Performance-first multifunction router hardware for VPN and Gbit speeds

Hi, I am intending to replace my UniFi Er-lite 3 and migrate away from VyattaOS or whatever it's based on to OpenWRT because it's not as usable and extensible as I'd like

My current router is currently plugged into a 20-port switch, and WiFi is handled by a couple of UniFi APs that are managed by a old i5 machine on the network, which also handles adblocking via pihole, home automation, and other fun stuff running in separate VM containers.

It's starting to get messy, and I don't think I should be stuffing more functionality in there.
Instead I'd like to move and build out network features on a separate hardware platform - make an OpenWRT router, put pihole in docker, configure a proper VPN that can handle 300 mbit/s at a minimum, maybe play with DPI etc.

I was thinking of a multicore X86 platform - I have some parts lying around, a reasonable budget and the space in a server rack, but I don't want to bruteforce this. I understand that specialized platforms can do much more with less, and I care about power efficiency.

What hardware would you recommend for that kind of setup? Maybe there are clever server ARM-based solutions for this? Does it even make sense? I was thinking of spending around 500 USD on this, but I can stretch to double that if needed.

mini-itx/atx ( or odroid / nuc etc. ), 500usd is realistic ( or a little lower ) comes down to form factor, pci(e)-4port, noise, mounting etc. etc.

comes down to form factor, pci(e)-4port, noise, mounting etc. etc.

I forgot to mention I have a small server rack, I can spare around 6U of space in total or just throw a reasonably large box in there if necessary. As far as noise goes, the less the better (blade server kind of noise is out of the question), but I could probably play with some custom cooling solutions.

I could for example take an old ATX 4U case out of my basement and throw an ATX-style board in there. But again, I don't like to waste power.

Since we are talking about Gbit line speed, some inspiration:

Searching through the #hardware-questions-and-recommendations section for gbit is also time well spent.


I've been running a custom router on two generations of the following board for almost 10 years now. I could not recommend it more highly...

Low TDP, 8-core x86_64, 4x1gbps ports, mini-ITX form-factor, IPMI management, bulletproof.

It says it's passively cooled, but I did add a small noctua cpu fan to the solution. It's dead silent - nothing like the sound of a typical blade.

It fits well within your price bracket. Admittedly, the board/cpu itself will approach your $500 target and you'll need to spend more for RAM and SSD, but you can likely fit everything into about a $700 budget.

I also have a custom build for it I'd be happy to send you the link for (it's already linked somewhere in this forum to my github)

This is the router performance while downloading at 1 Gbps on my multi-homed, SQM managed (diffserv4) link, running snort and softflowd at the same time.

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Thank you, this looks great! I see there is a plethora of similar supermicro boards with different ports, even 10GbE ones. This is what I was looking for; I mostly built desktops and workstations, and I didn't even realize there was such a selection of x86 low power boards available.

I'm going to test openwrt as wwell as pfsense, I'll keep your github repo for future reference :wink: