The Advantages of Building Your Own Router with Compute Module

In modern homes and offices, routers have become indispensable devices. They not only connect multiple devices to the internet but also play important roles in data traffic management and network security. However, common routers on the market often have fixed functions and limited expandability, making it difficult for many users with special needs to have a satisfactory user experience. With the development of hardware technology, more and more people are beginning to seek to build custom routers using other hardware, such as PCs, SBCs, and Compute Modules. This article will focus on introducing the advantages of building routers using Computer Modules (Computer on Module, abbreviated as CoM). This solution not only offers high flexibility and scalability but can also be customized according to the specific needs of users, ensuring optimal performance of network devices.



Common Platforms for Building Routers

Under normal circumstances, the construction of a router primarily relies on a computer equipped with at least two network interfaces, one for connecting to the internet and another for connecting to the local network. This computer could be a desktop, a laptop, or a single-board computer such as Raspberry Pi, LattePanda, etc. These devices require the installation of an operating system capable of supporting routing functions, such as Windows, Linux, or BSD, followed by the execution of router software like OpenWrt or pfSense.


In the realm of single-board computers, the Compute Module stands out for its exceptional customizability in router applications. Compared to other single-board computers, the Compute Module offers a wider range of customization options, enabling it to better meet specific requirements. In the following discussion, we will focus on the advantages of the Compute Module in router applications.


About Compute Module

Compute modules (CoMs) architecture-based are complete embedded computers built on a single circuit board. The design is centered on a microprocessor with RAM, input/output controllers and all other features needed to be a functional computer on the one board. However, unlike a single-board computer, the COM usually lacks the standard connectors for any input/output peripherals to be attached directly to the board. The module usually needs to be mounted on a carrier board (or "baseboard") which breaks the bus out to standard peripheral connectors.


The Compute Module, as a highly integrated and compact single-board computer, boasts outstanding performance and flexibility. It is equipped with an efficient processor and ample memory to meet a variety of complex computational demands. Additionally, the miniaturized design and low power consumption characteristics of the Compute Module make it an ideal choice for fields such as the Internet of Things (IoT), embedded systems, and mobile devices.

Figure: Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4


Advantages of Using the Compute Module as a Router


1. High Expandability and Customizability

In router applications, core interfaces are vital for performance. An effective router needs to be able to support multiple network connections, offer sufficient data processing power, and feature flexible data storage options. Key interfaces include:

· Multiple Ethernet ports: for managing diverse network traffic and segmenting networks.

· High-speed data processing interfaces: such as PCIe, for rapid data transfer and efficient network communications.

· Expanded storage interfaces: like SATA or NVMe, to enhance local data storage and caching capabilities.


However, using standard computers or single-board computers as routers has certain limitations. These devices usually come with fixed hardware configurations and layouts, which limit the user’s ability to customize and optimize according to specific network needs. For example, they may lack sufficient network interfaces or not support high-speed data processing interfaces, which can restrict the performance and scalability of the router.


In contrast, the Compute Module offers significant advantages in terms of expandability and customizability. Its modular design allows users to easily connect various hardware components and peripherals to achieve customized configurations. The Compute Module supports standard interfaces and slots, enabling users to add network interface cards, storage devices, encryption cards, and other modules as per their expansion needs. Furthermore, the support for a variety of interfaces and communication protocols, including PCIe, USB, GPIO, and more, enhances connectivity with external devices and sensors, facilitating the integration of wireless networks, IoT devices, and embedded sensors.


The flexibility and efficiency of the Compute Module make deploying routers more convenient. Users can select hardware configurations flexibly based on network size and specific requirements, and design and customize carrier boards, including wiring, interface configuration, and dimensions, thus avoiding unnecessary features and extra costs. This tailored design not only allows the router to better adapt to specific network environments but also provides more efficient and reliable network services.


For instance, LattePanda Mu, an x86 compute module featuring an Intel N100 processor. In its current release version, it has 8GB of memory and 64GB of storage. Compatible with Windows and Linux, it allows users to design and integrate custom carrier boards, enabling a rich assortment of interfaces, including 3 HDMI/DisplayPort ports, 8 USB 2.0 ports, up to 4 USB 3.2 ports, and 9 PCIe 3.0 lanes.


