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DrayTek Interview – A Brief Look Inside a Router Manufacturer

Saturday, July 25th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 6,972
draytek

Taiwan-based network manufacturer DrayTek is a familiar name in the UK broadband ISP world. Since 1997 they’ve been busy building various routers, switches, access points and modems. Suffice to say that we were keen to get their thoughts on the current market for such devices, as well as their plans for the future.

We often talk about routers on these pages because they’re such a vital part of modern broadband services for both consumers and businesses. At the same time some models can also suffer problems with limited long-term support, performance and not to mention security.

Mercifully DrayTek, which started out by building ISDN terminal adaptors, are often said to be one of the better manufacturers. The company’s origins started out with ISDN terminal adaptors and routers. “Our first ADSL based product was the Vigor 2200USB … from there DSL based products became a mainstay of our portfolio, but today we cater for many connection types and speeds,” said Richard Sutherland, DrayTek’s Account Director for the UK and Ireland, as part of our interview.

Richard himself has been involved in the industry from the early days of dialup modems and has over 22 years of experience under his belt, which means that he is somebody with a fairly good insight into both the current and future markets for such equipment. We don’t often get a chance to talk with router manufactures and so were grateful to be able to fire a few questions his way.

The Interview

Q1. DrayTek has been in the business of building computer network equipment and routers since as far back as 1997 (the early years of consumer internet connectivity). Between 1997 and 2020, what would you say has been your company’s biggest single change?

ANSWER:

I couldn’t put this down to a single change, we have had to adapt to an ever-developing market. Over that last 20-25 years clearly the biggest change has been the blanket adoption of fast, reliable, and robust Internet connectivity. This has, in the main, been driven by savvy business customers who have used the relatively inexpensive connection solutions provided by DrayTek to expand their business in to markets previously they were not able too reach. In turn, DrayTek have delivered reliable, robust and feature rich products to its customers who have made use of technology such as VPNs, VLAN, Wireless, content filtering, and a host of other features and network management tools to enhance and grow their businesses using a range of DrayTek products.

Q2. When it comes to broadband routers, one of the hottest debates of recent times has tended to centre on the issue of firmware updates, particularly for security purposes (patching vulnerabilities etc.).

Sadly some router manufacturers tend to release a new model, put out one or two firmware releases, and then completely forget about the device. What sort of approach does DrayTek take when it comes to tackling vulnerabilities or adding features via firmware to older routers?

ANSWER:

DrayTek pride themselves in continuing to support a device so long as it has a “heart beat” continuing to provide new firmware way beyond the end of life notification. DrayTek as an organisation have a policy that we will bring in new features, functionality and technology with a firmware upgrade rather than a platform change. Many of the projects we have worked on and won with our ISP customers have been secured due to this, who wants to win a major account with a multi-year contract to be told 6 Months down the line “Product End Of Life no further support you need to upgrade to the latest version”.

A typical DrayTek customer will only need to change a device if there is a key broadband technology change required (i.e. ADSL to VDSL or ADSL to G.Fast).

Q3. Speaking of firmware updates, how long (in years) do you think is right for a router manufacturer in the retail / consumer space to continue providing support and updates for their devices before declaring them end-of-life (i.e. no more updates, fixes or support)?

ANSWER:

If a product is still using current technologies and is widely deployed it feels right for it to receive support and updates. It’s tricky to set a specific number of years as the usage and availability of the underlying broadband technology is a factor. We are well known for the longevity of our range mainly due to firmware updates, for example we’ve released firmware updates for products that are 10 years old.

Q4. The latest multi-Gigabit speed 802.11ax (WiFi v6) wireless standard is slowly starting to go mainstream, although we’ve yet to see DrayTek offering a broadband router that supports it. Are you planning an 802.11ax supporting model and, if so, when can we expect to see that? If not, then why not?

ANSWER:

We’ll definitely be adding WiFi 6 products to our ranges in the future. We don’t like launching technologies before the standards are ratified as this can impact on the interoperability and future compatibility. We’re planning on launching some WiFi 6 products later this year.

Q5. Speaking of 802.11ax, a number of countries like the UK and USA also appear to be in the process of approving the 6GHz band for use in WiFi networks. What sort of extra challenges and considerations do you have to make when introducing an entirely new band like this to your hardware?

ANSWER:

The biggest challenge with new standards / technologies is interoperability and the most challenging variation on this is with client devices. With ISP equipment (eg CO side) there are generally a few specific manufacturers and variants but with client devices as there are a wide variety of manufacturers and model. Things settle down reasonable quickly but it requires specific consideration.

Q6. No doubt you’ve probably heard about moves across various countries to restrict some of your rivals, such as Huawei (as well as ZTE) and other vendors deemed “high risk”, from being able to supply kit for new networks (sometimes limited to core kit, but other times covering all types of enterprise kit and even consumer routers). Where does DrayTek stand on the issue?

ANSWER:

Our policy is not to make specific comments on our competitors, we endeavour to supply highly reliable products to our customers with comprehensive support and we leave our customers to decide which organisations they wish to partner with.

Please flick over to page 2 in order to continue this interview.

Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. Avatar Will says:

    Strange that in 2020 Draytek still don’t offer a 4×4 wifi 5 router, which would be ideal pairing that up with a 4×4 client (eg Asus PCE-AC88) or another 4×4 router/access point.

  2. Avatar Phil says:

    They’d find interoperability much easier if they bothered to get their devices Wi-Fi certified for interoperability! As it stands their products do not carry the Wi-Fi logo because they aren’t certified and they can’t say their products have Wi-Fi. Check out their website, you will not see the words Wi-Fi mentioned in any page or specification. So I would have asked why they don’t get (or can’t get) Wi-Fi accreditation? I’ve had Draytek kit and never again as connecting devices via Wi-Fi was often troublesome.

