Advise for Home Media Network: HW for PFSense vs Linksys RV0 Series Dual WAN



  • This was posted on the Small Net Builder Forum and got some replies. I was suggested to use PFSense for a part of my setup.

    I'd like to know what would be the the right HARDWARE to run PFSense? How much would it cost v/s the Linksys RV0 Series. I am marking the information in RED so that you can see the RELEVANT criteria / information I am looking it and the rest of the information to see how it falls in place.

    PART I:

    Advise for Home Media Network: NAS, Gigabit Switch, Media Streamer/ Player

    PHYSICAL REAL ESTATE:
    These are 2 condos belonging to our family. Condo 1 & Condo 2 have similar square footage. Condo 1 is split in 2 parts on levels 3 & 4. Condo 2 is on top of Condo 1 such that one half is right above Condo 1.
    The building is Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) for all the slabs shown above in the diagram. The Pink dotted lines signify brick walls and in some cases RCC sheet boards where brick walls might be too thick. They are definitely not great for wireless signals.

    Q. What is RCC?
    If a concrete mix is placed in and around a cage of steel rods, it is called Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC).

    3D DIAGRAM: FULL IMAGE - CAN ZOOM IN:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/AbhiGlobeTrotter/MediaNetwork/photo?authkey=fBw1U6n6fPs#5220566434434913138

    HOME NETWORK ALREADY WIRED & INSTALLED:
    CAT6 cabling has been used for both the internal Ethernet network as well as the EPABX driven phone system.

    NETWORK MEDIA STREAMERS:
    Xbox XBMC is a modified Classic Xbox that allows stream of all kinds of Media from a Central Server / NAS / RAID. I currently have one being modified and am looking at getting 1 or 2 more.
    In 2009, when the Media Streamers (Popcorn Hour, TVix) mature further I will review and consider them again. Of course, the main point of going for them over the Xbox XBMC is lack of HDMI / HD. Now, we do have to realize that at that point the assumption is that we’ll have a lot more HD Content (Blu-Ray & remaining HD-DVD Rips).

    [ NETWORK & STORAGE ADVISE NEEDED:  ]
    The “Green” & “Orange” marked items are the areas where I need help / advice on the most right now. I’d like to
    focus on the 3 MAJOR areas with these “marked” items.

    I’d like some Network Traffic Management – QoS, Banning etc. if possible. I was thinking QoS in terms of Network Services QoS. To be able to set & reserve QoS for different kinds of services (VoIP, Media, Torrents, various devices, users (I get high priority vs others in family  ) For within network and outside network traffic …Thoughts?

    ( I ) EXTERNAL UPLINK:

    Some sort of QoS for Services over the Internet / ISP: Internet to LAN Device / Application QoS:

    • VoIP (Maybe reserve some ISP bandwidth for the ‘dedicated’ services / have higher QoS priority over other traffic flowing to the Internet)
    • Media Streamer (Occasional - Online YouTube, Picasa, Online News, Weather on NMT, Maybe HULU)
    • 2-3 Laptops, 1 Desktop (Simultaneous active: 2 or 3)

    Now, I’d like to be able to the following with a single device or multiple devices that can be put together to do the
    following:

    [ Bridge/ Gateway/ Router/ Firewall Device: ]

    • Bridge the LANs / Subnets in Condo 1 & Condo 2 into Single or Multiple LANs
      (So they could also use the Media Server)
    • Load Share / Load Balance the 2 ISPs coming into Condo 1 & Condo 2 so that:
      o Best / Maximum Bandwidth could be utilized
      o Have a connection even if one of the ISPs goes down
    • Firewall protecting from the internet of both the ISPs

    I want to be able to have the following network features if at all possible:
    1. Share / Load balance the ISP1 & ISP2 for both Building Levels. That way if one of the ISPs is down or slow or overloaded we can load balance / utilize capacity on the other. What hardware / Firmware / Configuration would be the best for this?
    2. Be able to assign QoS to various clients accessing the Combined Bandwidth:
    3. One VoIP line (typically used for International calls only) - Currently attached to WR1 and usable by a VoIP attached Phone only. I am thinking of plugging it into EPABX1 to use it througout Building Level 4.
    4. 2-3 Desktop PCs. Currently PC1 & PC2. Some of the kids have a tendency to DOWNLOAD and INSTALL crappy games from the web / flash games so if I could CAP that Bandwidth hog. Nice to have.
    5. Ability to CAP bandwidth for several users / laptops / categories of users.
    6. Have "super admin" bandwidth for yours truely.
    7. Be able to access the MFC7820 N from Level 4 or Level 5.
    8. Some way to network enable / USB Router enable the Local USB Printers without having to turn on the PCs and doing Printer Sharing (PS: I understand that would mean them not directly plugged into the PCs but via some USB device to share).

