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Tour of My Home Network (2020 Update)

About three years ago I did a tour of my home network (old tour) and it turned out to be one of my most popular articles on The Geek Pub. Being that so much has changed since then, I decided it is time to do an update tour!  Stick around til the end of this article and I will answer a ton of the common questions that came up in the first tour.

Tour of My Home Network (Video)

Updated Tour of My Home Network

In the 2017 article we started outside where Frontier Communications installed their Optical Network Terminal.  Many of you mistook this for my own router.  An ONT is owned by the ISP and is responsible for converting the fiber connection over to gigabit Ethernet, POTS lines, and Cable TV service.  I don’t have any access to the device.

Well, since that video I Frontier has made a lot of changes.  First, they moved the ONT inside my garage into a different housing. This was at my request because I felt like the old install was a hack job.  Second, my speed has been increased to gigabit, albeit still about 30% higher than AT&T is charging right down the street for the same service.

My Network Gear… I Switched to Ubiquiti Unifi

As mentioned in the 2017 tour, we had our builder put a dedicated AV closet off the theater room.  This room has changed a lot too! I now run my entire home network on Ubuquiti Unifi gear. I honestly couldn’t be more happy with this choice! My core switch is a Unifi US-XG-16. This where all of my server gear plugs in, or anything that needs 10Gb connectivity.

My access switch is a Unifi USW-Pro-48 Gen 2.  This is where everything else in the house plugs in, including PoE cameras, desktop PCs, TVs, etc.

Get my switches from Amazon here:

Anywhere in the house, that I need more ports than I have wall jacks, is a Unifi US-60W 8 port managed switch.  These are awesome because not only do they support PoE, but they are all part of the SDN allowing me to pass security policy, VLANs, etc. while remote monitoring them via SNMP.  In the case of my living room, this means I can have my security camera on secure network and my TV on the regular network.

Unifi US-60W

Changes to my Firewall

As we continue to Tour of My Home Network, let’s dive into my firewall changes. In the 2017 Tour I had a 6 port appliance running a Celeron J1900 CPU (this was the WANBOX for those interested).  This has been replaced wirth a SuperMicro 5018D-FN8T.  This server appliance is designed to be used as a router or firewall and has 12 gigabit ports (8 onboard and 2 on a PCIe card), two SFP+ for 10Gb connectivity, and an IPMI management port.  It is uplinked to the core switch via a 10Gb fiber SFP+.

It’s running a XEON D-1518 and 32GB of RAM.  This allows me to run lots of OpenVPN sessions (including a VPN to my brother’s house The 8-Bit Guy), pfBlocker, IPS and IDS for security, and more.  In my opinion this is the absolute best box you can buy to run a medium to large pfSense firewall!

I’m able to get almost 7Gb routed w/firewall policy between my VLANs.

Get my firewall on Amazon here:

Changes to my Servers

Now let’s move on to my servers and storage.  In the 2017 video I was running two homebrew servers with Intel Core I7 7700K CPUs and 32 gigs of RAM each.  I also had a Synology RS2416+ for storage.

Today, things here have changed quite a bit as well!  I am now running two SuperMicro 5019P-M 1U servers.  Both have XEON 4114 scalable CPUs with 96GB of RAM.  These are running VMWare ESXi and get their storage from a Synology RS3618xs running a XEON D-1521 and 32 gigs of RAM.  These are all connected to the core switch with redundant 10 gig links.

Get my Servers on Amazon here:

Let’s break this down a bit….

First we have two SuperMicro 5019P-M servers running a VMware cluster with HA and DRS enabled. This allows virtual machines to move between these two servers to balance the load or to recover automatically from a hardware failure.  Both of these boxes are identical configurations.  I named them TARDIS 1 and TARDIS 2, because they are bigger on the inside.

Next I have a Synolgy RS3418xs NAS with 88 terabytes raw capacity, and an RS2416+ NAS with 24 terabytes raw capacity.  The 2416 has been replaced under warranty due to the Intel Atom bug.

OK.  So what runs on all of this hardware?

On the TARDIS vSphere cluster I run:

  • Plex for serving video to all of my devices
  • Homeseer for home automation
  • Vcenter Server for managing the virtual machines
  • MySQL for backend databases
  • Windows Domain controllers
  • Ubuntu servers for all kinds of things such as time servers
  • A full copy of Wikipedia in case of the zombie apocolypse
  • And Observium to monitor all of my hardware and servers

On NAS 1 I have:

  • a 42 terabyte volume that stores all of my PLEX video, as well as the file shares for my video editing Mac.
  • a 24 terabyte volume for VMWare where all of my virtual machines live. This volume is fronted by two Samsung EVO 860 SSDs to add some performance.

