April 4, 2012

My pfSense firewall/router build

I stuck with a D-Link DIR-625 wireless router doing all my routing for entirely too long. I had an old P4 2.66 GHz PC laying around with a 40GB hard drive so I decided to try out pfSense. I was hooked, the overall performance and features of this open source FreeBSD firewall/router were impressive. My old P4 machine was using too much electricity for something that was on 24 x 7, though. I decided to custom build something that was 1. powerful enough for my home network and virtual environment lab 2. low power draw 3. quite.

I settled on these parts. Newegg sells this as a barebones server but I found I saved about $60 buying the parts separately and assembling myself.

The chassis is a nice 1U server case. The motherboard and CPU come as one so no mounting needed, it's also fanless! The CPU is a dual core Atom D525 with Hyper-Threading running at 1.8GHz. For the RAM I used two sticks that were in my MacBook Pro, with RAM so cheap decided to upgrade my Pro to 8GB. I probably could have used 2GB with the load I'll be putting on it. This motherboard has an onboard USB Type A next to the SATA connectors so I just connected the micro USB flash drive and used that as my boot device. What I really like about this motherboard is it has two Intel 82574L NIC's, IPMI 2.0, low power draw and plenty powerful for what I need.

Install went great over IPMI using IPMIView, even on OS X! I have pfSense routing all of my home network, but it's still a basic setup and I still have to implement VLANs with my HP 1810-8G switch.

My only (slight) complaint is the PSU included in the server case has a slight whine to it. It's not as quite as I would have liked but not horrible either. When it's in my closet I can only hear it if it's dead quite and I get right next to the door. Also, IPMI shares one of the NIC's and I'm having trouble connecting to it after installing pfSense since it's now handing out IP's. I hope to figure that out soon, but other than that I think this is a good basis for a firewall/router.

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