Our environment has a multitude of remote subnets that we monitor by deploying Linux-based probes running various network monitoring software and other handy tools. Currently we're using surplus-ed Dell OptiPlex GXs whose chief advantages are 1) their smallish form factor and 2) they're free. However they have a number of disadvantages: They're noisy, bulky, and prone to hardware failure (mostly due to age... they're at least five years old before they get to us).

We're looking to move to something smaller, quieter and purpose-built for this kind of work. The Soekris 4501 (which I have had great results with in other places) and ALIX 2D3 immediately come to mind. However, they're both lacking the killer feature which is the absence of external AC adapter.

The ideal platform would have:

  • No external AC adapter
  • Power over Ethernet capabilities
  • 3 or more NICs (10/100 is sufficient)
  • Serial port console access
  • Few or (preferably) no fans
  • Compact FLASH for storage
  • The ability to happily run Linux or BSD
  • Between $150 and $200 per unit

The Soekris and ALIX products have all of these features except they require an AC adapter (albeit a small one).

  • Has anyone come across a platform that manages to meet all these criteria?
  • What's your preference for an "embedded" platform that serves as a network probe/swiss army knife?
  • What's the problem with the external power brick? If it's just that you don't want another loose piece, why not just epoxy the brick to the case of the Soekris - it'd still be plenty small. For the Alix, it's not clear what sort of enclosure they come with, if you can choose your own, could you get a big enough enclosure to hold the power brick? – Ward Jul 2 '11 at 4:20
  • Also, you could get POE splitter so that you do not need to deploy power-bricks at the remote site but use the POE splitter to connect the device power to the POE power instead. – sybreon Jul 2 '11 at 6:38
  • @Ward: Yeah, it'd be nice to have something cleaner. I think I could also use a larger case with either the Soekirs or the ALIX boards. For that matter a "bookshelf"-size computer might work as well. @sybreon: PoE is definitely the other way to go, especially in places where we don't have room for a power adapter or mounting one would be ugly. – user62491 Jul 7 '11 at 17:40
  • I've used these before, but they were a little more expensive than 200$/unit (but had a ton of other monitoring features): netbotz.com/products/appliances.html – polynomial Aug 29 '11 at 2:56

The Soekris 4511 will do PoE:

"Supports Power over Ethernet according to the 802.3af standard"


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