    ( II ) CENTRAL CORE:

    [ NAS Hardware]
    Central Server / NAS/ RAID. The central store for all the Media, File Share Data and Content
    Media: DVD ISOs, MPEG, AVI, mp3, FLAC, Pictures / Photos
    Data: Application Setup / Installable, Personal Backups, Work / Career/ Etc, Family Backups

    Currently considering Synology CS 407 / 407e and QNAP 407 but am not sure. They are close $500+ for  4 x 1TB. I am curious what kinds of implementations are they doing here? 
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redundant_array_of_independent_disks#Implementations )
    Is there a way to do a similar implementation using a Motherboard & Case with Free / Open Source Software RAID for lesser price?

    [ Gigabit Networking ]

    [ Gigabit Switch ]

    • Supports following Media scenarios:
      Scenarios for within LAN QoS reservation for certain types of application services: 
      (Some kind of QoS reservation to ensure Media Streaming to consumers without jitter)

    • NAS > Media Streamer: XBMC (DVD ISOs, HD DivX, AVI, MPG, MP3, Photos)

    • NAS (media & file / data serving) > 2-3 Laptops, 1 Desktop

    • Supports these devices by Hardwire
      9 CAT6s (Internally Wired / Pulled) > 5/6 Used, Remaining Unused
      1 CAT6 (Internal - Pulled for Telephone originally)
      3 CAT6s (Local: Near / part of the Central Core): Wireless Router, Server / NAS / RAID, Network Printer (MFC 7820N)

    [ Patch Panel ] (??)

    (Should I even bother buying one? What purpose would it serve? Under what scenario would I want to have a Patch Panel)

    [Wireless Router]
    (I might end up moving it into the Bedroom depending on signal)
    WR 1 – Wireless N Router

    [Network Printer / Scanner]
    Brother MFC 7820N

    ( III ) BEDROOM:

    • T61 with Adv Mini Dock
    • X61 with Ultrabase Dock
    • Xbox XBMC

    [ Desktop Switch ]
    (Preferably something low profile, small size, low noise, low heat / power)

    One oversight that I had when we got the wiring done was that I did not think I’ll need multiple Ethernet lines coming to my bedroom (ThinkPads). I am currently looking at 3 devices there with a Single CAT6 from the Central Location coming through terminated at an RJ-45.

    I do have the possibility of using another CAT6 that comes through to the same desk but was terminated into a RJ- 11. I am guessing I can leverage that for another Ethernet Line since I have another CAT6 coming to the bedside table into an RJ-11. This would give me a second RJ-45 termination.

    Lots of possibilities arise but I have 2 questions:

    • Is it possible to use the same Phone CAT6 cable for Ethernet as well as phone line? EPABX + Gigabit Switch? What would be the Bandwidth loss / fallback in this case?
    • What would be a decent Desktop switch to expand the number of Ethernet ports I have? What kind of Bandwidth loss / fallback in this case? Especially v/s the previous case? (Note the major likelihood of using multiple devices for HIGH BANDWIDTH usage from “Central Core” simultaneously is low)

    PART II

    Thanks a lot for the detailed response. I inserted my thoughts inline with your reply.

    Wow, that's quite the post and planning you've done. I'll admit, I didn't read it word for word, but I'll tackle a few questions you had:

    Currently its far from where I want it to be.

    The key items I need to purchase / build that I need advise on.

    • Gigabit Switch: Suggest some please?
    • Desktop Switch:
    • Gigabit Patch Panel: The wiring is already done. I do not see the purpose of a Patch Panel. Maybe you can enlighten me.
    • Gigabit NAS / Media Server / RAID:
    • Bridge / Router / QoS:

    QoS / Load Balancing / Dual WAN / Bandwidth Management - You're definately looking for a router of some kind that has these features. Given you varied requirements, my best recommendation would be pfsense. Pfsense is a very popular, free, BSD based router that has the features of a $2000+ router. It's really easy to set up and manage, and can be put on virtually any old PC you have sitting around (or a cheap, $300 new PC if you choose). It will support virtually everything you're doing here really well - and it's free. A Linksys RV0 series router can do most of what you need as well. With one of these kinds of products, you can manage bandwidth, QoS, etc to your heart's content.

    QoS - One small note about QoS, once the packets of data leave your home and go to your ISP, any QoS information is stripped. Basically, you can manage QoS from within your network, but not outside your network. You can't tell your ISP give priority to VOIP for example. You can still do QoS, but just keep this in mind, it's not 100% end-to-end QoS. But for what you're doing, you're fine.

