State of the Network: 2023

Welcome to! I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, so here it is: The State of My Network. I’ve been planning to do an overview of my entire set up for some time now and I’ve finally kept everything in a consistent state now for a few months after many years of tinkering. A little background…

My home network (also known as my “home lab”) has been a long term project of mine to both try out new technologies and keep my skills sharp in a real server environment. It started in 2014 with a single server in my apartment running ESXI 3.5 on a system with a 6 core AMD CPU and 16GB of RAM. It was a blast to try new things (DNS server, file server, Plex, etc) and I’ve learned a lot since those times. My current Home Lab is considerably bigger now and is larger now than many small company systems; My poor power bill will never be the same. Let’s take a look at some of the set up!

To start with the basics, I’m running a pfSense firewall connecting out to a Verizon Fios gigabit connection. Going from this is a 48 port gigabit switch with 10GB SFP connections to a backbone 10GB SFP Microtek switch. I have 10GB between all servers and my desktop allowing regular speeds of around 550MB/s when going SSD to SSD. This is all the core backbone of my network. Time for the fun stuff.

I run a large number of self hosted services including, but not limited to:

  • PiHole DNS blocking
  • Plex
  • Home Assistant
  • Killing Floor 2 gameserver
  • Tiny Tiny RSS
  • NextCloud
  • Zabbix
  • Uptime Kuma
  • Bookstack
  • Graylog
  • …and many more

Most things are running on an ESXI 6.5 server. This is a 1U with 192GB RAM, dual 6 core Xeons and (6) 1TB SSDs in RAID 10. Along side this is two Unraid servers (Dual Dell R510) mirrored and both running multiple services. RIP power bill.

The original goal of this network and home lab was to learn more about some enterprise solutions and keep my skills sharp. Instead, I’ve built a network more robust than many small business networks with a lot more control and functionality.

Things I’ve learned while doing all of this:

  • Your power bill is going to suffer (worth it!)
  • Servers put out a LOT of heat. I often notice this even upstairs with the floor being hot over the servers in the basement
  • Server hardware gives you a ton of ways to troubleshoot things, often with LEDs and beep codes to help narrow down issues
  • Low power hardware options are out there but are often much more expensive up front
  • Knowing what’s going on in your network is awesome. Knowing everything that’s going on can also drive one nuts when you see how often items are connecting to the internet (Looking at you Windows 10 and IoT devices)
  • If you want to build something, searching the internet can give you a lot of ideas and input. Most of my projects were done in an afternoon after finding a new product and reviewing issues/installation

All in all, I’ve taken control of my network and as much as it can drives me nuts doing all the maintenance and updates, it has been very stable for years and it’s a very good feeling to know what’s going on with everything.

Keep in mind: this can all start with an old desktop computer running Docker or a few services to tinker with. I started this all with an Ubuntu 6.06 LAMP server in 2008 and has grown into the passion it is today.

Thanks for sticking through my brain dump, I hope you enjoyed the read and will stop by again. Cheers!

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