Building a FreeBSD switch with commodity hardware

Julien Cigar julien at
Fri Jan 25 09:32:36 UTC 2019

On Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 08:39:51PM +0000, Simon Connah wrote:
> Hi everyone,
> First of all I am not a networking wizard so would appreciate a little 
> help to see if my plan is achievable.
> I need a 1U switch to put in a datacentre and due to my familiarity with 
> FreeBSD I thought building a switch based on FreeBSD would be the 
> perfect solution but I'm not sure what the hardware requirements would 
> be. I have 10 to 20 1gbps Ethernet devices to connect to the switch and 
> a single 1gbps uplink to the rest of the internet.
> I'd like to be able to configure VLANs, allocate IPv4 and IPv6 addresses 
> to individual machines and use FreeBSD as a firewall for the whole 
> process. I also want to be able to expand my system at a later date if I 
> need to be able to handle more devices on the local network so I'd need 
> to be able to hook the two networks together somehow.
> What I'm not sure about is what hardware specs I'll need for this. What 
> kind of CPU and RAM will I require and which Ethernet cards should I 
> get? This is not a project that requires 100% up time but realiability 
> is important during certain hours of the day.
> I'd appreciate some advice. If you need any more information then let me 
> know and I'll try and provide it.

You can also buy two "simple" L2 switches (we use two stacked) and buy two "small"
devices where you install FreeBSD with PF, CARP, Unbound, etc (we use two to do the
routing/firewalling/dns cache/DHCP server/...). That's what we do here
and it works like a charm for years.

You'll have better performance with an L3 switch of course..

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Julien Cigar
Belgian Biodiversity Platform (
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