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

The Arrival of TrueNAS 9.3 | Fun Things to Do with FreeNAS | Replacing Failed HDDs | Issue #19

Written by Annie Zhang on .

Hello FreeNAS Users,

We’ve been busy working on TrueNAS 9.3 and we’re ready to unveil the results. We’re also sharing some new articles this month including an in-depth look at the FreeNAS Mini and a collection of unconventional ways to use FreeNAS.

The FreeNAS Team

The Release of TrueNAS 9.3
We’re proud to announce the best release of TrueNAS yet! Some of the new features in TrueNAS 9.3 include encrypted HA, configuration wizards, and an update manager that allows users to apply most future updates without rebooting. Read more >>
5 Fun Things to Do With FreeNAS
FreeNAS has countless uses and applications, but if you’re wondering what kind of fun you can have with it, here’s our roundup of five interesting ways to use FreeNAS. Read more >>

FreeBSD Journal
How to Replace Failed HDDs
It’s inevitable – one of the drives in your FreeNAS system sputters to a stop and fails. What do you do now? Our newest video tutorial demonstrates how to replace failed HDDs in FreeNAS 9.3. Check it out >>
Building a FreeNAS Home Server via Tested
Will Smith (not that one) of Tested recently built a home server using FreeNAS and wrote about his experience. He explains his build, the installation process, and how he configured the system.
FreeNAS at SCALE 13x
The FreeNAS team attended SCALE 13x in February. Check out photos of the team from day 1, day 2, & day 3 and our after-show recap. Dru Lavigne of the FreeNAS team also gave a presentation about the new features and changes in FreeNAS 9.3.
FreeNAS Certification Classes
We offer a free Intro to FreeNAS class that runs every day. For those of you interested in learning more about advanced topics, we also offer paid, fully interactive classes. Read more >>
6 Reasons Why TrueNAS is replacing NetApp and EMC – Free Webinar
What’s the difference between FreeNAS and TrueNAS? For the answer, we invite you to join Matt Olander, Co-Founder of iXsystems, in a free webinar about TrueNAS. Find out why people are making the switch from big-name, legacy storage vendors to TrueNAS. Read more >>
Live Events


TechTip #15
FreeNAS isn’t the only OS with boot environment snapshots – PC-BSD has them too!
Join the Team
iXsystems, the company that sponsors FreeNAS, is looking for a few good people to join our team. Interested? The full list of available positions can be found on our website.
Links of the Month



5 Fun Things to Do with FreeNAS

Written by Annie Zhang on .

If I asked the average user how they use FreeNAS, they’d probably answer “back up and store files”. While that’s both practical and important, it’s also a bit boring. The software is designed for small and home offices but if you’ve got a system at home, you’re probably wondering what kind of fun you can have with it.

To that end, we’ve rounded up five of the more interesting ways you can use FreeNAS. Some of the tutorials I’ll link to make the assumption you’ve already built and set up your system. If you need some help with that, check out our official FreeNAS guide to hardware design and the FreeNAS YouTube channel.

Many of these projects make extensive use of the plugins system. An overview of plugins and a full list of the ones available can be found in the FreeNAS documentation. The guides range from a simple plugin installation to some command line hacking so make sure you’re comfortable with the difficulty level before attempting any tutorial.

1. Set Up the Ultimate Entertainment Device

Media Streaming

FreeNAS is a file server by nature—in order to turn it into a media server, you’ll need to install a few plugins to allow the system to download and stream media.

There are several combinations of plugins you can install depending on the type of media you’ll be using—the most popular being Transmission (torrenting) and Plex Media Server (streaming). However, there are many other plugins that specialize in specific media types such as Firefly (music), Mylar (comic books), Sickbeard (TV shows), and CouchPotato (NZB/torrents).

If you need to stream to a DLNA device such as a PS3 or XBox One, you can install MiniDLNA by following this tutorial from joeschmuck of the FreeNAS forums.

2. Host a Personal Cloud

OwncloudWith some of the horror stories out there about privacy breaches, some people are understandably on edge about handing over their documents and photos to a third-party. Now you can set up a secure personal cloud on FreeNAS that only you and authorized users have access to. Once you get OwnCloud set up, it’s like having a personal Dropbox. The easiest way to do this is through the official plugin located in the Plugin tab.

For more control, you can also configure OwnCloud manually—there are several ways to do that. Here’s a video tutorial from DrKK of the forums for his method and the corresponding forum thread.

Here’s an alternative method from Josh Parker Ruehlig who wrote many of the FreeNAS plugins.

3. Share and Distribute Files Privately

In a similar vein, you can also use FreeNASbittorrent-sync-logo to share files and pictures with friends and family with the Bittorrent Sync plugin. It functions a bit like Dropbox but BTSync is a peer-to-peer sharing application—unlike the cloud, all the files are stored locally on each device and updated when changes are made. This is useful for sharing photos or files across several computers regardless of size. Because you’ll be downloading from many sources, it’s also vastly faster than a cloud.

Here’s our official video tutorial for setting up BTsync. It’s relatively straightforward, and it explains in step-by-step detail how to configure FreeNAS first and then set up the plugin.

4. Set up a Private Voice Chat Server

mumbleYou can configure a FreeNAS system with Mumble. If you’re not familiar with Mumble, it’s an Open Source voice over IP application that enables you to voice chat with friends over a private and secure system. There’s no limit to how many people can join a particular chat; the maximum depends on the particular server.

This particular project takes some effort to set up. This tutorial again comes courtesy of DrKK and demonstrates how to set up your own Murmur server using FreeNAS.

5. Deploy a Minecraft Server

minecraftLove Minecraft? You’ll be happy to know you can configure your FreeNAS system to host a Minecraft server. Josh Parker Ruehlig, the person responsible for the FreeNAS MineOS plugin, created a video and forum thread to demonstrate how to set it up. As he points out, the MineOS plugin gives you the advantage of being able to manage your servers via a web UI.

Prior to the plugin, you had to install Minecraft from scratch into a jail. Alternatively, you can do just that as community member Cyberjock demonstrates in this tutorial.

A Few Final Notes

First and foremost, it’s up to you to secure your system, follow best practices, and make sure your data recovery plan is adequate. None of these projects mean very much if your files are compromised or corrupted by malware.

For more project ideas, I highly recommend browsing the FreeNAS forums and signing up for an account. It’s a huge repository of great information. If you’re confused about a topic, post or do a search in the forums. Chances are you’ll find something or someone to help you.

This is just the beginning of what you can do with FreeNAS. The DIY aspect of FreeNAS means that there are literally thousands of iterations of hardware combinations and use cases. Keep in mind the FreeNAS plugin system is based on FreeBSD jails and the PBI system from PC-BSD which means advanced users can install any software they want using the FreeBSD package tools, opening up even more possibilities for your NAS.