Computers & Electronics

Is pc engine still a good buy for pfsense?

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  • Dec 26th, 2020 11:24 pm
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Is pc engine still a good buy for pfsense?

https://www.pcengines.ch/newshop.php?c=4

Not doing anything fancy.
1Gbps WAN
1 Openvpn client
2x Openvpn servers
5 VLANs
pfblocker (maybe with suricata one day)

Home use.

The other option I think* is buying a Dell OptiPlex with an i3 processor so I can use ECC memory. Not sure how much power it will suck up though.

Im currently running this off a Sandy bridge Pentium and it's sucking down 30W.
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My $0.02... I use an Optiplex 7020 with a quad GbE card and it draws between 20 - 25W from the wall (mostly idling on my 50M line). I've been itching to go to a lower power box but it's just not worth it trying to save $20 / year and deal with the limitations
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Is cutting your power consumption the only reason you're considering a PC Engine?

If your current setup is using 30W 24x7, it's only costing you around $31 a year if you pay $0.12/KwHr for power. If you switch to other hardware that only consumes 10W at the wall plug, you're only saving $20 a year.

A quick look at the PC Engine site suggests that the cheapest configuration will cost around $160 CAD + shipping + import fees. Call it $200.

You won't reach financial break-even for ten years, presuming your PC Engine lasts that long.
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middleofnowhere wrote: Is cutting your power consumption the only reason you're considering a PC Engine?

If your current setup is using 30W 24x7, it's only costing you around $31 a year if you pay $0.12/KwHr for power. If you switch to other hardware that only consumes 10W at the wall plug, you're only saving $20 a year.

A quick look at the PC Engine site suggests that the cheapest configuration will cost around $160 CAD + shipping + import fees. Call it $200.

You won't reach financial break-even for ten years, presuming your PC Engine lasts that long.
Current solution cannot fit in a case. The motherboard is non standard size. I also think running the both in an open config like that so close to each other might be causing some interference issues....

Both boards are LGA1155. CPUs are:
Sandy bridge era Pentium for pfsense (no aes-ni), and a quad core 1220v2 for Zoneminder/Freenas.

If I get a third PC, I could use the Pentium to power the Freenas build and use the Xeon purely for Zoneminder. I'm also hoping the new hardware will solve my issue of the wan going down all the time.
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Okay, so you have two separate problems.

Replacing hardware will not necessarily improve the reliability of your WAN connection. Troubleshoot that issue before you buy anything. Make sure you don't have a problem with your ISP, modem, cabling, etc.

In terms of running pfSense, Freenas, and Zoneminder, you don't need multiple PCs to do this. All three packages could be run under virtualization on pretty basic hardware. All you need is a hypervisor (Hyper-V, vSphere, Xen, KVM), a server with two NICs, and at least 16GB of RAM. If you can get a case for your Xeon, I'd suggest just upgrading it to at least those specs instead of buying a new PC.

If you can't get a case for your Xeon, then the i3 Optiplex is probably the way to go. Get a PCIe NIC, enough memory, and virtualize everything. Idle power will probably still be around 30-50 watts, but that will cover pfSense, Freenas, Zoneminder, and any other services you might decide to add in the future.
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Consolidating your hardware onto a single VM server sounds like a good idea, however back in the day the guidance was to run FreeNAS bare metal and not as a VM. Not sure if it's safe for VM usage now or not.

If you're looking for a beefy low powered device for pfsense, Qotom all day.
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middleofnowhere wrote: Okay, so you have two separate problems.

Replacing hardware will not necessarily improve the reliability of your WAN connection. Troubleshoot that issue before you buy anything. Make sure you don't have a problem with your ISP, modem, cabling, etc.
This issue has been plaguing me for months. Only recently learned that going straight to the modem solved my issue.

For now, I've redone all the wiring. Added a new NIC to pfsense and kept the Rogers modem in router mode. Will observe over the next few days to see if the issue reappears. If it doesn't, I'll which the Rogers modem back to bridge mode.

middleofnowhere wrote:
In terms of running pfSense, Freenas, and Zoneminder, you don't need multiple PCs to do this. All three packages could be run under virtualization on pretty basic hardware. All you need is a hypervisor (Hyper-V, vSphere, Xen, KVM), a server with two NICs, and at least 16GB of RAM. If you can get a case for your Xeon, I'd suggest just upgrading it to at least those specs instead of buying a new PC.

If you can't get a case for your Xeon, then the i3 Optiplex is probably the way to go. Get a PCIe NIC, enough memory, and virtualize everything. Idle power will probably still be around 30-50 watts, but that will cover pfSense, Freenas, Zoneminder, and any other services you might decide to add in the future.
trane0 wrote: Consolidating your hardware onto a single VM server sounds like a good idea, however back in the day the guidance was to run FreeNAS bare metal and not as a VM. Not sure if it's safe for VM usage now or not.

If you're looking for a beefy low powered device for pfsense, Qotom all day.
I wish I could justify 300W on a router. Unfortunately I am just doing this as a hobby.


I set this up years ago and at the time everyone was saying pfsense and Freenas had to be on a dedicated machines.

The motherboards were only 20$ off Ebay, and the Pentium didn't cost much either. So I just took their words for it and build them as separate machines. If the security risk really was overstated, I don't mind changing it. I'm familiar with Proxmox, and got a vague idea of how to configure it. The only tricks would be getting direct drive access to Freenas. For pfsense I could pass it my pcie NIC card, and then Zoneminder could get a GPU passed to it to offload the CPU load.

Pfsense build draws like 30W while the TrueNAS/ZoneMinder build sucks like 80W.

The cases for these boards cost like 200$ from Supermicro. All the used cases generally cost the same or more than the cost of a entire build.
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The FreeNAS people are currently OK with using FreeNAS under virtualization. The hardware guide lays out their best practices. Getting PCI passthrough for FreeNAS would require a PCIe storage adapter, but a few generic four port PCIe - SATA cards should be good enough.

You probably won't need to use PCI passthrough for pfSense. Software-based network bridging (e.g. macvtap on a Linux-based hypervisor) is fast enough for gigabit Ethernet.

If you're budget constrained, you might be able to find a suitable case -- or even a suitable complete server -- on ebay.

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