I know firewalls and have definitely tested and worked with many appliances. One of the most interesting and successful appliances out there seems to be the Alix board. These boards are built on Cheap chipsets (VIA) and cheap processors (Geodes).
So here’s my reaction to them. (I own 3).
1. If you’re going to use one for multiple open connections such as P2P, you should reconsider the board. It just doesn’t have the ability to keep up. Interestingly enough, the Ethernet Interfaces introduce multiple interrupts for each connection. This leads to CPU wait time and wasted resources as well as increased latency.
2. The boards themselves are not very good at handling multiple clients (like a branch office), although, for the home-office worker and a site to site VPN, it’s more than sufficient.
3. They’re somewhat overpriced. Let’s consider a couple of things. For the same amount of money, you can get a used Dell Optiplex with a P4 Processor, more RAM and a couple of Intel Network Cards. What does that mean? An increase of about 50-100 fold in performance.
4. The Alix is Flash based. So any increase in performance you’re going to get in speed on the flash side, you’re going to lose due to the CPU and built in NICs.
5. You can get an crypto card to help with VPN, but the reality is a P4 will still run circles around it. (Did I mention the whole setup would be cheaper as well?)
6. Many of us have old computers laying around. The cost to convert this into a full-fledged completely reliable firewall would simply be the cost of a few network cards with Intel Chipsets. (Click on the link to see what they cost)
RAM? Realistically, just bring it up to a 1GB and you’ll have more than you’ll ever need.
If you’re worried about the electric bill, they don’t eat much electricity, but you can simply just replace the power supply with one that is energy efficient. Deduct 50 watts off whatever is in there, because you won’t need it.
Power supplies only draw the power they need so I wouldn’t worry so much about it.
Did I mention the whole thing is much cheaper?
So you get more performance for less money without the hassle.
I run my Dell Optiplex and its been up for 2 years. I never have a problem with it and I own my own cable modem. (Something you should consider doing). Saves $5.00 off your cable bill per month. You take it with you wherever you go and you’ll always have better performance. Just buy a Motorola Docsis 3.0 modem and you’ll be compliant with every cable provider on the planet. You won’t have to deal with double natting and the cheap, underpowered CPUs of those crappy routers they give you as well.
If you’d like, I can help you with one. Just contact me through my hiring form.
Don’t get me wrong. Alix boards have their use. For me? They’re a bit too expensive for the performance and money.
Here’s a quick example: VPN connectivity using Alix to VPN server: 208 ms Avg. On a used Dell with Intel Nics? 139 ms.
Same location, same connection. You do the math. I don’t think I need to speak much more on it.