On NAS 2 I have:

  • a 9 terabyte volume for Surveillance Station.  This is the NVR for all of my cameras.
  • and another 9 terabyte volume for general file storage and sync share for Dropbox.

Homelab Layout

A Network Diagram

Update 04/18/2020: So many of you have asked for a network diagram, so I’ve added one to the article.  However, I did randomize a few specifics on the VLANs and didn’t include my IP addresses for security reasons.  Other than that here’s a network diagram for the tour of my home network!

Tour of my Home Network Diagram

Things that are Still the Same

OK.  So back to the network for a minute.  I still use this HD Homerun Extend to distribute an antenna signal to all of my TVs and devices over Ethernet. PLEX integrates with this natively allows me to watch live TV anywhere in the house (or the world for that matter).

I also still use the Homeseer Z-Net for connecting my Z-Wave devices to the Homeseer virtual machine.  For those wondering, this is indeed nothing more than a Raspberry Pi with a Z-Wave Hat and some proprietary Homeseer software.

In the 2017 video I also mentioned that I had a dedicated exhaust fan in the server room running 24/7 to remove heat.  This is still in place.  However, I did upgrade the fan to a much larger CFM version just a few months ago.  This dropped the temperature in this room by almost 20 degrees.

Goodbye Apple Airport Extremes

One major change I have made, since Apple let me down so terribly with the airport extremes: I’ve moved my entire house to Ubiquiti Unifi wireless access points. I personally think these are the absolute best access points you can buy for a home network. I couldn’t be happier.

I also run a guest network on these APs through pfSense that allow any of my visiting friends or family to get Internet access without having access to my home network.  However, I do throttle this guest network to 100Mb total throughput to keep freeloading neighbors at bay.

Get my Access Points on Amazon here:

Tour of my home network

Tour of My Home Network… into my Home Office

I no longer use a Mac as my primary workstation. I just got fed up with Apple and went back to Windows. I really like Windows 10 by the way!  I’m running a Core I9 with 64 gigabyte of RAM and a 1080ti video card.  It’s plenty powerful for any of the games I play. I also have a second monitor that I use to check on my surveillance cameras and monitor system performance in Observium.

My main workstation and gaming PC

I also have a 16″ Macbook Pro setup for video editing.  I mainly keep the Mac around because I just can’t bring myself to switch off of Final Cut Pro. I just like it so much better than anything on Windows.

My 16" macbook pro for video editing

Other Things Connected to my Home Network

All around the house you will cameras for security.  Originally I put in D-LINK, but after about 6 months literally every one of them died and got tossed in the garbage.  Since then I have replaced every single camera with an AXIS.  They’ve been rock solid and reliable.  I feel like D-LINK has just become garbage on every product they make these days.  I use these AXIS cameras.

The alarm system is on a secure VLAN and has digital touch-pads throughout the house and I have digital keypads on the doors that connect to it and Homeseer (although these actually connect to Z-Wave and then get bridged to the security network).

Every TV in the house has an Apple TV for video streaming from the PLEX, Netflix, etc. My pool is connected to the network, although its also on a separate VLAN to keep the pool company out of my home network. Our Tesla Model X loves to chew up some bandwidth every evening as it uploads telemetry to Tesla’s neural network.

I still use Logitech Harmony Hubs for automating my media gear. It seems to work fine and integrates well with Homeseer and I also still use Alexa in many places throughout the house as the primary voice control for home automation.

And of course R2-D2 loves to get on the home network too!

R2-D2 Tour of My Home Network

FAQ about the Tour of My Home Network

I got an incredible amount of questions on the 2017 network tour. So I decided I will answer them here, and then continue to update these as people most more questions on the forum and YouTube comments.

Q: Why is your cable management so bad?
A: I think a lot of people are confusing the lab portion of my home network with the permanently installed portion of my home network and I think if you’ll look back through the video you’ll see that anywhere I installed something permanently cable management looks really nice. That said, I am not going to spend hours and hours dressing in cables for something I am likely to change in just a couple of weeks.

Q: Why the red walls?
A: I think many of you must have missed the fact that this is a server closet off of our theater room. The theater room is painted red so that it looks like a theater room. When the builder sprayed that closet he just continued to spray the same paint. I am not sure why that is such a big deal to people but that is why the walls are red.

