All-in-one system for home router

  • As I have no "extra" machine with which to build a router, I'm looking to buy a dedicated, dead-reliable machine. Tomato and DD-WRT have served me fairly well in the past, but I would like to decouple my routing software from specific, proprietary hardware. This router will see at most FiOS speeds with the (unlikely) possibility of a second residential cable connection. The only processing I intend to do is traffic shaping and monitoring, and (if I have two connections) some kind of failover or load balancing.

    To that end I'm aware of three options for machines that can be run without moving parts:

    New World Data Systems Mini - Intel Atom N270 - $300

    Soekris net4501 - 133 Mhz AMD ElanSC520 - $200

    Netgate m1n1wall - Alix 2D13, 500Mhz AMD Geode - $200

    Though the Mini is $100 more expensive, it seems to outclass the other two by a huge margin, and uses standard components that could be re-purposed in the future (as a NAS or…something, I dunno). This is essentially a sanity check. Besides price, is there any reason to go with the Soekris or the Alix over the Mini?

    They all have three Ethernet ports, and they're all probably overkill unless my connection breaks 80mbps, but I'd much rather overspend in this department and have a system that could easily handle anything that I'll need in the next few years.

  • The 4501 isn't supported, only has 64 MB RAM. The best Soekris fit is the 5501, though it's effectively equivalent to the ALIX performance-wise (same CPU) and the ALIX is quite a bit cheaper.

  • A bit more money.
    net6501-30 (600Mhz/512Mbyte version) $329
    net6501-50 (1Ghz/1024Mbyte version) $379

  • I saw the net6501, but it's "coming soon"…Mid May is just around the corner, but from what I've read, they've been saying "any day now" for weeks (or am I off on that)?

    The main difference I see between the Mini and the net6501 are that the Mini has 3 Realtek Ethernet ports (+$25 for gigabit), and the net6501 has 4 Intel 82574IT gigabit Ethernet ports. I've commonly read that Intel makes good network cards, so maybe this is worth waiting for? As I'm not doing any heavy processing, good, stable, compatible network interfaces are worth more to me than the 1.6GHz vs 600MHz CPU advantage the Mini has. That said, if Realtek makes a good card, I see no compelling reason to wait when I can pick up an already-overkill system that uses standard, repurposable components right now.

    Perhaps I'm just waiting for a post that says "The Mini is crap, here's why..."

  • I was speccing out something similar to the Mini and it was around $400 using Intel NICs.  That was just the hardware.  Don't think it included a hard drive.  Might have been a faster Atom as well.

    The mini specs mention something about Intel in the NICs as an option, but it's not available in the configuration drop downs.

  • @Tremelune:

    I saw the net6501, but it's "coming soon"…Mid May is just around the corner, but from what I've read, they've been saying "any day now" for weeks (or am I off on that)?

    Hard to say, but based on their past history with new products, I wouldn't be surprised if it took months longer than they've stated before they have stock available for shipping. And I would be a little wary of getting one of the first ones, at least with the 5501 there were a couple hardware issues that required either soldering a replacement part yourself or shipping the board back to them.

  • I was sold on the Mini, but there's really just so little info on it. If I run into trouble, there won't be many resources to help me out. I then thought about picking up a cheap Dell for the same money, but that's a pretty damn big box drawing a fair amount of power just to push bits…I then thought about building a mini box from my own standard components, but suddenly I'm at $500 for a router, repurposable or not.

    I'm going to continue thinking about it. Verizon FiOS "might" be available at my place soon. I should probably wait until I know more.

  • Then I would consider an ALIX 2D13 or 2D2.

    I run an older 2D3 as follows:
    Squid Guard
    Light Squid
    Captive Portal
    WiFi (3 vSSIDs)

    between 20-30MB RAM Free
    4% into SWAP (41MB)


    Powerful dual-core fan-less operation solution

    1u rack mount
    supermicro server board
    Intel Atom D525 processor
    dual Intel 82574L Gigabit Ethernet LAN
    Integrated Manageability
    The integrated Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) with IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) v2.0 support enables out-of-band capabilities for monitoring hardware and software status regardless of the OS or power state. IPMI comes with virtual media over LAN and KVM over LAN support to provide a complete remote management upgrade solution.

    that is your best bet ,,,, just add RAM and DISK
    i use that board ,when i got it the kit was not out ,, turn on TOS and OffLOAD and it will run near wirespeed

  • I have an ALIX board and love it.  It's fast enough for my needs but I don't run squid.

    If I were to upgrade, I'd consider an Atom board with Intel NICs.  I'd rather keep my ALIX than use an Atom board with Realtek NICs.  Realtek is unstable IMO, especially with streaming UDP traffic.


  • Hm, I see the Alix 2D13 as having VIA VT6105M 10/100 NICs…

  • @Tremelune:

    Hm, I see the Alix 2D13 as having VIA VT6105M 10/100 NICs…

    Yes, and they are very reliable and compatible with BSD.

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