My $35 5 nic atom d525 build with pictures


  • My mission: To build a low power many port router for pfsense that i could use for content filtering, vpn's, and multiple gateways for my vast and complex network.

    Ok so it's not exactly $35, i did use some parts laying around, BUT the cpu/mobo, riser, and quad nic were $35. I just added some cheap ddr3 ram i had laying around, an 8gb ssd i bought for $10 just for hte hell of it a few months ago. Hooked up a psu i had laying around, and BAM.

    First was a cheap ass cpu/mobo combo. I found the GIGABYTE GA-D525TUD on ebay for $25 with atom d525 dual core 1.8ghz cpu. Then I needed a riser. Ebay has those floppy pci risers, and not knowing what type of 1u case I'd end up with it seemed good.

    Then, I needed a nic. Quad port or better, I wasn't messing around. Now, I know and love my PCI-X intel PRO/1000 quad nic's I have in my file servers. They're fast and cheap. And PCI-X is backwards compatible. Now, this is where it gets complicated. PCI comes in a few different flavors. You have 32 bit, 64 bit, 3.3v, 5v. The mobo is keyed at hte back, indicating 5v, where-as the intel is keyed at the front, indicating 3.3v. However if a card is keyed in both slots, it's universal, and that's what I was counting on.

    The intel PRO/1000 is keyed in the front, but there's no pin in the rear where the key would go. So I thought, what if it's just not cut. It's a $7 card and a $25 board, if i break it, i break it in the name of discovery.

    There is one VERY IMPORTANT limitation of this build! 32bit PCI bandwidth is ONLY 132MB/sec. That's 1gb/sec. If you internet is FASTER than 1gb/sec and need all 4 of those ports to go at full speed, you're on your own. This will work fine for 99.99% people out there. My internet is not that fast, so I don't care.

    First, testing with my truely universal pci-x dual port nic that is keyed in both slots, with the riser that everyone told me would never work. You can see the dual port netxtreme on the monitor in the background:

    Here's the nic before surgery:

    The razor didn't work, but a jewlers file did

    It booted, so the whole hting didn't fry, just had to wait in great anticipation to see if it actually recognized the nic's, was the card actually working.

    Miraculiously, it worked and was recognized!

    It worked and is now installing as I type.

    So to all you adventuring computer folks out there, try something different even if people tell you it won't work.

    To all those in irc who said it'll never work, my gear is shit, I don't know the difference between a toaster and a server and who were generally rude, I hope you get hit by a bus.


  • I did the same trick once to get an ancient SCSI card working on a new PC. My boss was laughing at me until they saw the thing boot up. :) I'm only 27y old but I notice that allot of IT folks nowadays don't have basic electronic skills anymore.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Nice! I had toyed with the idea of a 'cheapest pfSense build' thread but I figured you'd need some rules to play by regarding stuff you have already, lucky second hand buys etc.
    The PCI bus speed restriction is never going to be an issue on that system since the CPU won't push more than ~550Mbps. Like you say for most home users that's way above what they need anyway.
    I notice you didn't include a case in your budget!  :P

    I would be interested in an iperf test between two ports on the quad card if you can. I've never really been able to nail down what the real world bus speed restriction would mean. Each port on the card is capable of 1Gbps in both directions simultaneously but that data has to be moved across the bus, filtered and moved back again. Does that result in a throughput of: 1Gbps? 1/2Gbps? 1/4Gbps?

    Steve


  • I didn't have a case included because I haven't found one yet. I'm still looking for a 1u case iwth psu for under $50. It'll pop up sooner or later, my rack isn't ready yet anyway.

    Since it is only a router, and each port has indepedent traffic, it's litterally impossible to saturate the pci bus without 500/500 internet going full speed. The bandwidth is total 132MB/sec. THe multiple ports won't be acting as a switch connected to different computers, so doing machine to machine transfer will never go in one port and out the other. They're simply going to be 4 gateways on the same network, and machines will push traffic over them based on their settings.

