Emc2Net HomeLab - Network Infrastructure
Table Of Contents
One of the main components in a HomeLab is the network infrastructure.
For years I used a standard WiFi router at home, the last one I had was an Asus RT-AC87U Wireless-AC24001 from 2015. This router did its job but with some deficiencies. The WiFi coverage of the whole house was far from perfect, it didn’t have Wlan functionality, the firewall was very simple, and the robustness of the infrastructure decreased as the number of devices connected to the router continued to increase.
Together with the new HomeLab I wanted to implement a high-performance and robust WiFi for the rest of the house.
So the main requirements I had for the network (wired/wireless) were:
- Stable and robust
- Maximum WiFi coverage
- As high throughput rate as possible for multiple clients running concurrently at high speed.
- Security in mind, support for Wlans, firewalls, VPNs.
I considered implementing a 10Gbps core network at the begynning but decided to drop this requirement because of the higher cost. I used 1Gbps connections everywhere (including the main Fiber Internet link) but I used high quality CAT-6a ethernet cable to support future upgrades.
The performance of the network is very satisfactory although some backups could take much less time with a higher network speed, but this has not been a problem given that all backups are taken at night when I am sleeping.
These are the main components of the network infrastructure:
Router / Firewall / ++
In the begynning I used an UniFi Dream Machine Pro2 from Ubiquiti to deliver the router and firewall functionality in my network. I used this router for almost 2 years but in the end I sold it and bought a second hand Dell PowerEdge R210 II3 and installed PFsense+ on it as my router/firewall solution.
I did this because I was not satisfy with the level of control I had and the functionality available with the Dream Machine Pro. I know the Dream Machine is a nice solution for many users out there and it did its job in my homelab for a while, but in my opinion, the level of control and functionality I have with PFsense+ cannot be compared with the solution from Ubiquiti.
One negative thing about this change was that I had to install the UniFi Controller software in a virtual machine to be able to control and configure my UniFi USW 24 PoE Switch4 and UniFi AP-AC HD5. The Dream Machine Pro came with the UniFi Controller software installed and available out of the box.
The Dell PowerEdge R210 II has an Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E31220 @ 3.10GHz, 8GB ECC RAM and 2 x 1TB SAS HHDs and is running PFSense+ 23.01-RELEASE6 based on FreeBSD 14.0-CURRENT. This is an old small 1U Dell server with more than enough power and resources to be the central brain of the network and it does this job without problems.
Ubiquiti UniFi USW 24 PoE Switch
This switch from Ubiquiti is a managed 24-port, Layer2 switch with support for VLANs and aggregation per port. This switch does its job very well and it has been very stable.
Some information about this switch:
19" 1U Rackmountable
Interfaces: 24 x 10/100/1000 RJ45 Ports 2 x 1G SFP Ethernet Ports
Throughput: 26 Gbps
Switching Capacity: 52 Gbps
Forwarding Rate: 38.69 Mpps
Total Available PoE: 95W
PoE Interfaces: Ports 1-16 PoE+ IEEE 802.3af/at
Max. PoE Wattage per Port by PSE 802.3at: 32W
Max Power Consumption(Excluding PoE Output): 25W
Ubiquiti Unifi AP-AC HD
I spent sometime thinking and reading about different WiFi components, and trying to find a good solution for the WiFi infrastructure at home. Some of the requirements I had were:
- To have the least number of Access Points (AP) as possible with the maximum WiFi coverage of my house (Basement + 2 floors + garden).
- Support of Power over Ethernet (PoE) to avoid the need of power sockets close to the AP (I wanted to install the AP on the ceiling)
- As high throughput rate as possible to support multiple clients running concurrently at high speed.
- Multi-user MIMO so the AP could communicate with multiple clients at the same time increasing the multi‑user throughput and overall user experience I wanted.
- Support for multiple SSIDs and VLANs so I could segment all the traffic from the devices accesing the network via WiFi APs.
I finally found a nice deal for an access point from Ubiquiti, the Unifi AP-AC-HD. This AP is a high-performance, indoor/outdoor, 802.11ac WiFi access point that utilizes Wave 2 technology and had all the requirements I was looking for.
I mounted the AP-AC-HD in the living room ceiling on the ground floor (the center point of my house) and connected it to the UniFi USW 24 PoE Switch in the basement via a CAT-6a ethernet cable.
The WiFi coverage at home is no problem now, no matter where you are, the stability and the performance of this AP is impresive. I have 30+ devices connected at all times to this AP, including a HD-TV in the basement and two workplaces on the second floor and I have never had problems with it. Probably an overspec AP for home use, but I would buy it again, the WiFi experience at home has never been better, and only with one AP.
Some of the features of this AP:
- 802.11ac Wave 2 WiFi technology
- Simultaneous Dual-Band
- 5 GHz (4x4 MU-MIMO) band with a 1.7 Gbps throughput rate
- 2.4 GHz (4x4 MIMO) band with a 800 Mbps throughput rate
- PoE Mode 802.3at PoE
- Ceiling Mount
- Support for multiple SSIDs and VLANs
Asus RT-AC87U Wireless-AC2400
Ubiquiti UniFi Dream Machine Pro