After a few hours of research, I was able to narrow down my choices to using the Intel DN2500CCE platform. First of all, it is cheap. Might not be able to find one...
After a few hours of research, I was able to narrow down my choices to using the Intel DN2500CCE platform. First of all, it is cheap. Might not be able to find one with the dual network ports in Singapore but there is where eBay comes in. Prices are rather reasonable there. Well, the shipping is the killer but overall it is still much cheaper than buying locally. I am guessing this is because such boards are not that in demand here. So retailers will charge a premium for it. Anyway, the DN2500CCE platform is going to be phrased out – one reason is because they have some problems with the built-in graphics (Intel GMA 3600). There are no 64-bit drivers for it! Only 32-bit support. Kind of stupid if you think about it – the D2500 Atom processor is 64-bit yet there are no 64-bit drivers? I am guessing there are some technical issues which the Intel engineers cannot solve hence they ditch the 64-bit support. A mistake but that could be the reason why the prices are so cheap for this model. Good for us right? We get a reasonably powerful system on the cheap.
Another concern is the power usage. Since it will be on 24/7 it would need to be something of a low power device. And as you guys should know by then, the Atom processors are often used in netbooks, Andriod devices and low spec notebooks. The main reason is because it does not consume that much power and hence very suitable for such. And that is exactly what we want! I am certain I don’t want to be confronted with a hefty electricity bill after setting up this Pfsense box and have to ditch it later. For those who worry that the Atom processor is not powerful enough for Pfsense – well, after reading on Pfsense forums, it appears that they are more than adequate to power the device. In fact Pfsense don’t use much processing power. It does require quite a significant amount of memory though. And this platform can support up to 4GB, which again is more than enough for our purposes. Even with Snort, squid, clamav and whatever, it should not even break a sweat. Hey, those high end routers probably don’t even have specifications close to ours. If they can do so much, I think using this board should not be a problem. The Pentium IV system in my office don’t even use 10% of the processing power and that is a very very old system. I am very confidential it should not be a problem. And yes, the board comes with dual Intel network ports. FreeBSD seems to work very well with Intel NICs. Although from what I read, these NICs are a bit outdated in terms of features but I honestly don’t require that much feature. Just a network port for the LAN and another for the WAN. I will stick another 2GB of RAM and maybe a small SSD harddisk to install the Pfsense. That would make 4GB of RAM and even a 32GB SSD would be more than enough. Contary to popular belief, the http proxy server does not require that much of a disk space. Maybe about 200-300MB would suffice.
And how about the casing? I have chosen the M350 mini-ITX casing. It might not be the smallest mini-ITX casing out there but it does offer better flexibility. As for how flexible mini-ITX casings can go, I think there isn’t really much. Hey, they are mini-ITX casings! They are meant to be small and compact! The thing that drew me to the casing is the ability to add additional fans to it. I understand the problem of noise. I hate it. That is why it is important to be able to easily change or remove fans on your own. The M350 casing allows users to remove fans via a bracket. It is easy to do. If the place where you are placing your Pfsense box has poor air circulation, then add some fans to the device. There are good fans that hardly produce any sound. But do check what are the sizes for the fans. And if you are using a Atom board with a big heatsink, you might run into problems fixing the fans. So it might be a good idea to measure everything. This is what I am afraid of, so I am purchasing everything from the same vendor. They did not indicate any problem with adding more fans to the case, so I think everything should be okay. And the design of the M350 allows good air circulation within the casing via holes. So there should not be any heat trap.
Well, I will be purchasing the parts soon. So wish me all the best and I will post back once I setup the Pfsense box!