-4+, RIPv1-v2, and OSPFv2-v3. Supported operating systems include GNU/Linux 2.0.X and 2.2.X and several versions of FreeBSD.

The GNU Zebra Web site is the epitome of a UNIX environment—sparse and uninviting. The entire site design is obviously the work of an engineer and not an artist. Which is okay, because, after all, we are discussing router software. Along the left side is a table of contents that links users to the various pages of the site. All links are text only, no buttons and no flashing graphics. There are links to FAQs, documentation pages, product specifications, and product feature descriptions. The design is concise, and the tone of the site reflects seriousness—a sense of purpose.

This sense of purpose is probably best summed up in the GNU Zebra mission statement: “As Internet use explodes, no longer can one company or proprietary software provide all the answers. In this environment, Open Source is the only way to meet these growing needs and allow the Internet to expand into a truly global phenomenon.” If you’d like to do your part to save the Internet from the insidious plague of proprietary software, you can download a free beta version of the routing software directly from the site.

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