Recommendations for a gigabit+ bridge, possibly with SFP


I'm working on building a small office in the backyard. It will have power and networking, it's about 50' away. I'm considering wiring it with fiber to avoid the trouble with copper networking (e.g. lightning arrestors, rust, grounding, etc). More details about the project are discussed here.

My "core router" (it's just a home network, really) is currently an old (2016) Turris Omnia. I like it: reliable, just works, auto-upgrades, (mostly) based on OpenWRT. And, more importantly, it has a SFP port I could use to extend the network with a fiber link.

It's somewhat difficult to find the Omnia these days, although after posting on the Turris forum I found a provider that might ship. But I can't help but wonder There Must Be A Better Way!

The specification is, I believe, as follows:

  • 4+ gigabit port switch (more the merrier, faster is better, although I only have *one device faster than 1gbps here, at 2.5g)
  • wifi (5GHz is good enough, but newer is welcome)
  • SFP port
  • small form factor ("router", not "1U server")
  • OpenWRT or mainline Linux support
  • free-er the better, e.g. coreboot is nice
  • no DIY builds (i.e. i am not doing any soldering, or buying a board and a fan and a power supply and a case, thank you very much)
  • no fancy routing or shaping: this is just a bridge, I centralize the networking logic at the core and everything else must look like a switch, including wifi APs

I'm open to x86 small servers. but they must be small, home-office style. I've also considered the following:

I might also just go with the quotom to replace the current omnia as a core router and move the omnia as a wifi bridge in the office. I've heard it's trendy to split up switching/routing/wifi nowadays in home labs, and I'm all about bleeding edge trends of course (not). In that case, something that rackmounts is an option because I did go crazy and start building a rack near the omnia now (I know, it's crazy).

Thanks for any advice!

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You might just consider using a switch on each side to connect the fiber via SFPs. Then you can use whatever router you want or currently have, and you have the flexibility to change things out (for example, if you want a 10G fiber link between your home and the office, get a switch with 10G SFP+ ports). Alternatively, you could use basic SFP or SFP+ to RJ45 copper media converters.

I'd recommend running both copper and fiber at the same time -- probably at least 2 of each. This way if you have a failure of one, hopefully the others are okay. And yes, fiber is better in terms of the electrical isolation, but copper allows you to use standad RJ45s directly (aside from surge/lighting arresters and the like), and it gives you flexibility to use PoE if you want/need, etc.

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Yeah, I guess this is the "replace core router" idea: i'd get a new router with an SFP and move the Omnia over to the office. Otherwise then I have to buy a new AP and a switch, it seems overkill when I already have this AC1750 lying around...

Well, that's the most enthusiastic layout I've heard so far. I've heard 2 copper, 2 fiber, but not yet 2 of everything. :slight_smile:

Yeah, that's definitely the killer feature here, it would allow me to just get started without buying new hardware, certainly interesting and something I'm leaning towards in the short term. But the surge arrestor (sp?) bit is worrisome and annoying: long term, I think I just want fiber in there, if I'm going to have fiber at all...

Could I get away with laying copper without surge protection for a short while and then remove it? :slight_smile: Kind of worried that would then never happen though...

Problem is I'm not familiar with surge protectors at all, I am not even sure where I'd get one. It looks like Ubiquiti has this 16$ thing, is that good? I need one on both ends? I know nothing of those things, and I figured if I'll learn something, why not just jump into fiber already, something I've been meaning to research for a long time...

I had similar thoughts a few years ago when wanting an access point in the garden shed, about 25 meters away from the house. But I didn't think very far ahead, pulling only a single pair of multimode fibre. Initially I terminated it in a PoE media converter, powering a Unifi AP AC Pro. Some time later I mounted a ZyXEL NR7101 on the outside of the shed, and had to replace the media converter with a ZyXEL GS1900-10HP to have enough PoE ports for both devices.

This was about the time when we were trying to get the realtek switches supported in OpenWrt. And that made me regret having pulled only one fibre pair. All access to the garden shed was down without the switch running, making a bit hard to test experimental stuff.... I ended up leaving a laptop with a 4G module out there that winter :wink:

So my recommendation would be: More than one cable, whatever you do.

And maybe the PoE switch + PoE powered AP is something for you as well? The ZyXEL GS1900-10HP is a nice little thing and pretty well supported in OpenWrt. Only 1g ports though.

FWIW I moved away from the fibre connected garden shed earlier this year. The AP AC Pro, GS1900-10HP and NR7101 now all ended up in a garage, which is also a few meters from the house. But this time we inherited cabling from the previous owner, which was a single cat5e. That will have to do. Can't worry too much about surge protection. I'm not going to try to replace that cable.

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Sure... I get your angle here. But... consider that if you replace your core router, a switch gives you more flexibility -- you could use a Pi4 or a small x86 system, as an example, to be your main router, and then the switch gives you the SFP(+) slots and the ports you need... rather than needing to find a router you like that already has all the required ports.

You could still use the existing AP in the other location.

