Hurry up and wait … for that image to build.

It seems more and more that I spend 90% of my time waiting for pfSense builds to validate code changes, kernel changes, etc. I am curious if anyone has a connection to one of the major computer vendors that could persuade them to donate a “fast” box to the project. In return we will put your logo on our webpage and let the world know we use XYZ hardware for building pfSense. If you know someone that is in a position to make these types of decisions, please email me at …

Life is too short to spend waiting for building images! 🙂

UPDATED: See comments for some samples of what we are looking for.  We have access to sandford and son machines all day long but we need some real hardware for this chore.

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32 Responses to “Hurry up and wait … for that image to build.”

  1. Southman Says:

    What is your current build platform?

  2. sullrich Says:

    We are stuck with basically 3GHZ machines with very little to no disk i/o.

  3. Brian (bgbearcatfan) Says:

    I have a Dell Poweredge 2650 i could donate to the project.

    Dual 2.0Ghz intel xeon processors
    2 gigs ram
    5 X 36GB 10K SCSI HDD

    let me know if you are interested

  4. Chris Buechler Says:

    Brian: A 2650 is slower than what we have now, but we appreciate the offer!

  5. Southman Says:

    What are your minimal system requirements?

  6. Scott Ullrich Says:

    We are hoping something that is semi-current as in top of the line from the last year or so. If I had my wish something like … That is the reason that I was hoping a computer manufacturer could donate it directly… Because it’s not cheap stuff.

  7. sullrich Says:

    Here’s a rundown of parts that would be ideal:

    quad core cpu, or dual quad core if possible
    4g ram (not strictly necessary, but useful for cache)
    6 sata disks (western dig raptors would rock), and an areca or similar card with 256M-1G battery backed cache

    Thanks for Bill for putting the specs together…

  8. Bill McGonigle Says:

    How big is the build system now? Can the whole thing be fit into a RAM disk? Like you said, I/O rules for these things.

  9. billm Says:

    What’s not stated in those specs, is the obvious need for case, power supply, motherboard, etc…ie. fully working machine, those are merely the parts that make it haul for building.

    Bill McGonigle: the current builder is sitting inside of a VM, it needs to move to physical hardware. RAM disk isn’t likely a good match, last time I tried creating a multi gigabyte md drive, it kinda didn’t work – I don’t remember the issue now, but it wasn’t happy. SSD drives might be tempting, but then again, those are expensive parts to acquire and expensive to replace.

  10. sullrich Says:

    I have tried it before and 7 panic’d. It’s also very cpu intensive since its compiling 800+ megabytes of software generally. * this by every platform and you have one busy builder box.

  11. Andrew Says:

    Last bit? of info that would be useful. Does it need to be rackmount? or will a standard case work?

  12. sullrich Says:

    4u or 8u rack would be great

  13. Rainer Says:

    The above Dell system costs (when maxed out in CPU-terms and spec’ed with SAS-discs) around 11000 USD.
    wwwMaybe check out the IBM x3655. Or the new SUN X4240.

    If nobody comes forward, I’d think about setting up an especially annoying^wprominent “donate” button on the homepage with an accompanying “media-campaign” and use the funds to shop around (SUN, IBM, HP).
    Vendors might not give away hardware, but they might be more lenient to a big discount.
    Unfortunately, my current employer is not really interested in pfSense (for now), so I can only contribute small money myself.

  14. pfSense - hardware/server request | FreeBSD - the unknown Giant Says:

    […] Scott Ullrich from pfSense Project is looking for anybody willing to donate a hardware or a fast server to speed up building and compiling of pfSense. It seems more and more that I spend 90% of my time waiting for pfSense builds to validate code changes, kernel changes, etc more… […]

  15. Curtis LaMasters Says:

    It might be worth while for one of your support companies to talk to Dell about their rebranding solution. Possibly setup a deal with Dell to have all pfSense appliances from (BSD Perimeter / Centipede Networks) be Dell server hardware and they may be very willing to give you a server that would fit your needs. Iron Systems may also be a good fit.

