Low power hardware for 100+ MBit/s throughput - AMD Brazos?



  • Hi Guys,

    I'm running pfsense for quite some time now at home with a 100 MBit/s cable connection and really like it. One thing bothers me though: Power consumption! My current plattform needs about 75 Watts, which is quite a lot for running it 24/7.

    I read the of AMDs new Branzos Plattform and was quite impressed. It should be possible to get in the 30 Watts range and still have more than enough computing power. Plus its cheap. Has anyone tried it yet with pfsense? I tried to run an AMD X2 3800+ a while ago with pfsense 1.2.3 and it was a major pain to get it going at all…

    Current Specs:

    • CPU: Intel C2D E6400 (undervolted)
    • MB: Asus P5K
    • RAM: 4 GB
    • NIC: Intel Dual Gbit PCI-X Card
    • HDD: 80 GB 2.5"
    • GFX: none
    • Power Supply: Seasonic 380W 80+
    • WAN: 100 MBit/s down / 2.5 MBit/s Up Cable Connection

    CPU Load with 100 MBit/s WAN -> LAN peaks at about 5%.

    Thanks!



  • Even with the Brazos, you need to get a DC/DC power supply to increase power efficiency.

    Although the Seasonic (good PSUs BTW) are 80+ rated, those ratings are only valid at 20%, 50% & 100% load.
    i.e.  Your 380W is only guaranteed 80% efficiency at a minimum of 76W power draw.

    A PicoPSU is probably your best bet with a Brazos.



  • Not sure about that AMD but Intel Atoms in general run 25-30 wt even with a wireless card and hard drive, and can push 4-5 times the bandwidth you have. Not as powerful as an E6400 but you don't need anything near that big.



  • Thanks for the replys. I think I will just give it a try in a month or two. :) Thanks to the Intel card the AMDs Brazos platform should have more than enough computing power and it should consume less energy than Intels Atom platform. If it doesn't work properly with pfsense, I'll simply use it as new high-performance NAS.

    I read a lot about picoPSU. Long story short: It could lower energy consumption by 3-5 watt. Considering the cost (70 Euro) that's not very attractive. Pitty.

    The current E6400 system is a leftover. I moved to Sandy in my desktop and the old computer was still around.  ;)



  • I've run pfsense on an e-350.  Asus m1-pro board.  Bought it since it had PCI and PCIe slots for an intel dual port pci card.  It's not super speedy, but does the trick.
      I'm experimenting now with vmware server on that same board and running pfsense 2.0 virtual.  A little more tweaking, and I'll switch it over home production.
      Overall power consumption is about the same as an atom dual core from my other readings.  Don't expect miracles out of that cpu :)
      I agree with the other posters.  Match these boards with a small power supply if you really want to be efficient.



  • That sounds good! :)

    What kind of troughput are you geeting, saying it is not "super speedy"? Also power consumption would be interesting. I'm guessing that something in the 30 watts range should be possible. I already read of people being able to get far below 20 watts using Windows. Since the Intel NIC is also there and pfsense is not Windows, I don't think it is possible to get as low as that.

    I also tried VMWare a while ago on a laptop (C2D plattform with about 2 GHz) with pfsense. Less than 15 watt power draw and sufficient throughput (about 170MBit/s max), but it did add 2-6 ms of latency and just didn't "feel" very quick.



  • @tester_02:

    I'm experimenting now with vmware server on that same board and running pfsense 2.0 virtual.   A little more tweaking, and I'll switch it over home production.

    I'd be interested to hear how you got this done. My understanding by trying this briefly is that since you can't passthough a NIC to the pfsense VM since the Brazos hardware doesn't support AMD-Vi, is it can't be done. (?)
    Do you have any tricks to share? or did you do it through Vlans with appropriate switch support.



  • i'm running a supermicro atom D510 with dual NICs built in, PCIe Intel Dual Nic, 4gig of memory, 2.5 HD, LCD display, Verizon 3G USB modem all connected to a PicoPSU… pushing about 25watts... build with only board,hd and lcd was about 22 watts if I remember...

    i have tons of cycles to spare  with my 50/5 cable wan



  • Cpu-z shows amd-v.  I think vmware does not have all the limitations like microsoft vm software.  I know I read that ms software would not run on some intel chips (intel disables some vm functions on low end chips), but that vmware worked anyways (maybe slower?).
      Anyways, I installed vmware server on a 2008r2 machine and got 2.0 running (1.2.3 installed and worked, but only showed 1 core and had high cpu useage).  I'm down to figuring out traffic shaper and then will put it online (traffic shaper wizard is only putting up limit, no down limit).
      No tricks needed.

    icebeer.    I never did a theoretical throughput test.  My internet connection is getting 25mbits up and only 3 down.  The machine is able to keep up and pings are good.    I don't have a watt meter, so I can't tell the power draw.  Mine would not make a good comparison, as it's running a fileserver in windows with 5 drives.
      Overall it's running good, but if I had to redo it again, I might consider something else. An intel 2100 processor has low idle power where it runs most of the time, and it would give me a bit more performance when I needed it.
      If it was strictly a pfsense box, then there is nothing wrong with an e-350.  if anything it's overkill for a stand alone box.



