Tired of overwhelming your home grade broadband router with heavy traffic?
Need better quality of service features?
Want something you don't have to reboot often?
Better performance for some of those faster internet connection these days...such as those past 10 or 20 megs that many home grade routers can't keep up with
Add some business/enterprise grade features like VPN, DMZ zones, UTM features such as antivirus scanning and spam removal, web/content filtering, some have blocking of protocols for IM and peer to peer traffic.
You don't need to know linux to built these routers, or manage them..they are all managed through web interfaces just like your typical Linksys/Netgear/DLink router. Download an ISO..burn to CD...take a computer that has 2x network cards...boot from the CD..and they have an install wizard that holds your hand through the whole process. If you're somewhat comfortable setting up and managing your home grade router..you can built and manage one of these.
There are many of them out there...some stronger in certain areas than others, and a growing number that bring full UTM features (Unified Threat Management). These UTM features are the ones I'm really interesting in..and using at a few clients with good success. The UTM distros add antivirus scanning of all web, mail, and ftp traffic, as well as spam removal of web traffic. Some add ad/spyware blocking of browser traffic as well. And beefier intrusion detection via Snort.
Some of the basic *nix router distros....
IPCop...one of the more popular ones, has a big development/support community with lots of add-on packages.
You can add UTM functionality to it with the add-on called Copfilter
pfSense...originally built on m0n0wall...with stronger QoS features
Clark Connect is a cool distro for a small business, sort of an open source *nix version of Microsoft Small Business Server
ClearOS a further developed fork of Clark Connect....another open source version of Microsoft Small Business Server, UTM, file/print server, e-mail, web, myphp. Very nicely developed.
Zentyal another open source "all in one" version of Microsoft Small Business Server.
BlueOnyx..another sort of all in one, web/mail included
For some of the UTM distros....in addition to the Copfilter build of IPCop listed above....
Endian...one of my favorites..built on top of IPCop..with the features of Copfilter...bundled into one tight package
Comixwall (Project terminated Dec '09 after dispute with BSD)
A very nice UTM package, recently released a full free version for home use.
Untangle...this one is fantastic...I've built a few...using them in production...very powerful. Lots of features...even blocking of IM traffic and peer to peer traffic.
Similar to ClarkConnect...quasi server duties
A UTM appliance, aimed at businesses but they have a free open source community version for home users.
A basic firewall aimed at new users, easy setup, etc.
GnatBox Lite ..free for 2 users
On the basic distros...all you need is an older PC...P2 or so, moderate RAM, a pair of NICs..and you're good to go. For the UTM distros..you want a bit more power...mid range or higher P3, 512 megs of RAM...Untangle likes to go above 1.0GHz and a gig of RAM.
Fun stuff..and put your retired older PC to work!
A short article I found mentioning a few distros...with a brief blurb of each