pfSense Build vs Buy

So I am working on building out my network and tech lab. I was originally looking at buying a Netgate 6100 Max. But the availability isn’t good for a new device. I probably don’t need that model but I wanted something that could handle anything I threw at it. My next thought was to build my own system that way I could have whatever I wanted in it. 10GB NIC sure why not. More HDD space easy. You get the idea. I’ve always run pfSense on old desktops that I’ve had laying around. For this I was thinking rackmount as I am working on getting a rack that I want to experiment sound proofing it. So I have a couple of old Dell 2U servers laying around but my thought with those is that they are loud and take lots of power. I want to be able to run any packages on pfSense that I can without any issues. I might end up putting 10GB cards in this at some point but I really don’t need that for it. The 10GB on my network will be running through my network switch. I also want to be able to use VPN on this box. I know I’m vague on the packages the ones I want to run that I know of are pfblocker, suricata and another that escapes my mind at the moment. So what do you all think? Buy a 6100 base now or wait for a max or build my own. Any thoughts on what would work well for a build my own?

Personally I would build against buying unless you need the Support Contract.

With the cost of the 6100 Max you could build any low end desktop, even with IPMI if rack based, with a low power envelope.

The recommendation is not to virtualise pfSense but it can be done, watch Wendell’s video on it as to do it securely you need to pass through dedicated PCIe network cards to the VM or container instance.

If it is for HomeLab then maybe go with a Ryzen system, if it’s for commercial then perhaps spend more on a ECC based system. Consider Asrock Rack X570 or B550 if available and either add an Intel X550-T2 or purchase the

For me if you need 10GbE and ECC then the Asrock Rack X570D4U-2L2T would be a good choice. Be careful and check the CPU list for CPU compatibility with ECC memory.

Otherwise a good B550 motherboard with a Ryzen CPU will do an excellent job. Alternatively what I did was repurpose an old desktop and replace dual core Celeron CPU with a i5-10400 and added an extra 8GB of RAM and that is a beast with a half decent SSD and an Intel X550-T2 from eBay. Since it parses all traffic to/from a UDM Pro I didn’t need many ports.

Server the Home has been doing some series that you might find helpful for find a box to build on. I’d look at the Tiny, Mini, Micros as well as the reviews they’ve done on the 4x 2.5GbE Atom boxes.

I got a good deal on a Xeon D-1521 board a year or two ago and built my own. The original Xeon D series is getting old. There are several newer series that are just as powerful, but use about half the power. I think I’m averaging in the low 40W range with all the packages you mentioned and a 10G SFP nic.

@ilcifford72 that is a pretty sweet board. Expensive but sweet. Nice that is comes with dual 10gb and dual 1gb. Yeah I’ve watched Wendell’s vids on the forbidden router pretty good stuff but I’ll stick with hardware. Really appreciate the info. Gives me even more to think about. @mouseskowitz I need to find that series on serve the home sounds very intriguing. I really appreciate the replies and info guys. Right now I’m doing some digging on what a good ryzen cpu would be then I’ll be looking at the serve the home stuff.

There is also a cheaper version of the board without the dual 10GbE called the X570D4U as well as a B550 version called the B550D4-4L.

The other option would be Xeon E 1700 series but unfortunately they don’t seem to available in my region (UK) but Supermicro have some short depth 1u server chassis and motherboards if they are more available in your region.

So this is the direction I’m leaning. Let me know your thoughts. This is probably way overkill but it should do everything I want and more for a long time. Thanks for the input.

Rosewill 2u case

This one is availible and I can install a 10 gig card later. Price seems decent.
Asrock Rack x470D4u

2 of these NVME ssds for zfs install

ECC Ram 16GB

Power supply. Fully modular cleaner install

Ryzen 7 Pro 4750G 8 core. Probably don’t need 8 cores but…

Yup, that’s overkill. I’m almost never over 50% of my 8GB of RAM and usually under 10% CPU use on my Xeon D-1521. The 4750G has almost 4x the performance.

If you find a mini-ITX board you like, this is the case I have. One of these days I want to do a build in a Slinger case, but that would be a VM host or storage server.
If you’re willing to spend $1000 on this I’d look at the Netgate 6100 or 7100 and call it a day. The performance of mine is between the 7100 and 1537, but I built it for around $300.

Got a 5105 box from Ali (think one of the one that was also shown on servethehome or maybe slightly different)… 4x 2.5 g ports…

Put 8 gigs into it and an older ssd… Works great… Although it does get (too) hot… a simple fan blowing over the top of the box seems to do the trick so no fancy mods needed… I’ll get a suitable fan from Ali I thin and should be done for 10-15 euros. But all in all very solid build. Doesn’t look cheap at all with a full metal casing. The mainboard looks tidy as well… I’ll probably repaste the cpu soon.

The one I got was about 170 euros including free shipping. Barebone that is. Got it a couple of weeks/month back. Was on my doorstep in about 2 weeks.

Got pfsense+ running on it.