By purchasing from Netgate® or a Netgate Partner, you are not only supporting the project, you are simplifying the process of selecting the right hardware for your needs. The security gateway appliances from Netgate have been tested and deployed in a wide range of large and small network environments. What's more, eligible pfSense hardware purchases from the store can be bundled with Netgate Global Support.
pfSense Appliance Guidance
The following outlines the best practices for choosing the appliance best suitable for your environment.
Most features do not factor into hardware sizing, although a few will have a significant impact on hardware utilization:
VPN - Heavy use of any of the VPN services included in the pfSense software will increase CPU requirements. Encrypting and decrypting traffic is CPU intensive. The number of connections is much less of a concern than the throughput required. AES-NI acceleration of IPsec significantly reduces CPU requirements on platforms that support it.
Captive Portal - While the primary concern is typically throughput, environments with hundreds of simultaneous captive portal users (of which there are many) will require slightly more CPU power than recommended above.
Large State Tables - State table entries require about 1 KB of RAM each. The default state table size is calculated based on 10% of the available RAM in the firewall. For example, a firewall with 1 GB of RAM will default to 100,000 states which when full would use about 100 MB of RAM. For large environments requiring state tables with several hundred thousand connections, or millions of connections, ensure adequate RAM is available.
Packages - Some of the packages increase RAM requirements significantly. Snort and ntop are two that should not be installed on a system with less than 1GB RAM.