SmallWall is very versatile and can run on a lot of hardware, but it does have some limitations. The key limits are x86 CPU, at least 2 nics, and driver support in FreeBSD 8.4. But there are some things that work better than others.

  • New Hardware
    • One option is to skip all of the trouble and just order SmallWall preinstalled on new hardware. We have been working with mitxpc.com to have a prepackaged and preinstalled system that just works out of the box. They even have a custom image that defaults to the installed network cards. Go to http://www.mitxpc.com/products.php?cat=140 for the prebuilt selection.
    • You can build your own as well. It will need to be x86 and support 32 bit. It will need a 32 meg hard drive, DOM, CF card, or USB stick. It will need to be able to boot off that device as well. And it will need supported network cards. I recomend Intel nics as they have the best support for vlans and jumbo frams, as well as being the easiest on the CPU. The newest features (like UEFI and advanced ACPI) can be a problem. Often, disabling those things can help. Memory can be as little as 256 meg. Not sure where you can find memory stick that small however.
  • Used Hardware
    • Since the hardware requirments of SmallWall are so small, a lot of older hardware is just fine to use for a firewall. And some of them are even low power.
    • Wyse WinTerminals with expansion slots for nics.
    • One user has a Fujitsu Futro s500 working, but the CF card took a little more work then expected.
    • Older x86 firewalls that can boot unsigned images
    • Small form factor desktops with added nics.
  • Note that older AMD Geode and Via c7 based systems can be good to about 45 meg, but struggle after that. Atom based systems can get 600/mbps+ sustained. Base your hardware on your Internet connection speed.

- Lee Sharp

© 2015 by Lee Sharp <lee@smallwall.org>. All rights reserved.