February 19, 2003

Linux in residential gateways makes fiscal sense, says Arcturus

- by Tina Gasperson -
Arcturus is an "embedded solutions" company that relies heavily on Linux in its
products. Now the company is working with Samsung to provide what is basically
the customizable insides of a residential gateway - sort of a fancy home router that's suitable for small businesses, too.Arcturus is headed by D. Jeff Dionne, one of the men behind uClinux, and the
person who used to be the CTO at Lineo. He's got Michael Durrant, another uClinux founder, on board as v.p. of engineering. They agree that embedded Linux is where it's at right now for producers of home routers and wireless access points.

That's because it is cheap. "Royalty-free" seems to be the marketing buzz word, but we all know that just means cheap. And cheap is good these days because prices for low end routers and access points just keep dropping -- from hundreds of dollars a couple of years ago to way under a hundred today. The ability to keep prices low for its new product, the enigmatically-named "S3C2500-RGP," will be a big selling point, Arcturus hopes.

Residential gateway really is just another name for home broadband router. The difference is that RGs, as they are also known, can have extended functionality. Residential gateways are supposed to hide all the difficulty of home networks from the home user. Just as the Linksys router has an easy-to-use web based setup system, so does a typical RG, but not only for sharing a broadband connection between several computers.

Residential gateways also have the potential to handle any kind of network that could be set up in a home -- security, audio, video, hvac -- any network, depending on the configuration of the individual gateway. The Arcturus/Samsung collaboration will allow broadband equipment makers to configure the "reference system" many different ways.

And even though it's called "residential," the product is not just for the typical home user, says Arcturus marketing director David Steele. "It has potential for home-based businesses and small business use as well."

"Samsung is designing next generation silicon today," says Durrant. "The chips are just past the experimental stage and are being sold to OEMs and ODMs today.

"Basically we are providing them the end to end design solution including the Linux OS," and hardware design, including circuit board layout, so that the manufacturers can output their products as quickly as possible.

Durrant says that this product is better than others of its ilk for several reasons. Samsung, he says, has created its chip with hardware cryptography acceleration. Most chip makers add this as kind of an afterthought, he says, slowing down throughput.

Another reason the Arcturus engineer thinks the S3C2500-RGP is special is because of its size. "It is compact. A lot of tech in a very small space."

For more information, visit the Arcturus website.

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