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pfSense Machine, network requirements

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Bril

Occasional Visitor
I'm tossing around the idea of a cheapish new build for a pfSense router for my home as a pet project. I have a couple questions though; I would like to put a couple modems (DSL & Dialup for load balancing & backup, respectively) preferably internal PCI cards although this seems less and less feasible. And some gig Ethernet cards for WAN modem uplinks and as many as possible for LAN so I can trunk them to a managed gig switch.

I have checked a couple motherboard manufacturers (namely Gigabyte and Asus) and they mostly have just 2 pci-x16 video card ports and 2 PCI ports.

What ever happened to motherboards with 5+ expansion slots?

It looks like Killer NICs are pretty much windows only; I figured these would be nice high performance for this application. Comments?

Can anyone recommend solid NICs? I'm unsure as to what features I'm looking for besides the gig capability.

In addition to this box current future planned Ethernet equipment includes a file server, 5ish desktops (workstations and game stations), 3ish laptops, network capable game systems, a small thin client Access Point manager box, a HTPC (Home Theater PC) and/or media server stream boxes like D-link's, a few (future managed) switches, various PLC’s, VoIP, network capable cable/satellite/FiOS TV boxes. (Currently satellite, likely going to FiOS very soon)

In addition to that, I am the local network/game guru for my friends/family so I occasionally throw LAN parties. keep in mind with your suggestions that there are weekends where I have between 1 -2 dozen computers online at once in my home; sharing files, streaming media, playing games, downloading stuff, etc. So I need to be able to support that better than I am.

VOIP is not a likely addition at this point since I use a cell phone exclusively, but id like to rule out hardware (if possible) that would rule out VOIP as a future option should I choose to go that route.

I have provisions available (wires from the service pole) for: cable internet, DSL internet, FiOS internet (currently used), VoIP through any of those ISPs, and also twisted pairs for analog phone and dialup lines. If I wanted to be super anal I could have backup WISP, ISDN, T1, T3, and Satellite internet options. But those are extreme, and expensive.

I am not above purchasing my own modems for any/all of these services for backup/emergency use, so I could call and activate one if another is down in a pinch. I work from home so this would be nice to have.

Can anyone sway me one way or the other as far as modem equipment goes?

I'm inclined to want internal PCI modems to eliminate clutter in my equipment closet, but I suspect I might get more features and/or better performance from independent boxes, since the PCI card modem market seems pretty much dead.

I'm also wondering if it is best to stick with the modem the ISP gives you, or if 3rd party equip like black box, Cisco, n-Tron, D-Link, 3com, etc. would be better once I got the setup requirements from the ISP.

Guys I know this is a very loaded post but thanks so much in advance for any and all advice you throw my way.
 
A few things in my opinion.

First off, pfsense has a really good forum, so you can get a lot of very specific answers there. I've been using pfsense for a while, but I'm no means an pfsense expert.

As far as expansion slots go, you're right, motherboards and PC's don't seem to have quite as many PCI slots these days. But when you think about it, when is your average PC user, even a power user, going to need more than 1 or 2? There will be cases, but I can't recall in the past while when I've needed more than about 2 or 3 slots (over and above AGP/PCI-e for video).

As far as NIC's go, I remember reading a couple good recommendations on the pfsense forum, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to head on over there and do some searching. My impression with PCI(e) NIC's is that unless you're putting them under very heavy loads (which on the router itself, I don't think you'd experience), you won't notice a huge difference. Somebody here like Tim can probably shed better light, my knowledge of performance between different NIC's is slim. I'll leave that up to someone who knows a lot more about them. I hear Intel's business class NIC's are really good though.

I've done some reading into the 'Killer NIC', and it seems to be just as much killer marketing as killer product. Most of what I read say it does make a small difference, but generally in older, slower machines. Drivers also seem to be an issue with the card, so I'm wondering if BSD will be able to take advantage of some of it's benefits. My guess is a couple plain GigE nics will do in your case just as well as some more expensive ones.