  16. Scott Ullrich Says:

    There is no way we could meet the minimum sales. I already spoke with them.

  17. Jon Says:

    Scott, would you need the box at your site physically? If it can remain in our datacenter I might have a couple different physical (server grade) boxes that aren’t being used at the moment that I could allow you to use. It doesn’t sound like bandwidth would be a huge issue so power is cheap for me (compared to the benefit I gain from pfsense…). Let me know if remote access would be sufficient or if you need the hardware in hand…

  18. Chris Buechler Says:

    We certainly don’t need something as big as a 6950. A dual quad core would be excellent.

    We’re looking at avenues for selling hardware through distributors, which might help us bring in enough money to cover things of this nature (and get us a deal with a hardware vendor). To date our commercial offerings haven’t brought in enough to cover our expenses and pay for big things like this on top of that.

  19. Joe Says:

    We ordered this recently… dual quad core with a bunch of storage…

    Item Number Quantity Item Description

    223-4509 1 Quad Core Xeon Processor E54102x6MB Cache, 2.33GHz, 1333MHz FSB, PE2900
    467-2683 1 Quad Core Xeon E5410 2nd Processor, 2x6MB Cache 2.33GHz 1333MHz FSB,PE2900
    311-6197 1 8GB 667MHz (4x2GB), Dual Ranked Fully Buffered DIMMs
    310-5017 1 No Keyboard Selected
    430-2968 1 LOM NICs are TOE Ready
    341-3036 1 160GB 7.2K RPM Serial ATA 3Gbps 3.5-in HotPlug Hard Drive
    467-2724 1 PERC6i SAS RAID Controller Internal with Battery
    341-3052 1 No Floppy Drive
    420-6320 1 No Operating System
    310-0024 1 Mouse Option None
    430-1764 1 Two (2) Integrated Broadcom NetXtreme II 5708 Gigabit NICsTOE Capable
    313-5854 1 16X DVD-ROM for PowerEdge 2900
    313-4363 1 Tower Bezel Included
    310-7402 1 Electronic Documentation and OpenManage CD Kit, PE2900
    341-3036 1 160GB 7.2K RPM Serial ATA 3Gbps 3.5-in HotPlug Hard Drive
    341-5755 1 Integrated SAS/SATA RAID 1/RAID 5, PERC 6/i Integrated
    313-5853 1 Tower Chassis Orientation
    310-7405 1 Redundant Power Supply with Y-Cord for PowerEdge 2900
    984-1467 1 Dell Hardware Warranty Plus Onsite Service Initial YR
    970-4650 1 Basic Enterprise Support: Business Hrs 5X10 Next Business Day Onsite Service Post Problem Diagnosis Init YR
    984-1469 1 Dell Hardware Warranty, Extended Year(s)
    960-8852 1 Basic Enterprise Support: Business Hrs 5X10 Next Business Day Onsite Service Post Problem Diagnosis 2YR Ext
    960-8882 1 Basic Enterprise Support: Business Hrs 5×10 Hardware Only Tech Phone Support, 3Yr, Declined Software Support
    900-9997 1 On-Site Installation Declined
    341-3037 1 250GB 7.2K RPM Serial ATA 3Gbps 3.5-in HotPlug Hard Drive
    341-3037 1 250GB 7.2K RPM Serial ATA 3Gbps 3.5-in HotPlug Hard Drive
    341-3037 1 250GB 7.2K RPM Serial ATA 3Gbps 3.5-in HotPlug Hard Drive
    310-8977 1 Info SKU-Software and Peripherals products and solutions catalog included in system boxes

    Subtotal: $2,052.00
    Shipping and Handling: $29.99
    Sales Tax: $130.12
    Total: $2,212.11

  20. spenser Says:

    The next time you build, take a look at your system load.

    If it is all single threaded, and your cpu is not maxed out, then multiple cpu cores will not help.

