10GbE LAN: FreeNAS, VMware ESXi, Windows 10 and $100 Budget

  1. Create a 10Gb Ethernet LAN for the purpose of...I have no real purpose.
  2. Spend no more than $100.
  3. Only 3 computers will be on 10GbE but can only use 1 PCIe x16 port (version 2 and 3).
  4. Use fiber to connect to 1 server not collocated with other 2 systems.
  5. Dual port NIC supported by FreeNAS, VMware ESXi, and Windows 10.
  6. NIC must be able to support a variety of SFP+ Multi Mode and Single Mode optics.
  7. Nice to have: MacOS and Linux support over thunderbolt adapter(future projects).
  8. Ideally would like to have NICs with well documented support and use.
  • After a week or two of ebay searches and research on the internet, I came across a few NICs 
    • Mellanox ConnectX (affordable, but not supported FreeNAS)
    • Chelsio T Series (pricey, 100% compatible)
    • Intel X520 (expensive, unable to determine FreeNAS support) 
    • SolarFlare (best price, 100% compatible)
  • Linux and Windows support for all NICs listed above were highly likely but the FreeNAS support was the issue
    • https://www.freebsd.org/relnotes/9-STABLE/hardware/support.html#ethernet
  • Chelsio is the most common choice for FreeNAS builds, it is listed in the hardware requirements and mentioned a lot in the FreeNAS forums.
  • Decided to go with Solarflare:
    • Solarflare is not mentioned very much in FreeNAS forums and I was almost hesitant to use these NICs because of the lack of documented use I was able to come across. The deciding factor was a youtube video and blog I came across by Scott Schweitzer
    • I was immediately sold after looking at the list of systems with driver support  for Solarflare NICs.
      • Systems Supported
        • Apple Mac OS X
        • FreeBSD
        • Linux
        • Solaris
        • VMware
        • Windows
        • XenServer
    • Another plus is that HP uses Solarflare adapters.
    • Potential Prices of used Solarflare adapters
      • Here are the different series of adapters available
        • SFN5000 (Best Price, 100% Compatible) Around $30-$50
        • SFN6000 (Good Price, 100% Compatible) Around $40-$80
        • SFN7000 (Over budget) Over $100
        • SFN8000 (Over budget) Over $100
    • Purchased three SFN5000 series dual 10GbE NIC for a great price of $80 USD total! 
      • This purchase came with four SFP+ MM Optics.
      • Tested and updated all NICs with the latest firmware
    • Last purchase was for two Cisco Twinax SFP+ DAC cable for $20 USD.
  • So with some luck and lots of research, I was able to deploy a 10GbE LAN for $100 USD.  Enjoy!