Hardware: bigger but cheaper, or smaller but more expensive?



  • I know "which hardware" gets discussed here frequently, so I've been going through the forums and trying to pull out several of the options I think would be most appropriate for me.

    I guess my major question is: is the reason to go with a smaller form-factor like an ALIX or Atom just lower power consumption and smaller size? As opposed to just throwing pfSense on some used PC or server hardware.

    I was thinking about just buying this used 1U Pentium 4 rack from geeks.com (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=WSYS201-NOHDD-R&cat=SVR) and throwing pfSense on it. That'd be the lowest cost up-front. It comes with dual Gigabit Intel NICs. I have an hdd I can stick in it.

    Buy an 8-port gigabit switch and plug into the LAN side, hang my existing wifi router as an AP off one of the switch ports. Done. For ~$100 USD. Noisy though, right? And probably sucks up a lot of power.

    The ALIX and Atom boards (like http://linitx.com/product/12647 and http://www.amazon.com/Intel-D2500-Fanless-Mini-ITX-D2500CCE/dp/B008KB5YCK/ref=pd_cp_pc_0) look cool and obviously way smaller, quieter, and more efficient. But way more up-front cost.

    I've also considered a Mikrotik RB450G although obviously that's not pfSense. That's around $120.

    Would love some feedback from you folks who've ran pfSense on different platforms.

    Big and cheaper, or smaller and more expensive?

    I currently have 12/1.5 U-Verse, and best-case scenario I increase it to the 24/3 package in a few months. So it won't be handling huge WAN bandwidth. I will run OpenVPN but that'll probably be the extent of it.



  • Pentium 4s draw a lot of power; you'll end up paying the difference in electricity costs.

    I bought a Atom based system from Supermicro, works great, ended up costing just over ~350.00USD.

    Here's the pre-built version of it which you can order from one of many retailers:

    http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/1u/5015/sys-5015a-ehf-d525.cfm

    Supermicro also has a new line just rolling out with upto 4 NIC support; if you want a newer case/line, you can order this one instead:

    http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/1U/5017/SYS-5017A-EF.cfm



  • @coolspot:

    Pentium 4s draw a lot of power; you'll end up paying the difference in electricity costs.

    I bought a Atom based system from Supermicro, works great, ended up costing just over ~350.00USD.

    Here's the pre-built version of it which you can order from one of many retailers:

    http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/1u/5015/sys-5015a-ehf-d525.cfm

    Supermicro also has a new line just rolling out with upto 4 NIC support; if you want a newer case/line, you can order this one instead:

    http://www.supermicro.com/products/system/1U/5017/SYS-5017A-EF.cfm

    Thanks for the links to those. Definitely way more than I was intending on spending right at the moment. But it looks like I'm better off to wait a minute until I'm ready to do it right. We're about to do a few other house projects and I'm going to have an electrician in here so I'll just wait 'til after that. Going to have him run some Ethernet so I can move my server, modem, and router into the office closet and get it out of the entertainment center. I'll just wait 'til that's done and then build a good low-power Atom box.



  • It's mostly a question of money up front, or money every month for as long as you run the box (the P4 could easily consume 7-10 times the power of an Atom). It's probable the P4 will suck 200 watts more power than an Atom. That'd be around 150 Kwh/month more power consumption. Depending on your power rates that could be as much as $200/year or more additional power cost to run the P4 24/7 vs. an Atom. The Atom alternatives are quiet and don't put off much heat either, where a P4 1U box would be a loud space heater. Whether that matters depends on your circumstances.


  • Netgate Administrator

    I am running a P4 based 1U appliance at home. http://forum.pfsense.org/index.php/topic,25011.0.html
    With zero tweaking it consumed ~90W when running at 100%, such as during boot up. I never saw it use more than 100W. That was with a 2.8GHz P4. There are quite a few options for swapping out the CPU to reduce the peak power draw with the socket 478. I have ended up running a 1.8GHz P4-M underclocked to 1.2GHz. This is still well within my needs at home but draws only ~40W most of the time.
    I could swap it for a 20W box but with a saving of only 20-30W it would take me a long time to recoup that.
    Actually the biggest problem I had was noise. The fans required to cool a P4 in a 1U height are very small, very fast, very loud!

