17 July 2016

Homelab part 2: router and networking

I've been an ADSL/VDSL internet customer with the same telco provider for many years. They offer me a simple internet connection with an Arcadyan VGV7519 modem/router/wireless access point style device. The telco I chose does not limit the functions of their modem or limit access to the webinterface. This allows me to make any configuration changes I want (requiring frequent resets to factory defaults when I first started tinkering). There's one specific feature I'm really happy about: bridge mode! This feature puts the all-in-one device into a modem only mode. The first Gigabit ethernet port on the modem becomes an unfiltered TCP/IP connection with a public DHCP IP address from my provider. Why does this feature make me happy? Because the Arcadyan is not as stable as I'd like. During the time I've used it as a modem/router, I had to reset it about once every week. Always around 21:00 in the evening. This doesn't sound to bad but the wife agreed it was an annoyance. Internet problems while watching a movie or her favorite series is a no-go. Time for improvements! Hence bridge mode. Being able to provide a gigabit ethernet cable to a router of choice is a big plus.
While exploring the wonderful world of cheap routers I came across Mikrotik. This Eastern European
company makes network devices that can be described as true jack-of-all-trades. Most models they make combine a hardware switch chip with a processor, some RAM and a wireless antenna. Throw in some Linux based software and a GUI with a gazillion buttons and you have an ultimate nerd device. If you want it to be a simple managed switch, it can do that. If you want it to be a router with multiple routing protocols (MPLS, BGP and OSPF, to name a few) it can do that too. Being able to do all I need from my network in a single affordable box is a big plus. Requirement: Hardware reset possible is met by allowing the wife to pull a single plug to reset internet access.

The Mikrotik rb2011uias-2hnd-in:
  • Offers 5Gbit and 5 Fast Ethernet ports (plenty for my lab)
  • Does NAT routing to the internet with minimal CPU load
  • Does DHCP for all the networks
  • Hosts some DNS zones for the lab
  • Terminates my SSTP VPN tunnels (both for site2site tunnels and remote access when I'm not at home)
  • Splits my network into two VLANs: normal network and lab network
  • Offers separate SSIDs for normal network, lab network and a guest wifi network that is isolated and has a limited bandwidth
  • Routes between the networks
  • Creates graphs of the network traffic on every interface
  • Firewalls internet traffic based on ports and mangle rules
  • Has the ability to run virtual RouterOS or OpenWRT instances (multiple routing instances, yeeh!)
  • Has a small touchscreen for quick interface configuration or graphs
  • Uses about 10 Watts

So far I'm really happy with it and I keep thinking of new things I can do with it. Next up is trying to set it up as a wireless access point controller. I've been eyeing the RBwAPG-5HacT2HnD, a dual band AC wireless access point to make this work throughout the house.

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