FreeBSD as router - performance vs hardware routers

J. Seth Henry jshamlet at
Thu Aug 14 10:33:33 PDT 2003

Wow, I think you guys have convinced me. I have had very good luck with
FreeBSD on an 933MHz EPIA board. It has performed well, and remained
stable for several months now. Nary a single lockup, even under load
(though it doesn't like floating point math much - folding at home crashes

Only the network controller has problems occasionally, sometimes causing
initial connections to hang for a few seconds. I understand it's a quirk
in the VIA ethernet controller - but I've found a dual slot PCI riser
board, so I can load two normal cards into the router.

One quick question, though - how much RAM should I install in this
beast? I have a 65Mb DIMM laying around, but I could probably pull some
128's from my Windows box if need be.

Seth Henry

On Thu, 2003-08-14 at 11:16, Mykroft Holmes IV wrote:
> J. Seth Henry wrote:
> > Hello,
> > I have recently been having problems with my Netgear RT314 broadband
> > gateway router. Having decided to replace it, I started searching for a
> > new router - only to discover that every sub $300 router I found had a
> > history of problems. Lockups, random reboots, or worse, they would just
> > turn into black holes (like my RT314).
> > 
> > First, and I know this is off-topic, is anyone here happy with their
> > router enough to recommend it? I'd prefer to go with a hardware router,
> > but I prize reliability and stability apparently higher than the current
> > crop of manufacturers. Even the Cisco SOHO9x/83x series has a bad track
> > record, and they are $250/$500 respectively! I'd like to keep it under
> > $300, as I can build a mini-ITX box with everything I need for a router
> > for about that.
> > 
> > Barring finding a decent, reliable router, I thought about building a
> > mini-ITX system (with the 800Mhz C3) with a second NIC, and a CF card
> > for storage - and using FreeBSD as a router. I'm fairly certain that I
> > can get most of what I need to work going, DHCP client on the WAN link,
> > DHCP server and NAT/PAT on the LAN side. Apparently, firewall support is
> > built-in as well.
> > 
> > What I'm not sure about is performance. Has anyone built a cable modem
> > gateway router using FreeBSD and "low-end" hardware like this? If so,
> > what were your results?
> > 
> > Also, can a FreeBSD router support things like the Vonage VOIP box (the
> > Cisco ATA186)?
> > 
> > Thanks,
> > Seth Henry
> > 
> Well, a FreeBSD router is going to significantly outperform any of those 
> cheapo routers. Which are mostly running either a custom Linux or 
> something similar on a 386 or 486 equivalent. Of course, the issues with 
> them tend to be either buggy proprietary code or flaky hardware. Even a 
> P100 running FreeBSD will easily outperform them, and will be very 
> stable if the hardware's decent.
> I've used Linux, Mac OS X (Darwin) and FreeBSD as a router, routing 
> PPPoE 1MB DSL, Dial and my current PPPoA 3MB DSL, on systems ranging 
> from a P90 with 16MB of RAM to the current PowerMac G3/333. The hardware 
> you're looking at is massive overkill, a used P2 or Pentium system is 
> more than enough to route cable or DSL.
> And yes, it will support just about anything you have living behind it. 
> Probably better than the POS hardware routers you were looking at.
> Hardware routers don't really get to be decent until you;'re looking at 
> a real Cisco (1000 series or better) running real IOS.
> As a Note, the top end routers out there, Junipers, run JunOS, which is 
> a FreeBSD variant. A Juniper M160 can route OC192's at wire speed 
> (That's 10Gb/s folks).
> Adam

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