Quality of NICs, how important is it?



  • Hi all,

    As i've found out, my current pfSense solution with Alix hardware isn't adequate for my needs (I need more CPU), so, i'm looking into an Atom powered solution instead.

    But, I need at least three NICs (two WANs and a LAN), and having a fourth for DMZ would be nice, but is not a must.

    There are plenty of Atom motherboards with two embedded NICs, and if I can use those, i'd only need a single NIC addin card, but, does anyone have an idea about how much CPU using three low-end NICs will consume, with two 20mbit WAN connections?



  • The answer is "depends", since there is no single standard for low end ;)

    A cheap Intel NIC may perform very differently from a cheap Broadcom NIC, which may perform very differently from a cheap RealTek NIC.



  • @Cry:

    The answer is "depends", since there is no single standard for low end ;)

    A cheap Intel NIC may perform very differently from a cheap Broadcom NIC, which may perform very differently from a cheap RealTek NIC.

    I was guessing that would be the answer ;)

    But, lets say worst case scenario on an Atom 1.66ghz dual core CPU, would three low-end NICs (onboard and PCI/PCI-e) ever be a problem?

    I've looked at a StarTech dual/quid PCIe card as a possible replacement for onboard/cheap NICs, but I can't find it in the HCL, does anyone know if pfSense works with this?



  • For 40 Mb/s, you should be ok with just about any NIC, except the really low end 10/100 Mb/s RealTek NICs.

    As for the StarTech NIC, if you were to provide details of the card we may be able to help. Remember that the HCL lists the chipsets, not the cards.



  • The NIC in question is this, ST1000SPEX4, as far as I could find out, its using the Realtek RTL8111C chipset (specs)

    The firewall is supposed to be used in a small, private, LAN with 2 20mbit ADSLs, normally just used by 2-3 people, but sometimes when we throw a LAN party, it can be 10-15.



  • That's an ok chipset, not fantastic, but nothing like the early 10/100 Mb/s RealTek chipsets. I never found mine to perform brilliantly, but as it was my only (nominally) Gbit device I didn't care. Looking around at the time others saw variable performance, but all easily exceeded 40 Mb/s.



  • OK is good enough for me, and I take it that pfSense supports it. (Even though I can't fint the specifik chipset in the HCL)

    Thanks for the help, i'll be buying the hardware for my new FW tomorrow.



  • Don't know, I've only used it under Linux ;)

    The 8111 chipset is supported, but I don't know whether the C version is. A little time with the Search facility here and Google may help you.



  • Is it possible to use VLAN's to give you the required interfaces?  Your bandwidth numbers would suggest all could easily be handled by a single gig-e link carrying several VLAN's, and you will have 2.

    @FlyveHest:

    Hi all,

    As i've found out, my current pfSense solution with Alix hardware isn't adequate for my needs (I need more CPU), so, i'm looking into an Atom powered solution instead.

    But, I need at least three NICs (two WANs and a LAN), and having a fourth for DMZ would be nice, but is not a must.

    There are plenty of Atom motherboards with two embedded NICs, and if I can use those, i'd only need a single NIC addin card, but, does anyone have an idea about how much CPU using three low-end NICs will consume, with two 20mbit WAN connections?



  • @Cry:

    Don't know, I've only used it under Linux ;)

    The 8111 chipset is supported, but I don't know whether the C version is. A little time with the Search facility here and Google may help you.

    The C version has been supported since pfSense 1.2.3.  The D should also be supported without issues (it's effectively a lower power C).  The ones that might have issues are the E revisions which include more changes than just a die shrink.



  • @dreamslacker:

    The C version has been supported since pfSense 1.2.3.  The D should also be supported without issues (it's effectively a lower power C).  The ones that might have issues are the E revisions which include more changes than just a die shrink.

    E is working very well on my Jetway NC9C-550


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