What’s Your 'Net' Worth?

Network engineer spookyghost went big and built an over-the-top home network that would put most commercial operations to shame.

Nick Bild
11 months agoCommunication
You got a license for that? (📷: spookyghost)

Sometimes hardware hackers just like to go big. Real big. Not necessarily for any practical reason, but just because bigger is better (except when smaller is better, of course). Confusing? Maybe to some, but not to a typical Hackster News reader. Consider the PicoCray “supercomputer” made from nine Raspberry Pi Pico microcontrollers, or the cluster of sixteen NVIDIA Jetson Nano computers that we reported on recently. Necessary? Absolutely not. But do we want one of each? No way, what would we want with one of those? We want two of each. More hardware is always the right answer.

Networking hardware is blogger spookyghost’s thing, and anyone that sets foot in spookyghost’s home will realize that in a matter of seconds. It is rare that you will see a commercial operation so well equipped and organized as this home network. It would be hard for most people to justify the expense and effort that would go into a home network of this scale from the standpoint of practicality, but there is no denying that it is a very impressive setup. And if I ever find myself hating money and looking for a way to get rid of it as fast as possible, I might just replicate this setup (sorry, obscure cryptocurrencies). Until then, I will have to be content with gazing longingly at what spookyghost has built.

The core of the network is mounted in a 25 unit StarTech rack in a centrally located closet. At the top of the rack is a pair of Monoprice patch panels to organize the Cat6 and fiber cables running throughout the house to network jacks, access points, cameras, and other hardware. For maximum flexibility, spookyghost installed keystone patch panels, which also allowed for mixing of Cat6 and fiber on the same panel. A cable management system keeps everything looking great, and also avoids tracing through a rat’s nest of cables when it comes time for an upgrade or if a network problem needs to be debugged.

Below this in the rack is a SuperMicro server with an i7 8700K CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and an NVIDIA Tesla P4. This handles a number of functions around the home, like recording data from security cameras, and running AI algorithms to detect when people are on the property. This machine also runs pfSense software to serve as a firewall.

Next up are a few Dell and Cisco managed switches that control the flow of traffic through the network. Redundant Internet connections feed into the Dell X1052P switch — a 1 Gb symmetrical fiber connection from AT&T and a backup 300Mb/s down and 20Mb/s up connection via a Verizon Gateway. These connections are managed via pfSense, such that the AT&T fiber connection is always used unless there is an outage.

The next shelf houses a number of low-power devices — a Hubitat Hub, a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ NTP server with a GPS/PPS time source, a Ripe Atlas Probe (for the Verizon connection), a Raspberry Pi Zero W with adapter board also running NTP with GPS, and an older Ripe Atlas Probe (for the AT&T connection). The devices provide a number of smart home functions, and also monitoring of the Internet connections.

Below the low-power devices are a set of three VMware ESXi hosts that allow virtual machines to be created from the server’s pool of resources. These VMs host a number of applications that perform backups, smart home services, performance monitoring, and more. These VMs make it easier to manage the many services that this network provides, and also serve to enhance security.

A large, six unit network-attached storage system is up next, containing twelve 8 TB SAS disks. These are used as storage space for devices throughout spookyghost’s home. An APC uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and a pair of CyperPower metered power distribution units supply the rack with power, even when the power goes out. And before that UPS runs out of juice, there is a Generac whole-house generator that will kick in to keep everything humming along.

There are more details, and plenty of pictures, in the blog post if you want to continue drooling over the home network that you will never have. Just try not to spend too much time comparing it to the Wi-Fi router that likely constitutes your entire home network — nothing good can come from that. And if you do want a network of this scale in your own home one day, take it one piece at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was spookyghost’s network.

Nick Bild
R&D, creativity, and building the next big thing you never knew you wanted are my specialties.
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