Netgate Blog

Come on the Journey with Us

Today, Netgate® announced its newest software product, TNSR™ Business. TNSR Business is a companion offer to TNSR Enterprise, first released in June 2018. TNSR Business is a key step in the fulfillment of our vision: fast, secure, and affordable movement of information is a right for everyone. To make that possible, we had to embark on a new journey - one we hope you’ll choose to join.

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane as a backdrop for this ‘journey’. The pfSense® project began in 2004. Its first release was in 2006. Netgate bought controlling interest in 2012. At that time, there were tens of thousands of users, but pfSense software had hardly reached the world-class status it enjoys today. There were bugs, over-promised features, release delays, stability issues, CPU compatibility needs, etc. Netgate worked tirelessly over the past six years - and spent millions of dollars in the process - to build pfSense software into a product that today has over a million installs - on every continent, in every vertical, and in organizations from consumer to large enterprise to service provider. In 2017, IT Central Station named it the 4th best firewall in the world, behind only Fortinet, Cisco, and Sophos.

As with all technology, however, there comes a time when limits are reached and a fundamentally new approach is required. User bandwidth needs have escalated to where 1gbps connections are commonplace in homes. Enterprise and carrier backbone networks operate at terabits per second and beyond. Powerful mobile devices number in the billions. Privacy concerns have led to pervasive encryption. Video production and consumption is boundless. The ‘cloud’ is only a few feet above earth, effectively ‘hoovering’ applications as fast as possible while CFOs drool over massive IT cost savings. The ‘middle boxes’ - where networking and security policies are applied at multiple hops along a packet’s path from client to server - are fast disappearing, given network function virtualization and containers. It is simply a very different world than we knew back in 2012.

In fact, as early as 2014, Netgate realized that pfSense software could not continue to evolve to meet the increasing call for router, firewall, and VPN performance demands. Faster, cheaper processors and NICs were increasingly underutilized. The cry for multi-instance management - in step with IT automation via APIs, enabling an array of instances to simultaneously adapt to changing security or networking policies - would not abate. But, there was a bright spot on the horizon. It was clear a new day would dawn where open-source secure networking software and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) silicon could, together, shatter previous price-performance curves.

So, we started a new journey. That journey is called TNSR (it’s not an acronym - by the way - it is vocalized just as it looks, ‘tensor’). TNSR is a new open source secure networking software solution that provides orders of magnitude greater packet processing performance at a fraction of the cost of legacy solutions. TNSR Business takes advantage of ‘trickle down’ technology from its big brother, TNSR Enterprise, enabling extremely fast, flexibly-managed router, firewall, VPN, and other secure networking applications. Best of all, for a little more than a dollar a day.

Let’s put that into use case terminology. Here are some of the comments we hear from customers:

As a Home user…

  1. I have an edge router, firewall and/or VPN appliance equipped with 1 or 10 Gbps NICs. But, the software cannot perform packet processing functions fast enough. This means I am underutilizing my hardware and/or network connection speed.
  2. My internet connection now has to deal with more application traffic owing to work at home, household users who are big gamers, an increased use of VoIP, etc. I’ve noticed some performance degradation, specifically slower response time. I’d like to claw that back.
  3. I’m really not a big pfSense package user, I just want raw speed for the buck. I built my own appliance. I know the exact access control list (ACL) configuration I want. I just wish I had high-performance firewall software that could keep up with my appliance.
  4. I run a homelab. By definition, I can never have too much bandwidth. More importantly, I’m really curious about advanced networking capabilities and want to dive into APIs and Python programming - a necessity for tomorrow’s network engineers. I cannot do that with pfSense software.

As a Small to Medium Business (SMB) user…

  1. IoT has led to many more devices using my network uplink, and we are starting to get complaints from our users that things aren’t as fast as the used to be.
  2. We bought a new security gateway with 10 Gbps uplinks, but our firewall software cannot run at even 10% of that speed.
  3. More and more of our inter-site traffic is sent over IPSec. We know that leads to a sharp throughput decline. Regardless, we still want to use our high-speed links more extensively.

As an Enterprise user…

  1. We have to have high-speed IPSec connections between our business locations. The same goes for corporate and remote office links to our data center and cloud instances. 1 and 10 Gbps speeds are de rigueur for us. We’ve spared no expense on for the fastest hardware. We need secure networking software that doesn’t cause it to sputter under load.
  2. Intellectual property protection is everything for us. Tight control over each employee and contractor’s application access is a must for us. When a risk is identified, we must be able to administer access control changes in an instant. IT automation is critical.

As a Service Provider…

  1. We are running out of IPv4 address space. We need a scalable, performant way to translate large volumes of IPv4/IPv6 addresses.
  2. We face severe competition, and must constantly find ways to cut cost and add services quickly and easily. We see open-source software as essential to our long term viability, but do not want to be saddled with having to productize it ourselves.

With TNSR, all of the above is here, now. It’s the beginning of a new journey. We know it takes time to give up the comfort of well-worn shoes. But, many of our readers - and the wider community at large - committed to the pfSense journey with us. Now, we’re asking you to consider taking the TNSR journey to the new world of secure networking. TNSR is on its fourth release in as many quarters - so it is evolving rapidly. The more participation and feedback we get from you, the better and faster we’ll make it address your needs.

We’re taking an important step to give users an easy way to experience TNSR Business - risk free, no strings attached. Click here to try the software free for up to 120 days. See what you think. Let us know what we got right, what we’re missing, and what we can do to make your TNSR journey valuable.

One last point. You may be thinking, “So, you want me to come on a journey that now has a price tag, where my previous journey with you was free?” Yes, that’s right. As previously stated, we believe fast, secure and affordable movement of information is a right for everyone. We want to make that happen. But, it does take time, energy, and money to deliver on the vision. In exchange for a little more than a dollar a day, we’ll deliver performance and modern IT management capabilities that could cost you 10 times more through closed-source, vendor lock-in approaches. Alternatively, you are free to download VPP, DPDK, FRR, strongSwan, Clixon, and other open source projects’ code - integrate them into a solution, maintain it as each open-source project evolves, test it, package it, and support it on your own. If along the way, you come up with improvements, we invite you to upstream those to their respective projects, just as we do. Or, you could take advantage of Netgate’s commitment, expertise, heritage, and proven success in open-source secure networking software - for less than you spend on coffee.

The networking revolution is here. Take the journey with us!