Eero + Firewalla = Perfection
I built our home Wi-Fi network on eero Pro 6 mesh routers. It's great. I love it. It works as advertised. If your household is like most others, where no one has specific highly technical needs, stop reading this and buy an eero system. I've recommended them to my friends and family with lots of happy feedback.
However, our needs are specific and highly technical. Making and fixing computer networks is a significant chunk of my job. Information security is another huge chunk of it. We host servers in our house. And soon, our ISP1 will upgrade our Internet connection from 1Gbps to 10Gbps. eero has a few issues that complicate these uses:
- A persistent DHCP bug gives out the gateway eero's own IP as a DNS server (where it acts as a proxy), even if I configure custom DNS servers. This means that when I had a Pi-hole, most requests appeared to come from the eero itself and not the individual devices. Forget applying custom blocking policies to specific devices because there's no way to distinguish them.
- Hairpin NAT regularly breaks. If a device uses DNS to connect to a machine behind the eero gateway, say with Plex on an iPad configured to watch videos stored on a home server, it often works when I bring that device home and connect it to the same Wi-Fi as that server. For a while, at least. And then it won't until I remembered to reboot the whole network.
- The eero Pro 6 unit only has gigabit Ethernet jacks. If your Internet connection is faster than that, too bad. The newer eero Pro 6E units have single 2.5Gbps Ethernet jacks, which is almost worse. Although the gateway eero itself can have a 2.5Gbps Internet connection, it can't share the full speed of that connection with any other device.
- Its firewall settings are limited. I can either allow all remote hosts to connect to a specific port on an internal server, or not allow any hosts. I can't define rules like "allow connections to port 8080 from host A.B.C.D", or "block connections from North Korea". In practice, this means I have to set the eero to allow all traffic, then configure another firewall app on my server to enforce more tailored rules.
Enter the Firewalla Gold Plus. It's a freestanding firewall device with 4 2.5Gbps Ethernet jacks, and a phone (and web!) user interface that is as easy to use as eero's. I've plugged the Firewalla directly into our Internet connection, and the eero gateway plugs into the Firewalla. I put the eero network into bridge mode so it only has to handle the Wi-Fi mesh network. The Firewalla assumed all routing and firewall duties. The setup works perfectly:
- Firewalla's DHCP is more configurable and works correctly. Its DNS incorporates a lot of Pi-hole's functions like ad blocking and local DNS.
- Hairpin NAT works perfectly, or at least it hasn't broken yet in the few weeks since we got the device. I can connect to
myserver.example.comfrom my living room as easily as from Starbucks without reconfiguring anything when I travel between those networks.
- I don't have the equipment to test Firewalla's highest throughput yet. The box could max out at 1.1Gbps for all I could prove today. However, I doubt it. I can run benchmarks that pass 1Gbps of traffic in through 1 port and out through another without effort. Even if the Firewalla could only pass exactly 2.500Gbps through to the Internet connection, that would allow devices connected to the eero gateway to download at its current full 1Gbps speed while the new, separate wired LAN is also pulling another 1.5Gbps through it. For future improvement, it can bond pairs of Ethernet ports together to act as 5Gbps ports. That's not the top speed of the 10Gbps Internet connection, but it's faster than any devices I own today.
- The firewall settings are vastly more sophisticated. I can open inbound ports to specific IPs or subnets, named groups of hosts, or geographical regions. I can also block outbound connections. And unlike with eero, I get a detailed report of blocked and allowed connections.
If I didn't host a home server, or if I weren't quite so super-nitpicky about security settings, or if our brilliant ISP wasn't upgrading our connection from "hella fast" to "that's just ridiculous", our eero network would be fine as-is. I still happily recommend it to everyone I know. And despite my few complaints, I didn't need to add a Firewalla to our working system. That said, I'm happy I did. It elevated our already excellent little network to blissfulness.