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Quad-port Fast Ethernet on Debian


I am after some general advice or info on people's experiences with quad
port ethernet cards.  Any assistance would be much appreciated.

I am looking to set up two servers acting in a group with high availability
(minimum) or load balancing (would be better) with Debian Sarge.  The servers
would run standard type services like a firewall/gateway, mail, web and DNS, 
and would run on modern AMD/x86 compatible-based desktop style PC hardware.
I am hoping to use some load balancing software like LVS or the Linux-HA

For this, I am specifically looking to use *quad* port ethernet cards, 
due to the number of ports and physical size of the hardware required for my 
configuration.  I will probably need two per box (+ onboard port = 9 ports 

The options I seem to have at the moment are these.  If anyone can tell me 
if they know of them working properly (stable, without problems such as
packet loss etc.) under Debian with a similar configuration, that would be 
greatly appreciated.  Also any comments on how well the hardware lasts over 
time - incidence of dead ports, cards, etc. and also how much heat they

- Microtek Routerboard 24 (new, cheaper, if this works I'll be laughing.  They
use the National Semiconductor DP83816 chipset according to their webpage)
- Microtek Routerboard 44 (I am very suspicious of these because they use the
VIA Rhine chipset, and I had lockups and other annoying problems with that
years ago - but if anyone can tell me otherwise, I'm still interested)
- Adaptec ANA-6944/TX (used, cheap but possibly old/with wear and tear)
- Adaptec ANA-62044 (used, cheap but possibly old/with wear and tear)
- D-Link DFE-580TX (new and a bit more expensive)

If anyone has any other suggestions that won't break the bank that would also
be good.  Since the actual PCs don't cost over AUD$500 I don't want to spend 
that much on network controllers.  Keep in mind I will have to have them 
shipped to Australia, or buy them in Australia.  I know of the DFE-570TX cards,
and would love to get my hands on some, but I can't find anywhere to buy 
them.  :(

The other thing I am curious about is if this configuration is likely to 
cause any other problems.  I have read e-mails on lists and so forth saying 
that there are limits on the number of Ethernet ports supported at once, and
weird PCI bus or BIOS (i.e. AMIBIOS) behaviour that causes problems with this 
sort of setup.  But they too, unfortunately, are out of date.  Does anyone 
know if these problems are an issue with modern Linux setups such as one 
possible with modern hardware and Debian Sarge? 

It is fine if I have to compile a custom kernel to get this working, though
I would prefer a system that sticks as closely as possible to the Sarge
distribution so that all the package updates and so on will still work.

Please do not point me at the Ethernet-HOWTO or Hardware-HOWTO etc. unless
there is a new version of them around.  It is all well and good to know what
was supported a few years ago, but it probably doesn't answer my question
and there is not enough information there anyway.

Many thanks,

Simon Phillips.

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