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I've just bought four servers, rented a quarter of server bay, bought some Internet connectivity, bought a specialized line to a private network I'm using, and now I need to buy a router (or two?) to plug everything together.

While finding and comparing server hardware and hosting facilities has been quite easy, I've not been able to find a reliable source of information regarding network equipment. I've also got the feeling that there's no real alternative to Cisco in the corporate world, which makes comparing offers tougher.

Where can I look? What network hardware is used in a typical server room?


What network equipment should I buy in my specific situation?

  • 4 servers, all with dual gigabit network cards
  • 2 incoming internet connections (gigabit)
  • 2 incoming connections to a private communication network
  • traffic is expected to be low, redundancy requirements are high.
  • [Edit:] 16 public IP Addresses
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4 Answers

What you're really looking for here is sort of an "edge device" -- not a router, but more of a firewall, NAT gateway, and possibly putting some load balancing gear or a VPN on it. (If you had a Fiber coming in with a /24 subnet -- you need a router. For 4 boxes in a quarter rack... you need an edge.)

I'd really go with a plain ol' Linux (or BSD, this is one of the few places (/me ducks) I'll say that BSD is superior) box that's set up to do those things. Far more versatile than a Router, for which you'd need multiple separate devices in some case and/or licenses to do the same things.

Since your redundancy requirements are high, you'll want to go with two BSD machines that are running CARP to make sure they can pick up those connections.

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I'm using this kind of 'edge' equipment at my office (ie a Cisco RV082, which supports load balancing, NAT, VPN etc.). Why do you recommend a BSD box (which will probably be more expansive and harder to maintain) instead of this kind of equipment? Will I regret the versatility of a "real" server if I go for a RV082-like device? –  Brann Sep 18 '09 at 14:42
    
Brann - BSD boxes are much cheaper as BSD in almost all cases is free, you just need hardware to run it on. If you're familiar with *nix then this may be the way to go. If you aren't you may be better with a pre-packaged solution that you already are familiar with as the learning curve can be steep and you sound like you want this in production fairly quickly. Check out pfsense.com if you want to get your feet wet with a free lightweight BSD router/firewall/NAT appliance. –  MDMarra Sep 18 '09 at 17:49
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====================================================================

What router should I buy in my specific situation?

* 4 servers, all with dual gigabit network cards
* 2 incoming internet connections (gigabit)
* 2 incoming connections to a private communication network
* traffic is expected to be low, redundancy requirements are high.

=====================================================================

With the 2nd and 4th requirement it sounds like you are wanting redundant WAN paths. Router/Firewall combinations like a Juniper SSG model could handle multiple WAN links in a single box for failover. For true redundancy of hardware you'd need 2 of them in a VRRP setup or similar on your network (which they do support).

That's my recommendation, but I'm partial to Juniper and have no love for the dark side (Cisco).

(What I also find interesting from your post is you are renting a 1/4 rack space from somewhere. Why do they not provide routing/firewall capabilities? A lot of co-lo's offer/include the internet routing/networking duties for you.)

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+1 for Juniper SSG. That is what we use in our colo with redundant gigabit drops. –  Doug Luxem Sep 18 '09 at 16:53
    
Means you have to deal with Juniper though. It's only marginally more usable than a PIX/ASA. –  Cian Sep 18 '09 at 17:18
    
@Cian - I prefer Juniper support over Cisco sales folks any day. :) –  TheCleaner Sep 18 '09 at 17:48
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You should consider getting two small servers and run Pfsense. It's really simple and will do all the routing you want. It is quite simple to use and manage. You can setup both the servers in CARP mode so you have some redundancy.

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Cisco's popular, as is Juniper. There are several other brands of routing device out there, too, but they tend to be more "niche". I'm quite partial to just using a Linux box as a router for relatively small amounts of traffic (as I assume you'll be generating, given your small server farm). Buying a full-blown Cisco router just isn't worth the money in your situation, IMO.

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