Книга: Iptables Tutorial 1.2.2

What is needed to build a NAT machine

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What is needed to build a NAT machine

Before we discuss anything further, we should start by looking at what kind of hardware is needed to build a Linux machine doing NAT. For most smaller networks, this should be no problem, but if you are starting to look at larger networks, it can actually become one. The biggest problem with NAT is that it eats resources quite fast. For a small private network with possibly 1-10 users, a 486 with 32 MB of ram will do more than enough. However, if you are starting to get up around 100 or more users, you should start considering what kind of hardware you should look at. Of course, it is also a good idea to consider bandwidth usage, and how many connections will be open at the same time. Generally, spare computers will do very well however, and this is one of the big pros of using a Linux based firewall. You can use old scrap hardware that you have left over, and hence the firewall will be very cheap in comparison to other firewalls.

You will also need to consider network cards. How many separate networks will connect to your NAT/filter machine? Most of the time it is simply enough to connect one network to an Internet connection. If you connect to the Internet via ethernet, you should generally have 2 ethernet cards, etcetera. It can be a good idea to choose 10/100 mbit/s network cards of relatively good brands for this for scalability, but most any kinds of cards will do as long as they have drivers in the Linux kernel. A note on this matter: avoid using or getting network cards that don't have drivers actually in the Linux kernel distribution. I have on several occasions found network cards/brands that have separately distributed drivers on discs that work dismally. They are generally not very well maintained, and if you get them to work on your kernel of choice to begin with, the chance that they will actually work on the next major Linux kernel upgrade is very small. This will most of the time mean that you may have to get a little bit more costly network cards, but in the end it is worth it.

As a note, if you are going to build your firewall on really old hardware, it is suggested that you at least try to use PCI buses or better as far as possible. First of all, the network cards will hopefully be possible to use in the future when you upgrade. Also, ISA buses are extremely slow and heavy on the CPU usage. This means that putting a lot of load onto ISA network cards can next to kill your machine.

Finally, one thing more to consider is how much memory you put into the NAT/firewall machine. It is a good idea to put in at least more than 64 MB of memory if possible, even if it is possible run it on 32MB of memory. NAT isn't extremely huge on memory consumption, but it may be wise to add as much as possible just in case you will get more traffic than expected.

As you can see, there is quite a lot to think about when it comes to hardware. But, to be completely honest, in most cases you don't need to think about these points at all, unless you are building a NAT machine for a large network or company. Most home users need not think about this, but may more or less use whatever hardware they have handy. There are no complete comparisons and tests on this topic, but you should fare rather well with just a little bit of common sense.

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