  • I just installed my new pfsense router. :)

    Hardware:
    CPU: AMD E350 (2x 1.6 GHz, "AMD Brazos")
    MB: Asrock E350M1
    NIC: Intel Dual Gbit PCIe x4
    RAM: 1x 4GB DDR3
    HDD: 80 GB 2.5"
    GFX: integrated
    PSU: 65W external (came with Antec ISK 300-65 case)

    While pushing 100 MBit/s WAN -> LAN I now have about 20-30% of CPU usage. Power consumption is 25-29 Watt with FreeBSD. Nothing to complain about.

    I also tested the plattform shortly with Windows 7. In Idle operation it consumed about 22 Watt, so a bit less than it does with pfsense. Without the Intel NIC I could get it down to 17 Watt. The speed however was unimpressing. I wouldn't use it as a media PC or even just for surfing/office. It isn't fast enough for Youtube HD (720p or 1080p) or for VLC videos in 720p or 1080p. Even while just surfing the web you can feel that everything takes a bit more time. My old C2D with 2.1 GHz is much, much faster. For a new office PC I'd definitely go with Intels low end Sandy Bridge CPUs. They don't consume more power than AMDs Brazos and aren't that expensive, but have at least 2-3x the processing power. For pfsense - it's fine. Hopefully though later releases will be as power efficient as Windows is.



  • I did some playing around with my e-350 setups.
    pfsense - worked just as well as atom.  seemed to have slighty more power and worked well.  Bought the asus board since it had lots of expansion slots (unlike intel atom limitations on slots).

    Windows 7 - When paired with notebook sata drive it seemed to stall once in a while and be a bit choppy.  Worked well with network media (all files on network shares).  It even worked well with media center.
      I then tried it with a small 40gb intel SSD.  It seemed much much quicker, and I'd say it would be a great computer for my older parents who just surf and read emails.

    Don't compare to c2d.  It's a completely different classification (compare c2d to athlon II).

    FYI for media, I'm currently playing with an a8-3850 and it's a great fit for that system.



  • @icebeer:

    I read the of AMDs new Branzos Plattform and was quite impressed. It should be possible to get in the 30 Watts range and still have more than enough computing power. Plus its cheap. Has anyone tried it yet with pfsense?

    Based on this thread, I bought a Compaq Presario CQ5810 (AMD E-350 with 2GB memory) for ca. $300.  Given that it has only one (Realtek) NIC, and does have a PCIe x4 slot, I also bought an Intel EXPI9404PT quad gigabit card (which I found for ca. $150).

    However, I soon discovered that pfSense 2.0-RC3 did not recognise any of the five NICs.  Others have posted about the newer Realtek NICs.  I eventually figured out that the Intel EXPI9404PT is a PCIe 1.0 card, whereas the CQ5810 has a PCIe 2.0 bus.  And so I bought another card – an Intel E1G44ET quad gigabit card (PCIe 2.0 x4), which cost ca. $350.  So it goes.  The EXPI9404PT is happy in another machine.

    Anyway, it's been working fine for almost two weeks on a 50Mbps/10Mbps cable connection.  Saturating the connection doesn't unduely stress the system.  I plan to add Snort, packet capturing on a large ring buffer, and so on.  I had some spare 500GB WD RE3s around, so I put three in the CQ5810, and created a ca. 1TB RAID-Z zpool.  I was very pleased to discover that pfSense 2.0-RC3 comes with zfs.


  • Netgate Administrator

    @icebeer:

    Power consumption is 25-29 Watt with FreeBSD. Nothing to complain about.
    I also tested the platform shortly with Windows 7. In Idle operation it consumed about 22 Watt, so a bit less than it does with pfsense.

    Did you enable powerd?
    That has quite a dramatic effect on power consumption on my system (not AMD Fusion).

    Steve



  • @stephenw10:

    Did you enable powerd?
    That has quite a dramatic effect on power consumption on my system (not AMD Fusion).

    I did. it reduced power consuption in idle mode by 0.3 - 0.5 Watt (!) and seemed to work properly:

    "CPU Type AMD E-350 Processor
    Current: 1120 MHz, Max: 1600 MHz"

    CPU load increased a lot with powerd, which means that it is thottling down properly I guess. Since it didn't really save me any power, I quickly disabled it again.



