Hardware suggestions for a low power, high perf virt capable router



  • I'm looking to swap out my current alix router for something that's a bit more capable and powerful while still keeping the power draw down as low as possible. My main goals for the build are to have a scalable solution that will accommodate faster lan speeds/multi wan as my net configuration changes, give me the flexibility to run systems that typically require seperate boxes such as Untangle on the same machine, and potentially get rid of some extraneous components down the road.

    My tentative specs so far are:
    Intel G620
    Intel S1200KP
    Intel EXPI9402PTBLK

    I would like to swap out the intel motherboard for something in the mini atx form factor to give me the extra ports in case my router needs ever change, but I'm having a problem finding an equivalent board that still offers the dual wan ports that this one does. I also haven't decided on a virt solution, but I'm currently leaning towards vmware ESXi so hardware compatibility with that would be a bonus.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



  • …so hardware compatibility with that would be a bonus.

    That could be the hard part.  :(

    From what I've seen the newer chipsets that go with the 2nd generation i3 and i5 processors don't have ESXi support yet.  Not to mention the missing VT-d and VT-x.

    I run four VMs, including pfSense, on ESXi 5.0 on a second-hand HP dc7900 with a few Gb Intel NICs.  I can live with teh power consumption, which is still a long way below having 4 or 5 separate machines.

    It'll never happen but I'd love to see Intel and VMware (or anyone) come up with a supported, low-power, low-noise, small form-factor machine with three or four on-board Gb interfaces as a "home" ESXi platform.  Don't need 7.1 channel sound and HD video - or even a gazillion USB ports!



  • @valunthar:

    I'm looking to swap out my current alix router for something that's a bit more capable and powerful while still keeping the power draw down as low as possible. My main goals for the build are to have a scalable solution that will accommodate faster lan speeds/multi wan as my net configuration changes, give me the flexibility to run systems that typically require seperate boxes such as Untangle on the same machine, and potentially get rid of some extraneous components down the road.

    My tentative specs so far are:
    Intel G620
    Intel S1200KP
    Intel EXPI9402PTBLK

    I would like to swap out the intel motherboard for something in the mini atx form factor to give me the extra ports in case my router needs ever change, but I'm having a problem finding an equivalent board that still offers the dual wan ports that this one does. I also haven't decided on a virt solution, but I'm currently leaning towards vmware ESXi so hardware compatibility with that would be a bonus.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    You need to note that the S1200KP does not have onboard graphics.  It relies on the IGP built into the processor.  When you mount a PCIe card (such as the PT dual port NIC you stated) in the expansion slot, it disables the onboard graphics.  Hence, the board will not boot properly since it does not detect any graphics adapter.  AFAIK, the datasheet does state that the board doesn't support headless configuration.

    You might have an issue if you expect the expansion slot to work concurrently with the IGP.

    You'll probably want to look into using onboard with a VLAN switch to "multiply" the interfaces rather than to try for discrete NICs on that board.



  • I was actually considering going with a vlan switch rather than the multinic route. It would actually give me more flexibility as far as configuration is concerned. That being said, I would be more comfortable having at least 3 nic ports on the router due to the fact that I may be doing a multiwan setup in the future, so i'd like to have the capability there from the beginning rather than have to swap out parts later.

    The parts that i suggested above are all open to suggestions regarding a better build. I just chose these parts so that I would have a starting point for figuring out exactly what I need to get the build that I want. I plan to do a more in depth search for proper parts when I have more time later today. Also, regarding the ESXi virtualization solution, I'm not totally set on using that as my hypervisor. I was mainly looking for something that would be fairly easy to setup and maintain without having much overhead, and as such was thinking of trying a number of solutions including esxi as I have seen it mentioned on this forum before with reasonably good results, however if the best parts that I can find happen to not be compatible with the software than it's no big loss, as there's still other good solutions for this kind of thing like Xen, KVM and most likely a few other ones that I'm not thinking of off the top of my head. Any suggestions people have regarding that would also be welcome.



  • I have a working low-power setup idling at only 20watt:

    Intel Celeron G530 / DH61WWB3 / Intel Gigabit CT / Transcend JM1333KLN-4G / be quiet! Pure Power L7 350W / Adata Superior S102

    Low cost, low power and much more powerful and easier to extend than an Atom build. Very happy with it so far :)



  • Finally found some time to do some more digging, and I think I've found the perfect setup

    SUPERMICRO MBD-X9SCL-F-O http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813182251
    Intel Xeon E3-1220 http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115084CVF
    or Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115077
    Crucial 8GB CT2KIT51272BA1339 http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148380
    Pico PSU 150 http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=37787&vpn=PicoPSU-150-XT-102-Power-Kit&manufacture=Mini-Box
    Antec Mini P180 mATX http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=51309&vpn=MiniP180White&manufacture=Antec

    Optional, may go VLAN capable switch first and then upgrade to this when I go dual WAN
    Intel E1G42ETBLK http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=61378&vpn=E1G42ETBLK&manufacture=Intel

    Switch I'm considering
    PowerConnect 2816 http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/powerconnect-2816/pd

    What do you think of my new tentative build?



  • @dreamslacker:

    You need to note that the S1200KP does not have onboard graphics.  It relies on the IGP built into the processor.  When you mount a PCIe card (such as the PT dual port NIC you stated) in the expansion slot, it disables the onboard graphics.  Hence, the board will not boot properly since it does not detect any graphics adapter.

    I have this board. The board does not have graphics. But the board doesn't need it, since most of the Sandy Bridge CPUs have IGP. The processor you mentioned, the G620 has IGP. I know this because I have the same board and CPU. I'm very happy with this setup.

    If you want more CPU power for ESXi 5, you should go with a Xeon E3. If you get a Xeon E3 with this motherboard, or any other motherboard without graphics, make sure you get the model that ends in a 5. For instance, e3-1235, e3-1245, etc. The 5 means IGP included. A zero means no IGP.



  • @valunthar:

    SUPERMICRO MBD-X9SCL-F-O http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813182251
    Intel Xeon E3-1220 http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115084CVF
    or Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115077

    That's not a bad motherboard. I looked at it, but went with the Intel S1200 Mini-ITX board instead. Keep in mind with the Xeon that there are IGP (E3-12X5) and IGP-less (E3-12X0) CPUs. You've selected an IGP-less CPU (E3-1220). This means you must always have a motherboard with integrated graphics, which isn't always the case with newer server boards. If you're ok with that, fine. If not, you would want the E3-1225 instead.



  • @jms703:

    I have this board. The board does not have graphics. But the board doesn't need it, since most of the Sandy Bridge CPUs have IGP. The processor you mentioned, the G620 has IGP. I know this because I have the same board and CPU. I'm very happy with this setup.

    Yes, that is what I stated.  However, when you mount an expansion card in the PCIe slot, it disables the IGP on the processor (the x16 lanes are shared with the IGP).  That would mean no graphics if the PCIe x4 NIC is mounted.


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