    And I'm only 30, but i was an electrical engineer in the military, and worked at radio shack before it sucked, so I know my way around circuit boards :)

    And there's still 2 of these cpu/mobo combo's on ebay for $25, but now have shipping charges. Still is pretty cheap.

    This is hte rack it'll be routing. there's 15 vm's on a 5 server cluster.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Nice.  :)

    I'd still be interested in any figures you could generate if you have chance to run a test before it goes into production.

    Still hard to beat a Firebox for minimum cost if you want it rack mount. About the same perfomance as your Atom board but can be upgraded. The new multithread pf in 2.2 will probably make the Atom perform better though. Atom uses less power too.

    Steve


  • I looked for months for something like a firebox, but found nothing. Now I gotta go and buy one of those and play with it…


  • @stephenw10:

    Nice.  :)

    I'd still be interested in any figures you could generate if you have chance to run a test before it goes into production.

    Still hard to beat a Firebox for minimum cost if you want it rack mount. About the same perfomance as your Atom board but can be upgraded. The new multithread pf in 2.2 will probably make the Atom perform better though. Atom uses less power too.

    Steve

    Your post gave me a great idea! I started looking at the internals of those machines, they use a standard 20+4pin psu it looks like! So I could gut a $25 with free shipping firebox and put my atom mobo system in and stick the pci card on the pci port, then I'd have a $25 1u case with psu for super cheap.

  • Netgate Administrator

    Yep, you could do that. I don't know if you'd get the NICs to line up with front panel. The LCD+keys uses the parallel port header. The usually cheaper X-Core models (X500, X700, X1000, X2500) do NOT use a standard PSU so make sure you get the right one if you go this route.  ;)

    Steve


  • Congratulations. I never realised that PCI-X is backwards compatible that way. Really, could I take any quad port nic which is 64-bit PCI-X and use it like that?


  • @robi:

    Congratulations. I never realised that PCI-X is backwards compatible that way. Really, could I take any quad port nic which is 64-bit PCI-X and use it like that?

    No. A lot of cards are SUN or specialty production and not compatible with windows, let alone pfsense. Your best bet is to stick with the intel pro/1000 chipset. HP's and intel's use hte intel chipset. Right now the cheapest I see is $25+8 s&h.

    PCI-X runs in pci, but be weary of hte notches. Front notch is 3.3v, rear notch is 5v, both notches is universal.

    Here's a better search:
    http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odkw=quad+ethernet+pci&_sop=15&_osacat=0&_from=R40&_trksid=p2045573.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xquad+ethernet+pci+-sun&_nkw=quad+ethernet+pci+-sun&_sacat=0

    You still have to scan through to get ones that will work though. Tundra chips also work.


  • I'm frugal is most of my life, but when it comes to stuff like a firewall that I don't want to mess around with, I go all out. i350-T2 NIC, complete overkill, but that's how I roll.

    I love how you knew about the double notch thing and all. I applaud your hardware skills!


  • @robi:

    Congratulations. I never realised that PCI-X is backwards compatible that way. Really, could I take any quad port nic which is 64-bit PCI-X and use it like that?

    In reference to modifying a PCI-X card, that is a tricky route to take. The notch placement is what keys the card between 5V and 3.3V operation. In general, standard PCI slots are 5V while PCI-X slots are 3.3V (though the opposites are possible as well). The card in the OP was originally keyed as a 3.3V only card but was modified for 5V (there are universal keyed cards). That card had no pins in the location where the 5V notch would be so it was a good candidate for modification but if the card has pins in that location, I would not attempt it as you would either damage the card from the modification or by giving it different voltage than it expects (or is capable of handling).


  • While very possible, I gave up on this. The price of buying a case/psu is to inefficient vs just buying something, considering I'm fairly sure that my needs will completely blow this little atom out of the water. I've decided to go dual e5410 xeons with 8gb ram.

    But i'll leave this here just so people know they can do it if they want. Multiple vpn's on hte router, content filtering, and hundreds of users, eh it's a bit much.

    Switch config time for vlans and LAGs.