    1. Avatar OOBIOJIA says:

      Lmao?

      it says right here

      https://www.draytek.co.uk/products/comparison/router-comparison

      stop being a dumbass.

  3. Avatar Matthew says:

    Thanks for sharing this generous and insightful interview. Draytek has always been noted to make good quality kit able to meet future broadband requirements and technologies.

  4. Avatar Ben says:

    Yeah we use Draytek kit all the time but use separate WiFi AP’s as it’s own WiFi is seriously lacking in performance.

    1. Avatar A_Builder says:

      Agreed.

      Router yes – AP no.

  5. Avatar craski says:

    I have a Draytek 2925 and it has generally performed well. The web UI is a bit quirky but quite powerful. It is a bit annoying that Draytek provide some utilities that are Windows only though (e.g. The ability to read log output is not exposed in the web interface) but not a show stopper.

  6. Avatar Bob2002 says:

    I’ve used DrayTek in the past but after loads and loads of routers(including homebrew) I seem to have settled on MikroTik.

    I’m not sure what the future holds for consumer router manufacturers, you can basically build a very powerful router with a £40 SoC – 1.6GHz, 4-core, 10Gb and multiple 2.5Gb and 1Gb ethernet ports, USB 3, crypto acceleration, etc. You can build a very decent consumer router with a $7 SoC. Prices are only going to get lower, chips more powerful.

    1. Avatar __ says:

      whats the £40 soc out of interest

    2. Avatar Bob2002 says:

      >whats the £40 soc out of interest

      NXP LS1026A/LS1046A

  7. Avatar Paul M says:

    Draytek look like great products from their specifications, with a huge feature list for a good price. Maybe they’ve improved in the last few years but I used to regularly encounter them and they were a big nuisance, they’d crash regularly or some feature would stop working until rebooted (e.g. VPN service).

  8. Avatar Goodfellowadam says:

    When will DrayTek start selling reasonably priced routers with gigabit WAN throughput? I have a DrayTek router (and several of their wireless access points installed in my home) with a VDSL connection and a second WAN connection to a g.fast modem. It just about copes with 240mbps across its firewall but with 1gbps becoming commonplace they really need to up their game, should FTTP become availible to me I’ll have to look to another router manufacturer. Aside from that, DrayTek, love your products!

    1. Avatar A_Builder says:

      We have a whole load of Draytek 2960’s and they work perfectly at 1G.

      We have tested it with site to site FTP and other transfer protocols and we do get over 900Mbs so I wouldn’t consider them a bottle neck.

  9. Avatar tonyp says:

    I bought a 2860 several years ago (replacing two previous Draytek routers, a 27?? and a 2820) when only < 4Mb/S ADSL (wires only) was available to me. I thought it was necessary to prepare for VDSL in place of ADSL. However, FTTH suddenly became available just over a year ago and the 2860 enabled me to make the jump to FO using the ethernet WAN2 port. Installation went fine and I have been able to retain the existing ADSL service through the WAN1 port as a low speed backup. I really liked the ease of configuration at least on the WAN side.

    Well done Draytek.

    Just a thought though, I have attempted to use the LAN RIP routing to create a fully redundant triangular net. I have had problems with false routes (Martians) so have had to route internal LAN traffic away from the Draytek and use static routes. Ideally (for me) I wish OSPF was available on the LAN ports.

  10. Avatar J Karna says:

    I removed all my Draytek modem/routers as I found their so-called UK technical department inept. Months elapsed with support tickets (detailed reports presented) in limbo. Yes, I had businees support (care pack).
    I complained and discovered a brick wall.
    I replaced them with Openwrt modem/routers and have not had a single
    problem for over a year.The functionality of Openwrt and the software available is vastly superior. I just wish their products were Openwrt compatible.

  11. Avatar TTT says:

    I welcomed seeing this interview.

    I first came across Draytek in the mid 2000s, and I have deployed them with several small businesses since, particularly when they don’t want to sign a maintenance contract.
    Drayteks are incredibly stable, and Draytek are very good at providing firmware updates free of charge (compared to a Cisco SmartNet contract for example).
    The flexible connectivity options (particularly support for inner and outer VLAN tagging on the WAN interface) make them very versatile, and the VPN performance is unparalleled at this price point (and thank you for automatic failover!).

    There are some drawbacks however.
    – Configuration cannot be edited offline (e.g. in a text editor). This makes scheduled changes challenging, and require either preparing them on a secondary device, or on-the-fly (which isn’t an option for most business use cases).
    – Most configuration changes require a restart. This is again something that makes Drayteks less suitable for larger businesses, given that Cisco, Juniper etc allow applying (and rolling back!) config on the fly without any outages.

    Echoing the above comments, the WiFi isn’t much to write home about. WiFi connections are stable but not fast, and where more than about 10 users are connected, I usually recommend a Ubiquiti solution for the wireless, in combination with Draytek for routing.

    The biggest concern currently is China asserting increasing influence over Taiwan.
    Security is always an important topic, and many customers outright refuse Chinese options (ZTE, Huawei etc.), and so far, being a Taiwanese manufacturer has been acceptable (arguably beneficial) in many cases.
    However, China is very vocal about making Taiwan Chinese these days, and depending how this goes, Draytek may soon fall off the list of possible options (unless they choose to move country of course).
    Let’s hope this doesn’t happen.

    In any case, if somebody is looking for a stable, dependable and affordable solution with excellent VPN performance, I would recommend Draytek in a heartbeat.

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