Q: What about the plywood on the walls? So ugly!
A: Plywood is very commonly used in server closets and network closets. When you mount something on the wall you generally have to look for a stud when you’re mounting something to drywall, which is what we have here in the states. If you mount a piece of three quarter inch or one inch plywood on the wall first then you can mount things anywhere you want without having to find a stud. So that’s the reason for plywood.  As for ugly, no one outside of this tour will ever see it.

Q: Your modem is outside!  You can be hacked!
A: I think you are confusing an ONT or Optical Network Terminal with a router or a firewall. An ONT is something that is provided by the telco or ISP and is usually used in fiber-to-the-home installs which is what we have here. I don’t have any access to that appliance. It is completely owned and operated by the telco and that is how they all work. The purpose of the ONT is to covert the fiber connection from the ISP or from the phone company over to CAT5 for Ethernet, RG6 for coax for cable TV and over to POTS lines for standard phone service.

Q: Alexa is a spy in your house!
A: Tinfoil hat much?

Q: SuperMicro has Chinese spyware on the motherboard!
A: This has been debunked at least a thousand times.  The guy who originally reported that was short selling SuperMicro stock and he was looking to drive the stock price down because he was loosing his shorts. That guy is now in prison. There is no firmware or motherboard chip that is spying on you.

Q: If you really cared about security!
A:  Tinfoil hat much?

Q: Why use a Mac for video editing?
A: Final Cut Pro is so much better than any offering on the PC. I have tried them all! Most recently I tried Premiere Pro on the PC. I have an Adobe Create Cloud membership and I just couldn’t stand it. I just absolutely hated it. Final Cut Pro works on the Mac so much better. I am not going to spend hours talking about it, but that’s why I use a Mac. You just can’t beat that piece of software.

Well thanks for going on this tour of my home network with me! I hope you enjoyed it!

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28 Responses

  1. Great tour Mike, really nice and powerful home network. Let me just comment about how you mount your switches, servers, etc. I’m not a fan of mounting them that way just because every jack faces up and they tend to collect dust, I think that perhaps you can rotate them 90 degrees so the jacks stays on the side. Or better yet, install them horizontally on a rack, but I guess you don’t have the space for a full length rack on your server room.

    Also, just curious, why don’t you used Ubiquiti cameras so you can integrate them on the Unifi SDN?

  2. Sure, I’m not saying they are wrongly mounted, it’s just my personal preference 🙂
    Regarding the cameras I guessed it was something like that!.

    Again, great job Mike!.

  3. Mike,

    I like the Ubiquiti APs and use them myself. I don’t have the entire Ubiquiti infrastructure you have but the APs have worked well for me for years. Also, I see you are security conscious so I wanted to ask you what you use for password management? Do you use LastPass, Dashlane or some other product or do you keep them all locked in your head? LOL.



  4. Something tells me the 3rd time might not be funny so i’ll skip it. Ubiquiti’s wifi gear is pretty amazing and I love that I can just go to amazing to get it without having to hit up some 3rd party vendor.

  5. Mike – I came across your video – thanks to YouTube’s suggestion algorithm – and thoroughly enjoyed it. I run a similar – ESXi, pfSense, UniFi, Synology – setup at home, though it’s not as extensive as yours (yet!).

    I was most intrigued by the fact that you have a copy of Wikipedia. I looked into downloading a copy myself as well after I watched your video. I’m curious if you use an offline viewer, expand to load into MySQL/WikiMedia for local access or just store the files themselves. I’m working to setup a copy of my own for local/in-house access and am struggling with parsing the XML “page” files – wondered if you had a solution based on your usage.

    anyways, thanks for the great video – I’ll definitely be spending more time on Geek Pub!

    1. I just installed Wikimedia on an Ubuntu box and used the importDump.php tool in the /maintenance folder. There’s also an importImages.php and some other tools.

  6. Hello Mike!
    Thank you very much for the detailed review!
    After him, really a lot of questions arose for me (sorry, if there are too many of them).

    1. You have described in detail the structure of your home network, available resources, but it is very interesting how much all the equipment resources available to you have been used today? That is, for example, you have 96 gigabytes of RAM in TARDIS – are they used by current virtual machines at 30% -50% -80%? The same question about storage: for example, out of 24 terabytes of storage under VM, how much are you currently using?

    2. Core Swtich XG 16 and Acsees Switch 48 PRO are connected to you by two 10Gbps links – is this for redundancy or is there a channel aggregation?

    3. You have a Logitech flash drive inserted in the firewall (SM 5018D) – is this for loading the operating system?

    4. You have two 1U servers and two 2U storage systems in the server room – didn’t you measure the noise level there?) Probably, they roar like a jet engine 🙂 Or did you somehow optimize them to reduce the noise level?