  • You can actually try to manually limit your CPU frequency by logging into the shell and giving following command:```
    sysctl -a | grep dev.cpu

    On my system (PentiumM 1,73Ghz) that gives the following output:
    
    

    dev.cpu.0.%desc: ACPI CPU
    dev.cpu.0.%driver: cpu
    dev.cpu.0.%location: handle=_PR_.CPU0
    dev.cpu.0.%pnpinfo: _HID=none _UID=0
    dev.cpu.0.%parent: acpi0
    dev.cpu.0.freq: 400
    dev.cpu.0.freq_levels: 1733/27000 1516/23625 1333/21000 1166/18375 1067/17000 933/14875 800/13000 700/11375 600/9750 500/8125 400/6500 300/4875 200/3250 100/1625
    dev.cpu.0.cx_supported: C1/1 C2/1 C3/85
    dev.cpu.0.cx_lowest: C1
    dev.cpu.0.cx_usage: 100.00% 0.00% 0.00% last 500us
    dev.cpufreq.0.%driver: cpufreq
    dev.cpufreq.0.%parent: cpu0

    
    On the line dev.cpu.0.freq_levels gives you the available CPU frequencies, you can set it fixed by entering sysctl```
    dev.cpu.0.freq=400
    ```which sets the speed fixed at 400mhz. At 400mhz I can fully route 70+Mbps, at that speed the CPU is mostly pegged by interrupt requests btw.


  • @icebeer:

    I just installed my new pfsense router. :)

    Hardware:
    CPU: AMD E350 (2x 1.6 GHz, "AMD Brazos")
    MB: Asrock E350M1
    NIC: Intel Dual Gbit PCIe x4
    RAM: 1x 4GB DDR3
    HDD: 80 GB 2.5"
    GFX: integrated
    PSU: 65W external (came with Antec ISK 300-65 case)

    While pushing 100 MBit/s WAN -> LAN I now have about 20-30% of CPU usage. Power consumption is 25-29 Watt with FreeBSD. Nothing to complain about.

    I also tested the plattform shortly with Windows 7. In Idle operation it consumed about 22 Watt, so a bit less than it does with pfsense. Without the Intel NIC I could get it down to 17 Watt. The speed however was unimpressing. I wouldn't use it as a media PC or even just for surfing/office. It isn't fast enough for Youtube HD (720p or 1080p) or for VLC videos in 720p or 1080p. Even while just surfing the web you can feel that everything takes a bit more time. My old C2D with 2.1 GHz is much, much faster. For a new office PC I'd definitely go with Intels low end Sandy Bridge CPUs. They don't consume more power than AMDs Brazos and aren't that expensive, but have at least 2-3x the processing power. For pfsense - it's fine. Hopefully though later releases will be as power efficient as Windows is.

    I would have to guess that the GPU portion is where the difference is. With drivers in Windows it can probably downclock the graphics a bit where on Pfsense it probably runs full tilt all the time.


  • Netgate Administrator

    On the Pentium-M you should definitely use powerd if you can. It works great on my P-M 1.7GHz using the est driver. However it doesn't recognise all the P-M cpus so YMMV.
    It will run at minimal freq most of the time but will still run at 1.7GHz if required. No noticeable lag.

    Steve



  • Thanks for the hint @iMacG3

    I tried again and enabled powerD first, than ran sysctl -a | grep dev.cpu. Output:

    
    dev.cpu.0.%desc: ACPI CPU
    dev.cpu.0.%driver: cpu
    dev.cpu.0.%location: handle=\_PR_.P001
    dev.cpu.0.%pnpinfo: _HID=none _UID=0
    dev.cpu.0.%parent: acpi0
    dev.cpu.0.freq: 100
    dev.cpu.0.freq_levels: 1600/4940 1400/4322 1280/3347 1120/2928 960/2510 800/1522 700/1331 600/1141 500/951 400/761 300/570 200/380 100/190
    dev.cpu.0.cx_supported: C1/100
    dev.cpu.0.cx_lowest: C1
    dev.cpu.0.cx_usage: 100.00% last 186us
    dev.cpu.1.%desc: ACPI CPU
    dev.cpu.1.%driver: cpu
    dev.cpu.1.%location: handle=\_PR_.P002
    dev.cpu.1.%pnpinfo: _HID=none _UID=0
    dev.cpu.1.%parent: acpi0
    dev.cpu.1.cx_supported: C1/100
    dev.cpu.1.cx_lowest: C1
    dev.cpu.1.cx_usage: 100.00% last 138us
    dev.cpufreq.0.%driver: cpufreq
    dev.cpufreq.0.%parent: cpu0
    
    

    I guess the cpu is already running at it's lowest state of 100 MHz (with about 0.3 to 0.5 Watt savings as before). Without powerD the frequency was shown as 1600. Maybe it really is the integrated GPU that consumes more power with FreeBSD…

    In the Web interface it showed this time btw:
    "CPU Type AMD E-350 Processor
    Current: 500 MHz, Max: 1600 MHz"

    Maybe a bit buggy. ;)


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