Linux router performance versus dedicated consumer hardware?

Discussion in 'Linux Networking' started by Michael Herring, Jul 31, 2004.

  1. I've got a couple of home consumer routers here (a Linksys and a
    D-Link), the two of which perform very poorly when many different
    connections are made (for example, when using a BitTorrent client).
    The entire bandwidth of my (cable modem) Internet connection isn't
    being used, so I know it's just the routing capacity of these home
    products that's being overwhelmed.

    Anyway, my question is this: If I were to build a cheap Linux/BSD/etc
    box to route for my apartment, what kind of hardware specs should I
    expect to need to maintain my Internet connection when many
    connections are made? Or is this a cable modem problem?
    Michael Herring, Jul 31, 2004
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  2. Michael Herring

    Brian D Guest

    On 31 Jul,
    My 100MHz 486 box worked well just for routing, It slowed down when used as a
    server as well. I'm currently running a PIII 450 (512 meg memory) which is
    fine. The 486 only had 64meg of memory, I think it would have been fine with
    Brian D, Jul 31, 2004
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    How did you measure?
    I'd check out if this is really a problem of this device, or if
    there are other problems like your bandwidth is already maxed out
    ('iptraf'), some duplex mismatch ('mii-tool') or other problems
    cabling/connectors ('ifconfig' shows some stats).

    Think about your electricity bill if you want to run the box
    24/7, a hardware router uses far less electricity. An old P100
    (32-64MB RAM) in runlevel 3 should be able to handle
    routing/firewalling easily.

    Michael Heiming (GPG-Key ID: 0xEDD27B94)
    mail: echo | perl -pe 'y/a-z/n-za-m/'
    Version: GnuPG v1.2.4 (GNU/Linux)

    -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
    Michael Heiming, Jul 31, 2004
  4. Until recently I was using a PII (300 I think) with 128MB as the firewall
    protecting the web server for a large company. This was connecting the
    server to the LAN as well as to the Internet and had quite complex
    iptables rules.

    We tried to stress this with the 100Mb connection between the server and
    the LAN and it didn't break a sweat. No slowdown of the network connection
    was observable.

    This was a "temporary" (it actually lasted 7 months) replacement for an
    industrial strength Nokia firewall, rather than a cheap SOHO type router.
    It performed perfectly throughout. It was so successful that we are now
    building backup firewalls out of PIIs so we can leave them sitting ready
    to be swapped in should any of the Nokias fail. Since we adopted WinXP as
    our standard desktop (I am not in the desktop department, not my
    decision. My desktop runs SuSE:) and decided that a PIII was the minimum
    required, we have plenty of old PIIs going spare.

    At home I have a P150 16MB laptop running OpenBSD routing and firewalling
    a 1Mb cable connection with about 15 machines behind it. This never gets
    overloaded either.

    So pretty much any old PC you can scrounge will be adequate. You are
    unlikely to have to pay for it. A 486 would probably do, but there are
    plenty of low end pentiums being thrown away.

    But as Michael said, your routers should be able to cope fine so you may
    have some other problem.

    Regards, Ian
    Ian Northeast, Jul 31, 2004
  5. BitTorrent can easily use the entire upstream capability of your cable
    modem, and that will block or slow down downstream access for other
    software (if your queries don't get through, you won't get any answers
    either). Try limiting the maximum upload rate of BT to about 80% of
    your upstream capabillity.
    Markku Kolkka, Jul 31, 2004
  6. Michael Herring

    jack Guest

    IMHO, using "old" hardware to replace monolithic dedicated hardware for
    the most basic tasks like routing/bridging and minor to medium server
    loads (web, mail, ftp, db), and even NAS, is exactly the way to go (and,
    the one that I am going myself...).

    The hardware that is being disposed off minor offices nowadays is by far
    oversized for the office jobs that they were bought for in the past, and
    they can serve far more than perfect for "every-day"-server tasks like
    those described above. - And, this way, I really can afford redundancy.

    Michael's point about power consumption was a really good one. - Of
    course, PC-style hardware does suck more current than a dedicated low-
    power device would. But, having in mind the security alerts that hit in
    upon all of us recently (some of which regarding exactly this dedicated
    hardware in question) makes me wonder whether it is not worth the
    effort. - I am none of the Greenies, but I myself am concerned about
    pollution as a result of waste of energy as it would be the consequence
    of that replacement described above. Then, again, I wonder what exact
    power requirements come with PC hardware. What I am experimenting on
    is a power supply for such pre- and early-ATX P/S, and I'm replacing all
    that with an off-the-shelf car battery with some real cheap charger.

    Anyways, I also am running experiments with some micro processors that
    would be flexible enough to run some severely stripped-down O/S based
    upon Linux/Unix to fulfill such tasks.

    From how far I got by now, unfortunally, I'd say that running "outdated"
    PC-style hardware is significantly less expensive than developing and
    deploying dedicated monolithic h/w, even if that is low-power.
    [Expenses include developement of s/w and apps, of course, plus costs of

    Sadly so, see above. - Me, too, just recently replaced a (!) 486DX,
    33MHz, 16(!)Mb _server_, only because there was no way to equip this old
    pal with an 100Mb ethernet card for the LAN...

    And, yes, the PI-133, 32Mb, shows 0.00 three times and hardly ever more
    than 0.13...


    Cheers, Jack.
    jack, Aug 1, 2004
  7. FWIW, I was able to find a 100Mbs ISA ethernet card for my old 5x86/133
    server here. Throughput isn't as good as a PCI card, but this machine has
    only ISA and VLB slots. The 100Mbs ISA card does do full duplex, though,
    so it is still an improvement over the 10Mbs card it replaced.
    John Thompson, Aug 1, 2004
  8. The Linksys BEFSR router is a linux box (from my understanding of it). Performance of the device depends on many complex factors. For example the processor speed, amount of memory, and level of filtering and forwarding tasks going on I'm certain can have an effect.

    I run a port out of my BEFSR41 into a 3Com switch and then go off of this for most of my network. A few other devices are attached to the router directly - the phone ATA adapter being one of them - to reduce the possitbility of downtime should the switch fail.

    The switch does a nice job, ramming data to and fro within the lan.

    If you need machines to talk to one another and are worried that the linksys might be slowing things down, try the switch approach.

    I got my 3com switch surplus for cheap. It's made for a data center and gets hot. Like the old tube receivers and transmitters I used to play with before rice boxes came on the scene, hotter is always better.

    Mark Richards, Aug 2, 2004
  9. Michael Herring

    Matt Payton Guest

    AFAIK only that series still use whatever proprietary os Linksys
    started with. They do have multiple devices running linux, though. See
    the following :
    I have never had a problem with Linksys routers related to
    bandwidth...They easily max out both dsl and cable connections, without
    being the bottleneck. They do release regular updates, though, and there
    have been alot of issues with specific apps running behind them...So if
    you haven't updated the firmware, maybe start there.
    Matt Payton, Aug 2, 2004
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