10 gigabit home network – Summary

If you want to bring 10GbE into your home network, and keep it on a low budget, you really don’t need all that much.

First question to ask: how many computers are you connecting together? If you’re wanting to connect just two systems, you need just two network interface cards and a cable to connect them. Any more than that and you’ll need a switch.

Network interface cards (NICs)

eBay is where you’ll find the NICs for very cheap. Most of the surplus cards available are Mellanox. But you need to be a little careful about what cards you buy. Some part numbers may give you trouble, as these are rebranded cards even though they have the Mellanox chipset. Stick to Mellanox part numbers where you can.

For single-port Mellanox 10GbE cards, look for part number MNPA19-XTR. I’ve had good luck with Part No. 81Y1541, which is an IBM rebrand, I believe.

Mellanox cards are not supported under FreeBSD as of when I write this. So if one of your target upgrades is a FreeNAS system, look instead for the Chelsio S320 or S310. The S320 is basically a dual-port S310. And from my experience you’ll have better luck finding the S320.

One other thing to bear in mind as well: single-port cards require an available PCI-Express 2.0 slot running at x4 or better. The Chelsio S310 and S320 are PCI-Express 1.0a cards, and require a slot running at x8 or better.

Cables and transceivers

You basically have just two options here: direct-attached copper and optical fiber. While most videos and articles on this push you toward direct-attached copper (and some eBay listings for NICs include one), consider optical fiber instead. It’s just better in many regards. And if you want to connect systems that are more than 10m apart (by cable distance, not linear distance), it’s pretty much your only option.

You’ll need 10GBase-SR transceivers, two for each cable. You can find these on eBay as well, and some SFP+ cards listed may come with one already. These transceivers use LC-to-LC duplex optical fiber. I’ll provide parts options below.

Switch

Right now you can find a good SFP+ 10GbE switch on eBay: Quanta LB6M. It runs for 250 USD or less, with varying shipping cost depending on seller. This is really the only inexpensive 10GbE switch available on the market from what I’ve found. Brand new, other 10GbE SFP+ switches start at around 750 USD.

My setup

I have four systems connected to a 10GbE network: Absinthe, Mira, Nasira, and my Z600 virtualization server.

I use 30m cables to connect Absinthe and Mira to the switch. Nasira and the Z600 use only 1m cables.

Purchase options

If you have any questions about parts or 10GbE in general, leave a comment below.

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