    Bridging Multiple Subnets / Condos - Couple ways to do this. Pfsense will have this capability right out of the box, but there's still ways to do it otherwise. You'll need a router that supports routing multiple subnets, multiple DHCP pools, etc. Did I mention pfsense?

    QoS THOUGHTS:

    I am trying to ensure 3 kinds of QoS.

    1. INTERNAL QoS:
      How different kinds of traffic flow inside the network. There is a bunch of traffic that would almost never need to go out. e.g. Media Streaming from NAS to Xbox XBMC. This is INTERNAL only.

    2. EXTERNAL QoS:
      There is a lot of traffic that would be EXTERNAL. Internet Traffic (VoIP, Email, Web Browsing, VoIP, Youtube, Online Radio, Torrents). Even though we have no control over QoS once we hit the ISP, I'd like to atleast GATEKEEP and assign / reserve some Bandwidth by Absolute BW or Percentage BW. Is this kind of fine tuning even possible?

    3. User Priority QoS:
      There are "kids" in the house who might over indulge the bandwidth so it would be great to have the ability to CAP bandwidth for those people / machines on the network.

    ROUTER / FIREWALL OPTIONS:
    Are all of the above something i could do with PFSense? Could I do it ALL with the Linksys RV Router? I would've preferred a BOX like the Router you suggested but I am guessing it would turn out to be more expensive?
    ONE ISSUE: It is 4 - 10/100. I guess I lose out on the Gigabit functionality.
    Thoughts?

    Do you think it might be possible to get a "Slim" / Rack Mount Like 'Box' that has Gigabit Ethernet (Atleast Dual WAN) for cheap (er) than the Linksys RV Router? Since I want to keep it a FULL / PROPER Gigabit Ethernet I'd need 4 Gigabit cards / ports on the Motherboard?

    From what I hear the PCI based cards dont give full performance. They have to be on the Motherboard or PCI-e. What do you think? I am a little out of synch on hardware.

    Which one would become more expensive?

    SUBNETS:
    I would prefer to actually be able to INTEGRATE and create a Single Subnet that includes both Condo 1 and Condo 2. Is that possible?

    The idea of creating multiple VNets came to me after realizing that I might need some restricted parts if at all for TESTING or ISOLATION sometime. I have no current thoughts / immediate need on that at this front.

    Open Sourced NAS - Yes, there's a product called OpenNAS which is pretty decent. There's a review of it sitting somewhere here on SNB.

    I'll look through some and get back with some questions.

    Are there any Boxes / Motherboards that might be good options for this. Something that would have:

    • RAID
    • Gig E
    • Small Form Factor
    • Low Power Profile etc.

    Print Servers - This is exactly what you're looking for, a USB print server (to put your USB printers directly on the network). Tons of brands here, everyone makes them. I find HP's print servers most reliable by far, but Linksys, Dlink all have them. You can get wireless ones too.

    Not the most major concern right now.

    Switches - Even in your scenario, you're not sending absolutely massive amounts of data across the wire at any given time. Streaming a movie, the odd phone call, internet access, and a game or two isn't going to make your network puke by any means. Since you're obivously going for a bit of a higher end setup, you'd probably be better off going with a bit of a higher end switch. I personally like HP's ProCurve line (business class switch). Something like the 1800 series would probably do you pretty good. I would definately go with a switch of this class over a D-Link or Linksys. I'm just not a huge fan of their switches no matter how you look at it ;).

    Actually from what I heard Streaming DVD ISOs over the network, and maybe HD Content sometime soon might be "quite a bit of data". Couple that with Torrent Downloads and possibly DVR recording in the future..

    This all in addition to the typical internet usage.

    Any reason why the DLinks and Linksys dont make the cut for you?
    Could you point out some other switches as well - Just in case I want to go for a cheaper alternative? The prices seem to be a bit high or maybe I've just seen the prices of too many cheap ones.

    What would be the price / performance advantage?

    Patch Panel - IMO, use one! You don't 'have' to have one, but they definately make things a lot easier. It will terminate all of your condo's Cat5/6 connections into a panel and will give you a lot more flexibility and ease of changing things around. They're really not expensive and are super easy to install so I don't see why you wouldn't, especially in such a connected home. If electricians are doing the wiring, it's a no brainer - have them put on in. They're really cheap. Also cleans things up quite nicely.

    WHY :) ??
    They are all currently terminated into RJ-45 (male) plug that currently go into an ordinary wireless router. They could easily go into a "Switch".

    I am trying to understand the scenario under which it would help / makes sense to add another "termination point" in between. Did I not read that lesser the termination points in between the better.

    When / how would it make sense?

