[lug] Building Linux Routers versus Existing Routers

Maxwell Spangler maxlists at maxwellspangler.com
Sun Nov 22 16:46:30 MST 2015

On Sun, 2015-11-22 at 22:54 +0000, stimits at comcast.net wrote:
> Hi,
>  The situation is that I'm thinking about a router for a wired
> network where I want to assign addresses on an otherwise private
> gigabit network, and have the router make the outside world available
> by another gigabit network which runs on a cable modem in bridging
> mode. 
> What else would I need to know about to choose between a home-brew linux router and a commercial router?
Power consumption, Noise, and physical space are three factors you
didn't mention.
Using commodity parts, especially if they are donated, is the cheapest
way to go and gives you the most control over your solution.  Using an
opensource firewall like pfSense gives you a nice GUI on top so you
don't have to do all the management and monitoring via command line.
I have a site where we operate two firewalls running pfSense with one
onboard NIC and two inexpensive PCIe NICs.  It's very reliable,
satisfying and meets our needs.
But they take up the size of 2x small-form-factor PCs, use a reasonable
amount of power (50-100W) and produce a certain amount of noise.
We'd prefer an embedded appliance using a low power ARM chip and 2-3
gigabit NICs, but those appear to cost between $200-300+.  So for us,
like you, spare parts have worked out nicely.
FWIW, It's amazing how much data old CPUs can push.  When you operate
old PCs interactively they never seem fast.  Partly due to large apps
and partly due to old video cards.  But when you only have them push
bits on a wire, they can be very satisfying.  My x86 based Linux NAS
pushes large files to me at gigabit speed using an Intel  Core2 Duo
E7300 chip from 2008 and it's got plenty of CPU to spare.
Maxwell Spangler
Boulder, Colorado, USA
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