Obvioulsy it increases cost to run 2x2 cables, but it's cheap compared to the trenching and such. Unless you install a conduit and can easily pull cable later -- that's the other option you might think about.

If it is direct burrial or in a conduit, and assuming your mains supply is coming from the main house, it's probably okay... best practice would say add protection to the line, but it may not be critical.

UI makes stuff for WISP and ISP marktets... so yeah, this should be good and do the trick.

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Yeah, I was thinking optimally 2 x fiber runs. I still haven't figured out MMF vs SMF though.

I will have power in the office, with heating and everything, so I am not planning on getting any PoE setup there. But maybe if I go with a separate AP. I do find those ZyXEL things really attractive, but as my notes say:

WARNING: Zyxel routers recently had a serious security issue that led to thousands of routers joining a botnet.

Local availability is also a problem for Zyxel, as their store doesn't ship to Canada. So it's messing around with Newegg or Amazon, which I try to avoid in general...

Update: okay, now I'm looking at Zyxel again... Darn, those switches could actually fix a lot of issues. I could get a switch and a router and move the omnia in the office and fix the networking for the entire house forever.

It looks like the GS1900 series has a new v2, does OpenWRT work with that? It's what I find here:

and at B&H. They also have a GS1920, is that the same?

What do you mean here, actually? You won't bother with surge protection?

True. And I do need a switch to connect all the other ports in the house, after all: I have thirty (yes) ports patched right now, with more to make in the basement. All of this is connected in that silly little Omnia right now, which is obviously all full...

I just don't want a gigantic 48 port switch right now, but I did seriously consider that for a while, and having that running OpenWRT would of course be a blast.

So yeah, maybe I need to bring back that idea and split out the router altogether. Would make the Qotom again a much simpler box...

That's exactly what I'm going to do: two 1" PVC pipes, one for power, one for network, 16" underground, with a 6" warning layer, seems to be what I'm converging on.

Thanks for all the feedback!

Sophos 105w Rev 3 (or 115w Rev 3, or 106w) ticks almost all the boxes.

  • four ports, one of which is "twinned" (can be accessed via RJ-45 or SFP)
  • single-radio AC-standard Wi-Fi card (Qualcomm Atheros QCA986x/988x)
  • desktop size (footprint approximately 9 x 6 in / 225 x 150 mm)
  • built on Intel Atom E3930 processor with 2 GB or RAM and a 64 GB SSD, so runs OpenWrt or any mainline Linux (RAM and SSD are removable and thus upgradable)
  • don't know if Coreboot is a possibility

The photo below shows an SG 105w; there's also an XG 105w that's hardware-identical, but looks different (just a tad larger, and the case has rounded edges).

I have a couple of these lying around with OpenWrt already installed, so give me a shout if you want one...

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Another possibility is Sophos 125w Rev 3 (or 135w Rev 3). It's a bit larger, though still desktop (a little under 12 x 8 in). Those have quad-core Atom C3xxx CPUs, 4-8 GB RAM depending on the model, and still a 64 GB SSD. The port configuration, however, looks right up your alley: four Intel x553, four Intel i211, and a single SFP on Intel i210... Also, unlike 105, active cooling (don't know if it's a deal breaker for you).

However, unlike the 105, which went out of support in 2022 and thus is available very inexpensively, 125 and 135 are still in support, so they can be expensive to get...

The Sophos looks really interesting! Unfortunately, @bmork reminded me that I actually do need a switch for this project, so I think I might go with a separate router and switch after all. Oops! :slight_smile:

I ended up with MMF because I had some SX and SR SFPs. SMF is probably more future proof, allowing higher speeds or breaking out separate colours etc.

Don't know.

I don't think so. Some of the other series use a different bootloader, making them harder to support even if the soc could be supported. I don't know what the current status is.

That's right. Maybe I'll regret. Let's see. It's a short distance and the power ground is the same in both ends.

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Using fibre(-only) for links going to the outside does make sense (details depend on your location/ likeliness and severity of thunderstorms, distance to cover, etc. pp.). That way both sites remain 100% electrically isolated (don't forget electricity, water and heating, which may spoil your complete isolation <-- these also need to be properly installed).

I do echo the suggestion for using managed switches with SFP/ SFP+ ports on both ends of the link, probably not even more expensive than 'simple' media converters, but much more useful - and you don't even have to touch the routers/ APs that way (upgrade/ replace at your pace).

Up to 24 ports, you can probably find passively cooled switches (as long as you don't need PoE…), 48 port ones usually need (loud) active cooling, so two 24 port switches might fit better into a home environment than one 48 port switch. With PoE as a requirement, you probably need to go smaller once more, to remain passively cooled (so it does make sense to use a dedicated -small- switch for all the devices that do need PoE, at least as long as you don't need many of those).

Also take a look at your local used markets, sometimes these gs1900 series switches are sold pretty cheap.

About the gs1920 series, don't expect anything anytime soon - Support for Zyxel GS1920 series (GS1920-24HP) (and vendor support for them appears to be discontinued). is a good source of information about managed switches and their support prospects for OpenWrt (if in doubt, ask about the 1-3 devices you filter down to).