Open source identity: FreeNAS 8's Josh Paetzel

We talk to FreeNAS 8 project manager Josh Paetzel about the open source operating system's future

FreeNAS 8 uses a Django-driven GUI.

FreeNAS 8 uses a Django-driven GUI.

Looking ahead to 8.1, what features can people expect to be added? And farther down the track?

FreeNAS 8.1 will see the addition of a plug-in system that will allow the hackers to hack away at and customise their system. That's really going back to FreeNAS's roots.

The first plug-in we introduce will be a multimedia pack, which should get back the functionality that people use FreeNAS for at home.

We've been playing around with active/active failover, seeing if we can take a bite out of some higher end products. That's a hard problem to solve, and likely we won't do it as well as an EMC does, but if we can do it 99 per cent as well for 15 per cent of the cost there seems to be some demand for that.

ZFS v28 will make an appearance sooner or later, which will bring things like dedup and a detachable ZIL with it. If Oracle open sources ZFS v30 like they have said they will, we'll eventually get that as well, which brings with it filesystem encryption.

Do you have any idea of the install base? In a blog entry 48 hours after 8 was released, you said you were getting 890 downloads an hour...

When I looked yesterday there had been over 120,000 downloads of FreeNAS 8.0-Release. I have no idea how many of those have resulted in installs, what I can say is that my email, IRC, twitter, and every other form of electronic communication I have is pretty much swamped with FreeNAS-related stuff. Oftentimes I have to ignore it all and just keep plugging away in order to get anything done.

iXsystems is a sponsor of FreeNAS as well as your employer -- how does this relationship work? What's the commercial return iXsystems sees in FreeNAS' development?

iXsystems has been really good to both me and the FreeNAS community. They've essentially given me a team and a cheque book and said "Go build something." Obviously they'd like to see a return on that and are doing what they can to leverage FreeNAS to be a profitable venture for them, but so far it's been a labour of love with very little return.

I am pushed by the community to produce something that meets their needs, and also pushed by iXsystems to produce something that they can use to finance further FreeNAS development. Sometimes those needs are compatible, sometimes not. I think the end result so far is a good start and shows a lot of promise to meet everyone's expectations.

How large is the development community around FreeNAS? Do the key developers all work for iXsystems, or do you have significant community input in terms of patches etc.?

I have regular contact with the FreeNAS 0.7 developers. They have a lot of experience with the existing userbase, their wants and needs. I think the current state of affairs is that they are continuing to work on what they are familiar with, which is FreeNAS 0.7, and are welcome to work on FreeNAS 8 any time they wish.

Obviously from a development standpoint a lot has changed, and it doesn't help that the development documentation for FreeNAS 8 is at best lacking. For the time being there's a lot of value in having two FreeNAS versions with different focuses.

As FreeNAS 8 gains more of the media centre type functionality it's possible the development efforts will all be spent on a single version. The beauty of open source software is people are free to work on what interests them. As far as community efforts, there have been some fairly decent contributions from the community, in code, translation and testing.

The majority of the development is sponsored by iXsystems, but as the product gets more and more polished the contributions from the community have been more frequent. iXsystems funds five full time developers working on FreeNAS 8. There are at least two fairly active people in the community working on FreeNAS 0.7, and another half dozen or so people contributing code to both projects. There are a few dozen people working on the translation efforts, and another couple dozen people who are heavily involved in testing and feedback.

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Tags open sourcestoragebsdnetwork-attached storageopen source identityFreeNASNetwork-Attached Storage (NAS)FreeBSD

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