Following one beta and five release candidates (RC’s), FreeNAS 8.0-RELEASE has been made availabe earlier this week by iXsystems, the corporate sponser behind the FreeNAS Project. The last stable release was FreeNAS 0.7.2 (Sabanda), released mid-October 2010.
FreeNAS is a popular FreeBSD-based network storage server (NAS) that includes a full web based GUI, with support for FTP, NFS, CIFS (Samba), AFP, rsync, iSCSI protocols and software RAID (0,1,5).
FreeNAS 8 includes major architectural optimisations and is more modular than previous versions. To make the system easier to use, the GUI has been redesigned and rebuilt using Python and the Django web framework.
Highlights include better Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) and Common Internet File System (CIFS) configurations, as well as reworked and improved iSCSI support. Other changes include the addition of a volume importer, support for 6gbps 3Ware RAID controllers and GUI access via the HTTPS protocol.
The ZFS and UFS2 filesystems are both supported, but ZFS is the primary filesystem (ZFS on FreeBSD videos) which comes with many features, including quotas, snapshots, compression and replication that are not available in UFS2.
FreeNAS 8 requires a device of at least 1Gb in size and should be installed to a USB stick or Compact Flash device. Unlike previous versions, the drive that FreeNAS is installed on cannot be used as a component for a volume, nor can it be partitioned for sharing.
Upgrades from FreeNAS 0.7.x are unsupported as “the system has no way to import configuration settings from 0.7 versions of FreeNAS”. However, the volume importer “should” be able to handle volumes created with FreeNAS 0.7.
The FreeNAS stable versioning numbers have changed from 0.7.x to 8.0 to reflect the version number of the underlying FreeBSD base version. This version of FreeNAS (8) version is based on FreeBSD 8.2, but it is called 8.0 as there are near-future plans to add functionality that will get the versions caught up. Once FreeNAS 8.2 is out, a suffix will be added, such as 8.2.1 and 8.2.2.
FreeNAS was originally started by Olivier Cochard-Labbé, though Volker Theile became the core developer. After a while he realised that due to the way FreeNAS was written and developed, he was hitting a number of limitations. Developing on Debian in his day job, he decided that the future of FreeNAS would be Linux/Debian based, and he started an intermediate Network Attached Storage (NAS) project called CoreNAS in November 2009. Many happy FreeNAS users and FreeBSD supporters were somewhat disappointed with this decision as the new version would not be FreeBSD-based and there would be no way to upgrade from a FreeBSD version to the new Debian-based version.
When the future and the direction of FreeNAS ware all uncertain, iXsystems stepped in and ‘took over’ the Project, similar to what it did with PC-BSD back in 2006.
As Mr Theiler realised, FreeNAS was not modularly built and difficult to expand with plugins and new features. Another limitation of the ‘old FreeNAS’ was that it was based on m0n0wall, an all-in-one firewall software package based on FreeBSD geared towards embedded PCs.
When iX took over the management and the developement of FreeNAS, it was decided that future FreeNAS versions had to be small, modular, extendible and also geared for use in large companies and data centres. The new base for FreeNAS would therefore not be m0n0wall, but NanoBSD (8.0)
Highlights, features and major improvements
- based on nanoBSD rather than Monowall
- design was changed from monolithic to modularised to allow for the creation of modules to add features and to allow users to only install/configure the modules they need
- Rewritten GUI, which is now based on Python, Django framework and SQLite3 to allow for future expansion
- new TreeMenu GUI is now the default.
- Improved tools for managing ownership/group/permissions of volumes and datasets
- migrated to rc.d init system
- ports updated to FreeBSD 8.0
- iSCSI boot/install support added (experimental)
- kernel modules to support several RAID controllers were added
- optimised CIFS settings to improve performance
- link aggreggation (LAGG) has been tested and is working
- disk space utilization shows in the volume overview
- GUI access via HTTP or HTTPS
- link aggregations can be created and configured from the CLI interface
- ZFS parameters per dataset, such as quotas, were added
- ZFS updated to version 15
- enhanced ZFS support that delivers enterprise filesystem performance and management, thin provisioning, unlimited system snapshots, uncompromising data integrity, remote replication for disaster-recovery backups, and practically limitless capacity
- added the ability to create periodic snapshot jobs, create one-time snapshots, clone snapshots which can then be exported as shares like any other dataset, and rollback to a previous snapshot
- added the ability to edit ZFS options from the GUI such as quotas, compression, reservations on existing volumes and datasets
- ability to create “stacked” ZFS configurations in the GUI as well as add devices to existing ZFS volumes
- redesigned installer based on (PC-BSD’s) pc-sysinstall Installer, allowing to install FreeNAS on a USB-Flash, CompactFlash, or other storage devices
- Support for iTunes/DAAP streaming, BitTorrent and UPnP have not yet been implemented
In addition to the new release, iXsystems has created a brand-new web site: www.freenas.org. The location of the forums and wiki, however, remain unchanged. A new community page has been created on Facebook (Facebook FreeNAS community) and tweets from the FreeNAS team can be followed at #FreeNASTeam.
Thoughts and Suggestions
It is known that iXsystems is working a enterprise version of FreeNAS 8, the so called RAIDzilla project. From this perspective it is understandable that the newly released version is aimed at companies by providing enterprise-class services. Unfortunately, some “home user” functionalities, such as iTunes/DAAP, BitTorrent, and UPnP have been taken out. These features will be added as plugins at a later date.
I hope that plugins will be made available (also) as PBI packages, so iX can showcase the PBI technology and proof that PBI installation packages are not something just for PC-BSD, but also for other FreeBSD based systems. As of this week PBI’s can be installed in FreeBSD (PBI Manager now available in FreeBSD Ports). The new website looks very professional and similarly themed to the iXsystems website (old FreeNAS website here).
For the sake of consistency and branding, iXsystems should integrate all FreeNAS related pages, the FreeNAS wiki, sourceforge pages (release messages, bug tracker, forums) into the new theme. I like the integration of the ‘live’ Twitter tweets and IRC chat room. Pretty cool.
Update: iXsystems has put a FreeNAS 8.1 roadmap up. The missing plugins will be taken care off in the next version.
FreeN?AS is a free, open source, network attached storage (NAS) server based on a custom version of FreeBSD (nanobsd) with support for many network protocols (CIFS (Samba), FTP, NFS, rsync, AFP, iSCSI), S.M.A.R.T., local user authentication, and software RAID (0,1,5), with a full web configuration graphical user interface (GUI). FreeNAS allows the rapid deployment of a NAS system that is fully configurable through a web interface, offering a software-based storage and backup solution for a variety of applications, from home to enterprise.