    5. In SM 5019P-M servers you have 1TB NVMe disks installed – why do you need such high-speed and voluminous disks? Wouldn’t a simple flash drive be enough for ESXi?

    6. On NAS 1 you use 8 disks for data and 2 SSD disks for the cache, and there are two more free slots – are they empty or are there disks for Hot Spare? Have you considered the option of using the M2D18 module for SSD cache? Did I understand correctly that on NAS 2 you do not use SSD drives for cache? Don’t you see the point in its configuration?

    7. Have you considered using a RX1217 expansion module for NAS 1 instead of NAS 2? Wouldn’t that be more profitable?

    Thank you so much for the network diagram, I was also going to ask you to lay it out 🙂 Many questions disappeared after studying this diagram.

    8. Do your NAS 1 and 2 storages only have 10Gbps connectivity? You do not connect them with a separate link in VLAN 4 for management? Or do you use the built-in 4x1gbps ports somehow?

    9. How purely technically do you get access to managmante vlan (4 on the diagram) – does your workstation have access to all vlan or do you connect remotely to some VM and manage the network from there?

    10. From the diagram I saw that you are using Uniquity Manager from a virtual machine. Did you dislike the option with hardware implementation (Key Cloud) or does the virtual version have any advantages?

    I will be grateful if you find time for an answer, thank you in advance.

    1. 1. Depends on what I am doing that particular week.
      2. Both.
      3. That’s not a flash drive. It’s a keyboard/mouse.
      4. They’re in a dedicated closet. Does it matter?
      5. This is lab. Who knows what I will do with it next week. It might be a bare metal server. I also use the internal SSD for transcoding for Plex.
      6. …
      7. No.
      8. VLAN tagging
      9. Firewall rules.
      10. Having a portable VM is infinitely better.

  7. Very interesting home setup! Nice video. Some questions:

    1. Do you use the MacBook Pro to access videos in tthe Synology NAS for editing? Wondering if you use a thunderbolt to 10GbE adapter to access the Synology NAS.

    2. Does the DSC security system use the same set of door/window/motion sensors as HomeSeer, or are they independent? I used to have a security system but the service provider closed that part of their business, so I rely on HomeSeer only now. Took a lot of programming, but I think my HomeSeer is pretty bullet proof for security purposes, so don’t think I need a primary security system in place (this is probably a point of contention, but until I find a good integrate-able security system that works with HomeSeer, I don’t see the point of having one…

    3. Does NAS2 backup all the Plex videos from NAS1? Doesn’t seem like it since NAS2 doesn’t have as much storage as NAS 1. I have two Synology NASs just dedicated for Plex videos (the second just to have the backups). Yeah, I have the physical media (Blu-Ray and UHD disks), but I don’t want to rep-rip them if something goes wrong.

  8. For the SuperMicro 5018D-FN8T firewall, did you do any bios tweaks to pfsense tuning for your connection speed ?

  9. Hey Mike….first let me say a work of art. I am a noob in IT as want to setup my first home network. After looking at your video at least five times I would like to see if this will work for me.

    1.) Your Taris 1 I would like to use for the Plex media server and possible video editing. Is this overkill or will this ensure that Plex will transcode without issues? Also how do I use the SSD’s for caching to enhance performance?

    2.) Your NAS 1 setup I plan on using for strictly movies and TV Shows. (I have a very extensive collection) But would I need a NAS 2 setup for backup?

    3.) I eventually want to add cameras to my house so I was thinking of a Ubiquiti Networks 48-Port UniFi Managed PoE+ Gigabit 48 RJ45 Port 500W Switch with SFP+ Ports even though I won’t need all 48 ports right away, it leaves room for scalability. I can use the managed functions for increased security. Also I want to install WAP throughout the house.

    4.) With this setup, what firewall would you recommend and is there anything that I am missing to ensure the efficient running of this whole setup? I plan on setting all of this up in my basement as it’s the coldest area of my house.

    I know it seems like a lot for a starter but I want something that gives me room to expand as I need it without constantly having to upgrade. PLEASE HELP!!!!!! I have been stressing trying to make the right choices.

  10. Does your Plex VM ever need to transcode, and if so, how many streams is that 4114 capable of handling? Or do all of your clients Direct Play?

  11. hello, i saw in your diagram that you have two windows active directory server, one in vlan 30, and the second in vlan 4, i am assuming there is a replication of ad through domain. but how did you manage the communication between the two server?

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