As far as Modems go for the high speed services, I don't know much about them, but my basic understanding an assumption is that the ones the cable co's give you are fine (sometimes they give you a cheap brand though). I wouldn't see a need to go with a different one, but again I'm not to sure - I've never tried using 3rd party cable/dsl/t1 modems.
 
I'm tossing around the idea of a cheapish new build for a pfSense router for my home as a pet project. I have a couple questions though; I would like to put a couple modems (DSL & Dialup for load balancing & backup, respectively) preferably internal PCI cards although this seems less and less feasible. And some gig Ethernet cards for WAN modem uplinks and as many as possible for LAN so I can trunk them to a managed gig switch.
For widest selection, you'll probably need to stick with standalone broadband modems. I have no recommendations because I have never tested them. I use whatever my ISP provides, which usually is actually a modem/router of some sort.

I have checked a couple motherboard manufacturers (namely Gigabyte and Asus) and they mostly have just 2 pci-x16 video card ports and 2 PCI ports.

What ever happened to motherboards with 5+ expansion slots?
Dunno about more than 5, but using the NewEgg Advanced Search on Server Motherboards brought up 4 SuperMicro mobos with 4 PCI slots. If you're looking for best gigabit performance, however, you should be looking for PCI-e NICs.

It looks like Killer NICs are pretty much windows only; I figured these would be nice high performance for this application. Comments?
The Killer NIC is snake oil for gamers who think they are going to get an edge by offloading some network processing from the CPU to the NIC. Save your money. Scotty provided the basic info on the product.

Can anyone recommend solid NICs? I'm unsure as to what features I'm looking for besides the gig capability.
I am sure that there those who disagree, but NICs are pretty much the same. Your OS and motherboard bus structure have more effect on networking throughput than the NIC.

In addition to that, I am the local network/game guru for my friends/family so I occasionally throw LAN parties. keep in mind with your suggestions that there are weekends where I have between 1 -2 dozen computers online at once in my home; sharing files, streaming media, playing games, downloading stuff, etc. So I need to be able to support that better than I am.
Better get a good smart/managed switch. The HP ProCurves are pretty good for price/performance and depending on special offers, so are the Dells. Look for switches that can handle link aggregation, VLAN and some QoS.

VOIP is not a likely addition at this point since I use a cell phone exclusively, but id like to rule out hardware (if possible) that would rule out VOIP as a future option should I choose to go that route.
As long as you can do VLANs and some basic QoS, you should be fine.


I'm also wondering if it is best to stick with the modem the ISP gives you, or if 3rd party equip like black box, Cisco, n-Tron, D-Link, 3com, etc. would be better once I got the setup requirements from the ISP.
As I said earlier, I just use what the ISP provides. When something goes wrong, their techs won't disown you.
 
As I said earlier, I just use what the ISP provides. When something goes wrong, their techs won't disown you.

Have you tried resetting the router?.. Try resetting the router.. Reset the modem.. There's something wrong with your compu.. oh, we have an outage in the area, sorry *click*

Ah, the beloved ISP tech.. Reminds me of why I quit that job >.>. (Dialup ISP Tech FTW!)
 
Thanks for the responses guys, I have been checking out the pfSense forum for a few hours and have read some interesting posts about what it is capable of. Time and time again the devs have mentioned Intel wired NICs. They are either inside Intel people, or Intel's NICs are really damn good. I figured sticking to the ISP's was going to be the best idea, I was just hoping if anyone knew about 3rd party modems and if I could get any performance boost from them. And yea I have been useing the advanced/Power search on Newegg to see what is available on the market. Heres the NIC I am leaning towards for hardware right now:

http://www.intel.com/products/server/adapters/pro1000pt/pro1000pt-overview.htm
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833106010

the mobo situation is a bit sticky, BSD 6.3 doesnt support much in the way of northbridge chipsets. It might be doable if I go with a smaller mobo manufacturer.. anyone have experience with TYAN or SUPERMICRO?
 
And yea I have been useing the advanced/Power search on Newegg to see what is available on the market. Heres the NIC I am leaning towards for hardware right now:

http://www.intel.com/products/server/adapters/pro1000pt/pro1000pt-overview.htm
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833106010

Any reason you chose that particular adapter over this one?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833106005
$44 vs $86, and I don't think you require CPU load balancing.
 
