|At a glance|
|Product||Ubiquiti ERLite-3 EdgeMAX EdgeRouter Lite [Website]|
|Summary||Very fast Gigabit Ethernet router based on Vyatta code running on dual-core Cavium CPU|
|Pros||• Pretty close to wire-speed Gigabit routing|
• Highly configurable
|Cons||• GUI is work in progress|
• Does not come plug-and-play out of box
• Documentation requires lots of reading between lines and Forum consultation
Typical Price: $99 Shop Amazon
The SNB Forums have been abuzz about a new kid on the router block. Ubiquiti's EdgeRouter Lite (ERL) has been attracting attention due to its low price ($99), Gigabit ports and claims of wire-speed packet-forwarding rate.
So, having learned my lesson about Ubiquiti's (un)responsiveness to review requests when I reviewed its PowerAP N, I ordered one up. Following a lead posted in the forum, I ignored the Availability: March 2013 notice on Microm's order page and had the product in hand a few days later.
At 7 3/4" (W) X 3 1/2" (D) X 1" (H) the ERL was larger than I thought it would be. I was a bit surprised that a product aimed at no-nonsense business users would come in a plastic case, but that's how it was dressed.
The ports, lights and buttons are called out in the diagram below. The bottom panel has screw mounting slots that give you the option of mounting connectors pointing up or down. I can attest that the Reset button worked just fine, since I had to use it many times while getting set up.
Ubiquiti ERL front and rear panels
All it took to get inside was removing two screws so that I could snap the photos below. There isn't much to look at since the ERL has no wireless features.
ERL board top side
There isn't much to see on the bottom view either, except more heatsinking. This aluminum plate had a little block on its other side that contacted a thermal pad under the CPU. If you look closely, you can see 8 MB of Macronix flash memory peeking out of the bottom right side of the heatsink.
ERL board bottom side
The advertised 2 GB of flash storage is in the form of a mini USB key inserted into a connector on the board top (left side of topside photo)
I tried to twist off the heatsink to positively identify the CPU, but the adhesive was pretty firm. So after looking at various Ubiquiti Forum posts and getting a peek at the /proc/cpuinfo file, my best guess is that it's a Cavium OCTEON Plus dual-core CN5020. What I don't know is what speed grade it is, since the CN5020 comes in 300, 400, 500, 600 and 700 MHz flavors.
The table below includes the two routers that (you will see shortly) have higher downlink throughput in the current Router Charts. So there is nothing particularly magical about the ERL's hardware in achieving such high routing throughput. The key is really in the software running on it.
|Ubiquiti ERL||EnGenius ESR750H||ASUS RT-AC66U|
|CPU||Cavium CN5020||Ralink RT3883F||Broadcom BCM4706|
|Switch or Ethernet||Atheros AR8035 Gigabit PHY (x3)||Atheros AR8327||Broadcom BCM53125|
|RAM||512 MB||256 MB||256 MB|
|Flash||2 GB + 8 MB||16 MB||128 MB|
Table 1: Component summary
That software, as it turns out is a fork of Vyatta 6.3. Vyatta is an open source network operating system that first was available in 2006. It provides advanced IPv4 and IPv6 routing, stateful firewalling, IPsec and SSL OpenVPN, among other features. Vyatta was acquired by Brocade late last year, but the open-source "Vyatta Core" version is still available.
Vyatta made its bones on two things: performance and scalability. Ubiquiti apparently intends to capitalize on both Vyatta features with more powerful EdgeRouters in the works. Right now, though, the EdgeRouter Lite is the only version available.
The ERL has many features. But the ones you can get to depend on whether you are comfortable configuring a router via command line. We'll get into that more in a bit, but here's the feature list, straight from the ERL's User Guide.
Interface / Encapsulation