LattePanda Compute Module

Figure: LattePanda Compute Module


2. Low Power Consumption and Small Size

In the deployment of routers, hardware that is small in size and low in power consumption is of great significance. Devices with a small footprint can more easily adapt to various environments, especially in homes or small offices where space is often a limiting factor. Compact hardware can be effortlessly installed in inconspicuous places, such as on a shelf or mounted on a wall, without compromising the aesthetics of the environment or occupying excessive space. Low power consumption means lower operational costs and minimal heat generation, which are crucial for maintaining the device's long-term stable operation and reducing the need for cooling.


Traditional desktops and servers have clear disadvantages in terms of size and power efficiency. These devices are typically large and occupy significant space, making them unsuitable for deployment in environments with limited space. Moreover, their power consumption is relatively high, which not only increases electricity costs but may also necessitate additional cooling solutions. Over prolonged operation, these factors can lead to a significant increase in the total cost of ownership, especially in times of rising energy prices.


Compared to traditional desktops or servers, the Compute Module's low power consumption and compact design bring significant advantages to router applications. The power consumption of a Compute Module is typically low, generally ranging between 3-7 watts, which is far less than the usual 35-45 watts of a standard laptop. This means that using a Compute Module as a router can significantly reduce energy consumption under the same network load, thus saving on operational costs.


Additionally, the Compute Module is usually much smaller in size compared to traditional desktops or servers. For example, the Raspberry Pi CM4 measures just 55 x 40 x 4.7 millimeters. LattePanda x86 compute module is as small as a credit card. This allows the Compute Module to be more easily arranged and deployed in limited spaces, making it suitable for router applications in home and small office environments. Whether placed on a shelf, hung on a wall, or installed in a cramped cabinet, the Compute Module can provide excellent performance and functionality.


LattePanda Mu: credit-card size

Figure: LattePanda Mu: credit-card size


3. Software Compatibility

The importance of software compatibility for routers cannot be underestimated. routers rely on software to carry out network routing functions, and different software solutions offer varying features and capabilities such as security, user interface, and customization options. Hardware platforms that can support a variety of operating systems and router software provide users with a broader range of choices, allowing them to select the most suitable software according to their specific needs and preferences. This flexibility is crucial for adapting to constantly changing network demands and security landscapes, and it also helps to extend the lifespan of the hardware, as users can update the software at any time to meet new technological standards.


The Compute Module has significant advantages in terms of software compatibility, especially the x86 architecture-based compute module. Taking LattePanda Mu as an example, it can support a variety of operating systems, including Linux and Windows. This broad operating system support means that users can easily run various popular router software, such as OpenWrt and pfSense, to achieve a high degree of customization and optimization. Such compatibility not only provides users with greater flexibility but also enables the hardware platform to adapt to various application scenarios and network configuration requirements.


Compute Modules (CoMs) often support open-source operating systems and software and benefit from the support of a large developer community and ecosystem. For instance, the Raspberry Pi is renowned for its strong community support. Users can easily access community resources to obtain technical support, engage in discussions, and download the latest updates, fixes, and feature enhancements. This open-source ecosystem not only promotes the continuous improvement and innovation of software but also ensures that users can quickly respond to security vulnerabilities and performance issues, greatly enhancing the reliability and user experience of the router.


4. High Performance

The performance of a router directly impacts the processing capability and efficiency of a network. With the increasing volume of data transfer today, routers require sufficient processing speed and memory capacity to effectively manage and forward large amounts of network traffic. Moreover, to provide secure services such as firewalls, intrusion detection, and virtual private networks (VPNs), routers also need to have strong computational power. High-performance routers can ensure low latency and high throughput even under heavy loads, thereby providing users with a stable and reliable network experience.


As technology advances, an increasing number of high-performance compute modules (CoMs) are appearing on the market, offering performance that far exceeds that of typical routers. For instance, the LattePanda Mu x86 compute module is equipped with an Intel chip, featuring a quad-core, four-thread processor. This type of processor can provide higher computational power and processing speed compared to the processors typically found in standard routers, enabling the router to handle network traffic and routing tasks more effectively.



The Compute Modules (CoMs) offer numerous advantages as a router. Its high expandability and customizability enable users to configure and customize hardware according to specific needs. The low power consumption and small size of the Compute Module make it highly suitable for energy-saving and space-limited environments. Furthermore, the Compute Module widely adopts open-source operating systems and software, supported by a vast developer community and ecosystem, where users can obtain support, engage in discussions, and receive software updates and fixes. Lastly, with the emergence of high-performance Compute Modules on the market, routers can provide greater computational power and processing speeds to meet the growing network demands. These advantages make the Compute Module an ideal choice in the field of routers and play a significant role in various network environments.