    The likely bottleneck is in disk i/o.

    The solution is a server class raid card with built in battery backed cache and the appropriate drives in a mirror configuration, not raid 5.

    Previous generation scsi raid cards can be had for as little as $10 on ebay.

    Be careful of the some of the SmartArray series because they need to be in a Proliant to be configured. The Dell Perc’s could be different, because they are rebadged.

    Make sure that it is battery backed, turn on read and *write* caching.

    With this setup, you might not have time to boil the kettle for another coffee.

    You need i/o, not cpu for this task.

  21. Chris Buechler Says:

    spenser: disk I/O certainly helps, but we’re CPU bound during most of the build process.

    Now that’s not entirely true with our 6.x build box, which is in VMware, disk I/O is a bottleneck there. And that’s what we’re looking to replace. But our physical builder7 server, an Opteron 275 HP server, is CPU bound during most of the build process. It has 15K RPM SCSI drives. Don’t recall offhand how the RAID is setup, but disk I/O isn’t an issue on that box.

    We aren’t just licking a finger and sticking it up in the air, we know pretty well what our bottlenecks are. 🙂

    It’d be nice if we could build in a RAM disk to eliminate disk I/O as any sort of bottleneck, but that has proven problematic in the past.

  22. Scott Ullrich Says:

    Ahh, if only the project had 2K to blow we wouldn’t be begging for hardware, eh?

  23. Anders Says:

    is it possible to upgrade your current hardware? I would gladly contribute with 200 dollars to support your great work. I am a very happy user of pfsense at home and in my small IT company.

  24. Chris Buechler Says:

    It looks like we have a donor providing us a full machine. Our next thought if that doesn’t work out is to piece it out and hope we can get enough pieces to build something. Looks like we’ll be getting a complete system though.

  25. Eirik Øverby Says:

    I might be able to get you access to some hardware like what you request (dual quad-core xeon 3ghz), however you’d have to access it remotely..
    If your current deal doesn’t go through, and this is interesting, let me know and I’ll see what I can dig up.

  26. Sami Says:

    Why not run a distributed compiling system? Is there a reason why all your compiling is done on a single box?

  27. Scott Ullrich Says:

    We have tried distcc which did not help much at all. Give it a shot and report back if you can make it work.. It did not work well enough to warrant the trouble when we tested.

  28. Michel Says:

    It would be a great option to have distcc in a future pfSense distro ?
    That way a lot of firewalls can be (optionally) enabled to do some builds in their spare time… eg. like having a schedule at night to help building.

    For instance my pfSense isn’t working at all during night hours (well occasionally some SMTP traffic, but that would be it)

    If that option would be in a pfSense version, I will certainly enable it…

  29. Robert Says:

    Everybody and their mother can build a cheap quad-core PC these days. Yah, it still cost some money, but you don’t need a Dell/HP/IBM server. Get some good parts, and you can push up a Q9450 CPU a bit with overclocking to get 25-35% more speed. ‘Can’t do that with server hardware. I’d be happy to put together a perfect wish list on NewEgg per [H]ardforum best practices. Maybe people can buy you each part separately as a donation and just build it.

  30. Chris Says:

    Hell, id buy ya parts and i dont even use pfsence…just stoping by to read whats new. As for Ram disks, our x64 has 16GB of its memory dedicated to one storing our db. Yep its quick. might give ya one.

  31. Luiz Vaz Says:

    And what about if we start a campaing like wikipedia does?
    We setup a target, let me say anything about $20.000 and let people donate.

    I’m thinking in something like this:

    The donors will have their names written with the amount donated.
    And small amount will be accepted too, like $10 and more.
    Because the single amount doesn’t matter but the bunch of donations.


  32. Chris Buechler Says:

    Thanks to a contributor to be named later, we now have a new dual proc quad core Xeon build server! Initial testing shows very significant reductions in build times, this will certainly help make us more productive.

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