Traffic Shaping in pfSense: Part Two

Traffic shaping in pfSense

Configuring interfaces in the pfSense traffic shaper wizard.

Wrapping a GUI around the underlying traffic shaping components in pfSense proved to be difficult. Lacking functionality in the underlying system in some areas also limits its capabilities. The traffic shaper was rewritten for pfSense 2.0 and accommodates multiple interfaces.

Traffic to the LAN IP is queued in the same manner as traffic traversing the firewall. If your web interface uses HTTPS, and your traffic shaper queue for HTTPS is filled, it will delay your traffic to the management interface the same as if your HTTPS request were going out to the Internet. If you use pings to the LAN IP from a monitoring system, you may see significant delay for the same reason.

In addition, the shaper is not capable of truly differentiating between protocols. Traffic using TCP port 80 is considered as HTTP, whether it’s really HTTP or it’s P2P application using port 80; traffic using port 443 is considered as HTTPS, and so on. This can be a significant problem in some cases.

Traffic Shaping in pfSense: A Brief Look at PF Rules

Traffic shaping functionality, as with everything else in pfSense, is provided by PF. If you’re willing to write your own rules, this gives you considerable flexibility in configuring traffic shaping. For example, consider the hypothetical from the first article in which there is a backlog of ACK packets on an asymmetric Internet connection. We want to alter the rule set so ACK packets have a higher priority than other packets, so we set up two separate data queues. The result might look something like this:


altq on $ext_if priq bandwidth 100Kb queue { q_pri, q_def }
    queue q_pri priority 7
    queue q_def priority 1 priq(default)

pass out on $ext_if proto tcp from $ext_if to any flags S/SA \
    keep state queue (q_def, q_pri)

pass in on $ext_if proto tcp from any to $ext_if flags S/SA \
    keep state queue (q_def, q_pri)

Here, a priority-based queue is set up on the external interface ($ext_if) with two subordinate queues. On subqueue has a high priority value of 7 (q_pri), while the other has a low priority value of 1 (q_def). Once a connection is assigned to the main queue, ALTQ inspects each packet’s type of service (ToS) field. ACK packets have the ToS Delay bit set to low, indicating that the sender wanted the speediest delivery possible. When ALTQ sees a low-delay packet and queues of differing priority are available, it will assign the packet to the higher-priority queue.

For those of us who don’t want to be bothered manually rewriting the rules, there’s the traffic shaper wizard. You can access the traffic shaper wizard from the pfSense web interface by navigating to Firewall -> Traffic Shaper and clicking on the Wizard tab. It is generally a good idea to configure traffic for the first time using the wizard. If you need custom rules, you can always step through the wizard, approximate what you need, then make the custom rules afterward. Each screen will setup unique queues, and rules that will control what traffic is assigned into those queues. Should you want to configure everything manually, simply specify your WAN speed at the first screen, then click Next through all the remaining screens without configuring anything.

In the next article, we’ll step though the pfSense traffic shaper wizard.

External Links:

Traffic Shaping Guide at

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