    Steve



  • @cmb:

    The Atom alternatives are quiet and don't put off much heat either, where a P4 1U box would be a loud space heater. Whether that matters depends on your circumstances.

    @cmb:

    The Atom alternatives are quiet and don't put off much heat either, where a P4 1U box would be a loud space heater. Whether that matters depends on your circumstances.

    Yeah even though it's going in a closet in our largely unused guest bedroom I did have concerns about the noise. I think I'll maybe wait and go with one of those newer Atom boards.

    If I understand all the info I've read correctly, I shouldn't need anything more than an Atom, like a Core i3 or something, unless I'm planning on running a lot of services like snort or squid (which I'm not), right? As I mentioned it'll only be handling a 24/3 connection at most and OpenVPN.



  • I calculated based on what I was paying for electricity per kilowatt-hour in my neck of the woods (upstate New York) that one watt of consumption 24 hours per day, 365 days per year costs approximately $1. So the cost of running a box that draws an average of 100 watts will cost about $100 per year.

    As previous posters have mentioned, a Pentium 4-based system will draw about that much. On the other hand, the Atom-based Soekris 6501 I just bought draws only 6 watts. So after only ONE year of usage, the Soekris will cost you $94 less in electricity.

    Also, this is based on my power rates, which are relatively low compared to the national average. If you live in somewhere where power is expensive like California, the difference will be even greater. And this doesn't even figure in the cost of dealing with the heat generated.



  • I just did a new build on an HP DC7800 small form factor. Pentium Core-2 duo with 3 gigs of ram, 3xGB Ethernet, 16GB SSD.

    Costs was approximately:
     HP DC7800 on eBay      $75
     Intel Dual NIC on eBay  $25
     16 gig SSD on eBay      $35
                                     –---
                                     $135

    I disconnected all of the drives except for the SSD and it draws about 40 watts at idle... Seems to perform a lot better than my old dual core Atom build which was drawing about 30 watts at idle. It's nice and quiet too.



  • @rjcrowder:

    I just did a new build on an HP DC7800 small form factor. Pentium Core-2 duo with 3 gigs of ram, 3xGB Ethernet, 16GB SSD.

    Costs was approximately:
     
     Intel Dual NIC on eBay  $25

    That sounds like a good build. Would you mind sharing the model # of the Intel dual NIC you used?



  • @fuzzbomb:

    Would you mind sharing the model # of the Intel dual NIC you used?

    See here: http://forum.pfsense.org/index.php/topic,45430.msg243441.html#msg243441



  • It was an HP NC360T Dual Gigabit PCIe NIC. $25 with free shipping…

    Downside of this NIC is that it is low profile but the bracket is full-height. Took me a little work with the Dremel to convert the full-height bracket into a low profile bracket (not the first time I've done this trick). Upside - it was cheap and now I have three Intel ports!

    @fuzzbomb:

    @rjcrowder:

    I just did a new build on an HP DC7800 small form factor. Pentium Core-2 duo with 3 gigs of ram, 3xGB Ethernet, 16GB SSD.

    Costs was approximately:
     
     Intel Dual NIC on eBay  $25

    That sounds like a good build. Would you mind sharing the model # of the Intel dual NIC you used?



  • Other than Supermicro. You can opt for these firewall purposed hardware. A router orgasm. 6 Ethernet ports.

    You can find them on Aliexpress. About the same as a complete build of a Supermicro Atom board shipped.

    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Compact-1U-router-server-firewall-server-with-MINI-ITX-Six-Gigabit-LANs-motherboard/583033075.html

    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Intel-D525-1U-Firewall-server-Chassis-and-Motherboard-with-power-supply/733819792.html


  • Netgate Administrator

    @lordalfa:

    A router orgasm.

    Sounds interesting.  ;)



  • I use an Ivy Bridge system for my router. Initially I had an i3-3220, but changed it to an i5-3570 since I had it laying around and also it has AES-NI, which will be handy once 2.1 is out. The i3 system typically draws about 20w or so when not doing much. I am using a small ssd for storage and an 80+bronze 300w psu for it. It is a perfect little system. If you want to go cheaper there are options like the Pentium G1610 which is still 22nm Ivy Bridge based but a lot cheaper.


Log in to reply