My current router is a 2011 Mac Mini, the built in interface is plugged into the WAN and a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter is connected to my core switch. The whole setup is running on a bare metal pfSense instance, and it’s been working well but I wanted to virtualise things and have an upgrade path. Plus I wanted a project.
A couple of years ago I picked up a Lenovo ThinkCentre M73 SFF for $65aud which I used for about a year as my main workstation at work. The specs are a modest i3 4150 with 4GB of RAM and no discreet GPU. This would already be a step up from the Mac but I’ve ordered some extra parts that I want to install before putting it into production:
• Dell Intel i350-t2 2x 1gb PCI-E card (Intel cards are highly regarded, there’s also fakes available so I purchased a decommissioned card from a Dell server. The i350 has great virtualisation features).
• Additional 4GB of RAM (pfSense on its own doesn’t need much but remember there’s going to be more than one virtual machine).
• Intel Core i5 4570T (I spent the longest time researching this because I wanted to get it right and it was the most expensive part of the project. The existing 4150 has a TDP of 54w while this T series has a more comfortable 35w meaning under load it’s going to be cooler and use less power (at idle it’d be negligible). The 4570T also adds VT-x extensions which will help a lot with virtualisation and has boosting meaning it won’t always be running full tilt).
• 2x Noctua 80mm NF-R8 Redux Edition PWM Fans (I’d replaced the front fan with a cheapo generic molex connected LED unit for fun but being a mission critical (for my home) appliance I need reliability, a high MTBF and importantly low noise output (these are 17.1 dB(A). One for the cold air intake and the other to replace the CPU fan).
• 500GB SATA WD Blue 7200RPM (an SSD would have a short life doing caching. 500GB feels like the right size)
Once everything arrives I’ll document the upgrade process, or if I’m too excited I’ll just post after it’s all done and running lol.