Yea, the fact that the 9400 was listed on Intel's site ;) I submitted a support claim, as I can find nil information on the 9300 on their website since the creation of the 9400. I plan to ask them if they have any documents highlighting differences between the two, if the load balancing between multiple CPUs is the only change, I probably will go for the 9300 at half the cost.

Thanks for looken out.
 
OK, my build is changed to a pfSense 1.2.1 based on FreeBSD 7.0 machine, and I am still having difficulty finding a "sure thing" motherboard that is guaranteed to work. I have not found anything in the way of nForce drivers, although on the FreeBSD 7.0 Release Hardware Notes here: http://www.freebsd.org/releases/7.0R/hardware.html#INTRO it states the following nForce chipsets as being supported:

nForce
nForce2
nForce3
nForce4

Can anyone inform me of what variations of these are known to work/not work under the default drivers?

Can anyone point me in the direction of current nForce FreeBSD drivers?

Can anyone point me in the direction of better motherboard chipset for FreeBSD?

If at all possible I would like to find something easily purchasable from Newegg, preferably server class but that is not a requirement.

I am also concerned about a SATA chipset driver, if anyone has any bones to throw me regarding that as well.

This is getting pretty difficult, Thanks in advance guys
 
Nforce boards have always had on and off support with Linux over the years. Just go with an intel or SiS / other based board.

It's not even going to be worth your time to mess around with it. Just get an intel based board and everything should work fine.

As far as 'server class' goes - my best recommendation is probably intel's desktop (or server) boards. Most stable, no-frills, boards I've ever worked with at the consumer level.
 
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My basic build

Hey Bril,

I recently built a dedicated FreeNAS machine, and while that's a fundamentally different class of machine, they both share (or did share?) an upstream parent in m0n0wall, so I feel pretty confident in recommending what I used for your build. For what it's worth, when I boot m0n0wall, every last device is correctly identified.

I used an Asus P5GC-MX/1333 board based on an Intel 945GC (Newegg has it for $50, I picked it up at Microcenter for $45), with an Intel Celeron D 430 (for about $30). I should note that the Asus board supports booting from CF cards or USB sticks or SD cards; pretty much anything, really, so I'm booting off a 1GB CF card, keeping my IDE channels free for hard drives. I tossed a gigabyte of generic Samsung DDR2-667 RAM (about $20, probably cheaper on your local Craigslist). The total power consumption without hard drives is less than 40W, and you get two PCI card slots and two PCI-Express card slots. Total non-hard drive, non-case cost was $100, sans taxes.

I also went searching through the FreeBSD HCL and discovered that cards with the Realtek RTL8169-based cards were very well supported, so I went and bought the Trendnet TEG-PCITXR for about $12 from Microcenter, since I was in a hurry. Only thing I've found is that it only supports 7200 byte jumbos, not the whole 9000 bytes; I've never found this to be a major problem, but YMMV.

Let me know what you choose - I'd be interested in hearing how it turns out.
 
Thanks for the info on that Scotty & Vnangia, Its good to see cheap still new hardware on newegg thats compatible, even with how dated 7.0 is with drivers already(still?). one of the problems I have going to other online dealers for older hardware is lack of support/warranties. That seems like a decent build. you can catch this thread over here to see what my planned build is ATM.

BTW, I love nForce and all the cool stuff it does for games, but for working class hardware i guess it just doesn't cut it, so its out. Intel is in.
 
BLK means "Bulk." When dealing with inventory, it's easier to handle one unit of 20 items, then 20 units of one item each. Note that you don't see any retail "BLK" models, you'll be getting a card in a plastic clamshell package.

I didn't see an L on the link you provided, but I'm guessing L is for low profile, which refers to the PCI bracket. Low profile brackets are roughly half the size of normal ones. Unless the case slot is horizontally oriented, a regular bracket necessitates a 4U case.

If you're looking for a rackmount case, this one is reasonable quality at a great price. It's steel, so it weighs a ton though. If you ever get an enclosure, I recommend purchasing rails for this case.
 

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