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Recommendation on hardware for homemade router...


bob21
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Hi,

 

I'm looking into the possibility of a homemade router as I've recently returned a Netgear, Asus and D-Link to Amazon as the performance was just terrible.

 

I got speaking to someone recently who said it would be far more cost effective to build one, and I would get greater control, throughput etc with a box with pfsense or similar.

 

I don't know if this is even possible, but here goes:

 

I am looking for hardware recommendations and would ideally want it to:

 

1. Have at least 3 gigabit ethernet ports

2. Have 802.11ac wifi

3. Be quiet and low power

4. [ideally] cost no more than the routers I have returned.. which was around the £200 mark

 

[basically, what the routers I have just returned claimed to be able to do!]

 

I have been looking at alix and apu boards but their throughput doesn't seem to be fast enough (alix definitely not, as it's 10/100). I would ideally be looking to saturate gigabit ethernet and the AC wifi. I found a great router by MikroTik (2011UiAS-2HnD) that runs their RouterOS and it's availble for about £100, but it's not AC, only N. I was wondering about adding an AC AP to it but not sure if this would be viable as stand alone AC APs are expensive.

 

I am thinking at this point that I may have to look at MicroATX / MiniITX or similar, but don't really know much about the hardware.

 

I was wondering if I could get some input/recommendations, is this even possible?

 

TIA :)

Edited by bob21
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I'm not sure you can build one for the same price as a consumer wireless router. Most people use an older PC they have lying around (that's why I did). I would seriously look at getting a refurb older PC; something like an HP or Dell SFF unit. Add a NIC or 2, install Untangle, pfSense, or Sophos and you're off to the races. These UTM OS' are free, so you only have the hardware costs to worry about.

 

I would not put the wireless into this unit. I think you would be better off with consumer level wireless router that's separate from the UTM. Others may feel differently, but I don't like mixing wireless access with routing duties.

 

That's my 2 cents...

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Thanks for the input.. It might be that I need to look at something different. An old PC would generate too much noise and I'm not sure about the separate router.

Are you able to recommend an AC router which would allow me to achieve gigabit speeds? I've found a lot of these home routers just don't have the throughput. Even though they claim to be gigabit, the speeds rarely go over 780Mbit.
 Even with a decen firmware like tomato.

 

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I'm not sure why you think an old PC would be too noisy. The SFF units from HP and Dell were designed to be used on desktops in corporations. If they were too noisy those corporations wouldn't have bought them. Bear in mind I'm talking about computers that are only around 5 years old.

 

Also, where are you planning to put this router? Most people keep them in out of the way places in their residence, places where noise isn't much of a factor.

 

Regarding wireless, I think you may be under a bit of a misunderstanding. A great deal of a wireless link's bandwidth is taken up by overhead, as much as 50%. For example 802.11g wireless is a (now older) standard for 54 megabit wireless. In practice, it was typical to not get more than 25 megabit of actual Ethernet throughput. That's because the other 25+ megabits of bandwidth was used up for overhead (addressing, link control, negotiating, etc.). If you are actually getting 750 megabit of Ethernet throughput with a nominally gigabit link, I would say you are getting excellent performance. Wireless performance can never match hardwire performance.

 

As far as routers go, many members here seem to really like Asus models.

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>> I'm not sure why you think an old PC would be too noisy.

 

Because I am in a 2 room flat and the feed for the net is next to the TV, I don't want a fan running all the time, no matter how quiet.

 

>> Also, where are you planning to put this router? Most people keep them in out of the way places in their residence, places where noise isn't much of a factor.

 

I can't. If I could, I'd be using an old computer!

 

>> Regarding wireless

 

No, I meant wired. I want AC for my wireless devices, but I am referring to terrible wired performance over a cabled connection that has been confiirmed with iperf

 

>> As far as routers go, many members here seem to really like Asus models.

 

I've had one Asus, but I guess I could look at another.

 

Thanks for the suggestions :)

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It would be helpful if you can describe your intended use of the box. Ie. Multiple VLANs, multiple ISP's with X mbps links, etc.

 

Suffice to say that the throughput you're looking to have is something that is almost exclusively available only from an enterprise class security device. Low power/entry-level security devices (both commercial and home-built) will usually top-out at 50-150 mbps, regardless if they have gigabit ports or not. You can build a 500+ mbps router but it's no longer going to be low power. Even then, if you add modules like URL filtering, content filtering or enable features like VPN, etc., that will further lower the overall throughput.

 

Gigabit L-2/L-3 switches are capable of wire speed throughput because unlike security devices, there's no stateful firewall lookups involved and the switching is done in hardware (ASIC). Checking the firewall policy for every packet is CPU and I/O intensive and this is the reason why you don't see a "gigabit firewall" without it costing you your life savings.

 

Another resource to put things into perspective is this page from pfSense: https://www.pfsense.org/hardware/ Look at the portion halfway down for the section called Throughput Considerations. Here's an excerpt from that section:

 

Remember if you want to use your pfSense installation to protect your wireless network, or segment multiple LAN segments, throughput between interfaces must be taken into account. In environments where extremely high throughput through several interfaces is required, especially with gigabit interfaces, PCI bus speed must be taken into account. When using multiple interfaces in the same system, the bandwidth of the PCI bus can easily become a bottleneck.

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Well that's odd. A friend of mine has a Netgear 802.11n router and claims to be able to copy 15gig to his server in 3 minutes.

 

That's 85MB/sec, which is about 680Mbit. This is much more than 50-150Mbit. I have no reason not to believe him so I have to assume he is correct.

 

If I were in the market for 802.11n, I'd just buy what he has.

 

Thanks for the info all the same, I'll have a read.

Edited by bob21
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Not odd at all. If both the source and destination endpoints are on the same LAN or subnet (ie. no routing or firewall policies running in between), with the right router hardware, you can saturate the port speed. On your friend's Netgear router, the default setting is that both the 802.11n radio and the internal LAN switch are connected to the same internal VLAN/subnet. That said, there's not much CPU processing required to transfer data between wireless and wired.

 

But once you have enabled routing (ie. the source and destination are on a different subnet like between your ISP and your local endpoints) and added firewall policies, NAT, etc., the extra processing will create a bottleneck and you will end up with a throughput much much less than what the NICs can physically handle. This is what I was referring to.

 

Again, would appreciate more details on what your endgame is. Is this for residential use? SOHO? Will you have multiple VLANs, LAN segments, or subnets within your network that will need to talk to each other at wire speed?

 

I don't claim to know everything but like everyone here, I do want to help.

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Sorry for the confusion, but please let me clarify. I am looking for an AC device so that my AC devices have slightly better performance, but this is where it stops.

 

I have at all times been talking about archiving the full Gigabit out of a WIRED, CAT6, GIGABIT ROUTER/NIC connection... forget wireless! At no point do any of the speed issues I am experiencing have anything to do with any wireless connection on the network. The only reason I have made reference to my firends '802.11n' router is to make a point that even though it works for him, it's not what I am after because my wifi devices will suffer. I did clarify a few posts back that I was not talking about wifi!

 

 

>> Regarding wireless

 

No, I meant wired. I want AC for my wireless devices, but I am referring to terrible wired performance over a cabled connection that has been confiirmed with iperf

 

SItuation:

 

Home

 

HP N40L (broadcom extreme) > Router (Asus/Netgear etc) should be gigabit, right? > Laptop/Smart TV

 

Laptop = Wired (gigabit)

SmartTV =Wifi (forget this)

 

Same subnets etc.

 

So using the 3 routers I have returned I cannot get full gigabit speeds from this setup when copying data from the laptop to server.

 

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