Author Archive

FreeNAS in Production

Written by Annie Zhang on .

I work as a Network Administrator in a shop where we deploy 60+ ESXi VMs on a half dozen host servers.  We heard about FreeNAS from my predecessor who implemented it where he is now employed.  My boss asked me to evaluate FreeNAS as it is time to replace one of our existing SANs.  I installed FreeNAS 9.3 on an old IBM server and took the four 3-hour FreeNAS classes from Linda Kateley. I then dove in head first with a new 4U SuperMicro SAN with dual Intel CPUs, 128GB EEC RAM, twenty 4TB SAS HDDs and a handful of consumer grade SSDs.  The important lessons learned are:

  1. Buy big RAM chips so you have available slots if you need more RAM.
  2. eMLC SSDs cost more but they are definitely better than off the shelf SSDs.
  3. There is a 4X & 5X FreeNAS rule that states you want 4 or 5 times as many gigabytes of SSD capacity for cache as you have gigabytes of RAM.  I always go big so we deployed the 8X rule.
  4. Download FreeNAS and install it on a test platform and then take Linda Kateley’s four paid and one free interactive online class to get started.  The FreeNAS forum is wonderful as long as you research your questions before posting.
  5. RAID cards are not needed but if you want an LSI RAID card make sure you flash it to IT (pass through mode).  LSI support & the FreeNAS forum were great in guiding me to the correct utilities I needed for my LSI SAS 9211-8i Host Bus Adapter.
  6. If you want the lights to work correctly on the front of a SuperMicro SAN use only SAS HDDs.

A very knowledgeable admin on the FreeNAS forum sent me a quote that is quite appropriate:  “It’s like a learning cliff.  We know.”  That said, Linda’s class made it much more like a steep hill and very manageable.
Currently I have the fastest SAN I have ever had the pleasure of working with and all the hard work pays off when you see you have maxed out your state of the art fiber gigabit network.

Dale Josephson
Network Administrator
Karuk Tribe

We’re Expanding!

Written by Annie Zhang on .

As you may know, last year saw an increase in demand for our storage and server products and that demand continues to grow. When we started out, we were just a small group of close-knit people. Over the years, we steadily added more and more talent to our company and before we knew it, we had grown to over 100 employees.

Of course, with that growth comes challenges. To put it simply, we don’t have enough space for employees to sit.

We had this problem about a year ago, so we renovated the software engineering area to add more desks. But here we are, out of space again. Some suggested using a double-tiered desk, but clearer heads prevailed with the solution of acquiring a second building.

doubledesker

Meet our second office. It will be the new home of FreeNAS as well as house TrueNAS software engineering and support. It’s down the same road from our current office. We’re not moving, just expanding. The iXsystems headquarters office is unchanged, as is our contact information.

The obvious benefit of this expansion is that people will have their own work spaces again and as we hire new employees, they will have a place to sit. The expansion will also allow us to cluster departments together.

It will be finished shortly. We expect to finish it in the next few months. When we’re all settled in, we’ll let you know, so feel free to drop by and check it out.

The History (and Future) of FreeNAS & TrueNAS

Written by Annie Zhang on .

The FreeNAS project got its start way back in 2005, when Olivier Cochard-Labbé wanted to turn his old PC into a home server. There wasn’t an open source project that fit all of his needs, so he did what any self-respecting software developer would do: he sat down and wrote his own. Just like that, the software that would eventually become the world’s most popular open source software defined storage was born.

History of FreeNAS

Development continued until 2009, when one of the project developers proposed moving FreeNAS to a Debian Linux based system. This move would have meant losing access to the FreeBSD community and the overall quality of its software, and FreeNAS would also lose its native ZFS support, since the ZFS On Linux project didn’t even exist at that time. iXsystems had used FreeNAS for many years and sold servers specifically made for FreeNAS, so Matt Olander, one of the iXsystems founders, reached out to Olivier and offered to take over FreeNAS development on FreeBSD. Olivier gave his blessing, and iXsystems started immediately working on FreeNAS 8. In order to modernize FreeNAS, the development team at iXsystems rewrote almost all the code and replaced the m0n0wall PHP code with a full featured, easy-to-use webGUI.

From there, iXsystems continued to improve the FreeNAS code and add new features. A new plugin system was introduced in FreeNAS 8.3 that allows users to install ports, packages and PBI’s and extend the use of the system. In March 2013, with the release of 8.3.1, FreeNAS became the first and only open source storage project to offer encryption with ZFS. In the most recent 9.3 release, we redesigned the UI again, moved to ZFS completely, and added the ability to boot from multiple boot environments and roll-back updates or other configuration changes. It also added the ability to automatically check for updates, added support for NFSv4, supports booting from multiple boot environments, and makes it easier to roll-back updates or apply other configuration changes.

There’s a smooth continuum between FreeNAS development and our for-profit work. The time we put into open source supports projects around the globe. It also supports the company because the software is directly incorporated into our storage offerings. The feedback and bug reports we get from the FreeNAS open source community allow us to refine our software and deliver that refinement to our customers – other storage companies only wish they had access to the QA resources we do!

The first generation of the TrueNAS storage appliance launched in August 2011 and, since then, we have launched the second generation of TrueNAS appliances. In late 2014, we also unveiled our all-flash TrueFlash system.

There are very big things planned for the future of FreeNAS. FreeNAS 10 will feature a dramatic overhaul of the user interface, completely rewritten underpinnings, and a re-base on FreeBSD 10.x. Overall, it will be far more responsive and intuitive to use, feature many more Enterprise level storage features, and offer greatly enhanced reporting and monitoring options. We think long-time FreeNAS users will be quite impressed by it.

We are also releasing frequent incremental updates for FreeNAS 9.3 while the community waits for FreeNAS 10 to hit its initial release milestones in 9-12 months. We promise the wait will be worth it!

Jordan Hubbard
FreeNAS Project Manager and iXsystems CTO