    RJ-11/Cat6 Wiring - Yes, you can use Cat6(or5) for phones, but not BOTH phones AND PC's at the same time. Phones only use 1 pair and Cat5/6 has of course 4 pairs. What you 'could' do, is use up to 4 phones on 1 cat6 cable. If you're already running a bunch of Cat6, you probably don't need to be running RJ-11 as well. In most new homes these days they'll just wire it for a crapload of Cat5 and be done with it. When building my house which I take posession of soon, I didn't bother with RJ-11 anywhere.

    I was talking about this.

    HOW TO: Wire An Ethernet And Phone Jack Using A Single Cat5e Cable

    The place is already WIRED. CAT6 for Ethernet and CAT6 even for Phones. I do not have intentions of using most of the Phone CAT6.

    The only one that I am considering is one that comes from the Center Core to my Bedroom desk in Condo 1. I am planning to change the termination on this from RJ-11 Female Socket to an RJ-45.

    All the phone lines use CAT6 but terminate into RJ-11 Female Sockets. THE THING is.. we do not need all the Twisted Pairs since the phone system is driven off an EPABX at the Central Core.

    The question I had is, could this still be leveraged for both Ethernet & Phone Jack both. If so, what kind of Bandwith / Signal / Ethernet speed loss would I be facing? I am guessing it would not be a pure Gigabit then? Would it become a 10/100 Ethernet line? Bandwidth implications?

    That should answer a lot of your questions, lots of smart peeps on this forum though so they'll chime in soon with some good recommendations too.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read through.



  • I'd like to know what would be the the right HARDWARE to run PFSense? How much would it cost v/s the Linksys RV0 Series. I am marking the information in RED so that you can see the RELEVANT criteria / information I am looking it and the rest of the information to see how it falls in place.

    I don't know the linksys rv0 serie but from my own experience i often get disappointed when buying off the shelf. That is one of the reason why i use software like pfSense.
    For two reasons i wouldn't recommend buying any hardware at this point.
    1. Best is to get to know pfSense using a old pc and it seems console boxes as xbox can give headaches (search for more info)   
    2. From my quick review of your post you'll probably need the upcoming 1.3 version. ATM it's only in a alpha alpha version http://blog.pfsense.org/?p=208

    Now that I've tried to scare you away :) I probably also have to say that I think your setup is doable with pfSense but not a walk in the park. For some more information look at this pdf http://www.bsdcan.org/2008/schedule/attachments/66_pfSenseTutorial.pdf (info on hardware sizing too).
    As for OpenNAS goes you might want to take a look at FreeNAS because it's also a fork of m0n0wall as pfSense is with it's neat GUI. 
    Hp has some nice switches imo.

    If I should postulate a guide for hardware:

    Low on power usage without giganet.
      ALIX and soekris board
    Medium on power usage without the full use of a giganet
      VIA epia and intel atom
    High power usage with giganet
      Any board with PCI-e or PCI-x

    Hope it helps somehow.



  • @Perry:

    I'd like to know what would be the the right HARDWARE to run PFSense? How much would it cost v/s the Linksys RV0 Series. I am marking the information in RED so that you can see the RELEVANT criteria / information I am looking it and the rest of the information to see how it falls in place.

    I don't know the linksys rv0 serie but from my own experience i often get disappointed when buying off the shelf. That is one of the reason why i use software like pfSense.
    For two reasons i wouldn't recommend buying any hardware at this point.
    1. Best is to get to know pfSense using a old pc and it seems console boxes as xbox can give headaches (search for more info)   
    2. From my quick review of your post you'll probably need the upcoming 1.3 version. ATM it's only in a alpha alpha version http://blog.pfsense.org/?p=208

    Now that I've tried to scare you away :) I probably also have to say that I think your setup is doable with pfSense but not a walk in the park. For some more information look at this pdf http://www.bsdcan.org/2008/schedule/attachments/66_pfSenseTutorial.pdf (info on hardware sizing too).
    As for OpenNAS goes you might want to take a look at FreeNAS because it's also a fork of m0n0wall as pfSense is with it's neat GUI. 
    Hp has some nice switches imo.

    If I should postulate a guide for hardware:

    Low on power usage without giganet.
      ALIX and soekris board

    Medium on power usage without the full use of a giganet
      VIA epia and intel atom
    High power usage with giganet
      Any board with PCI-e or PCI-x

    Hope it helps somehow.

    The last 2 scenarios. Can you elaborate more? How is it without full use of giganet?

    Also, I am wondering if PFSense does QoS for Internal Services & traffic ? Or only when Traffic needs to be managed on the Internet Pipe i.e. Reserving bandwidth for external services.



  • The PCI bus and the CPU will limit the speed (my ex1000eg)

    In the 1.3 version you can traffic shape between any interface.


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