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The open source FreeBSD operating systems is out this week with a new release expanding support for the ZFS filesystem and improving disk encryption performance.
The FreeBSD 8.2 release is the first FreeBSD release in 2011 and follows the 8.1 release, which debuted in July of 2010. Alongside the 8.2 release, FreeBSD 7.4 is also being released, marking the final release in the FreeBSD 7.x branch.
ZFS (Zettabyte File System) is an open source technology that was first developed by Sun and debuted in Solaris 10. FreeBSD has been including ZFS since the FreeBSD 7.0 release and has been steadily improving the performance, features and usability ever since. FreeBSD developer Josh Paetzel told InternetNews.com that ZFS support has been vastly improved FreeBSD 8.2 including numerous bug fixes and improvements. Paetzel is also the director of IT for systems vendor iXsystems.
"FreeBSD 8 is autotuning in a lot of areas, and the autotuning for ZFS has been improved," Paetzel said. "People who are using ZFS heavily generally were already running 8-STABLE because it was superior to 8.1. 8.2 rolls up those changes into a release."
ZFS had been developed in the open by Sun as part of the OpenSolaris project. Since being acquired by Oracle, OpenSolaris is no longer alive, but that isn't going to stop FreeBSD from furthering ZFS development.
"Having seen the writing on the wall some time ago, we started a coalition of several interested companies before OpenSolaris went EOL," Matt Olander CTO at iXsystems and a FreeBSD contributor, told InternetNews.com. "This coalition is invested in maintaining FreeBSD and ZFS technology. We are actively working together to make sure that ZFS has a very secure future on FreeBSD."
Olander noted that besides iXsystems he was not at liberty to name the other companies, though he hinted that some of them are fairly large and successful. He added that he is also aware of other efforts to maintain OpenSolaris specifically for ZFS.
"It's my belief that in time, FreeBSD will become the de facto platform for ZFS as we already have all the pieces and don't have to maintain an operating system just to keep working on a filesystem," Olander said.
While ZFS is a key feature improvement in FreeBSD 8.2, it's not the only one. There is also support for a feature known as AESNI (Advanced Encryption Standard Instructions) which is an Intel technology.
"AESNI gives you access to the native crypto processors on Intel core i5 and i7 processors," Paetzel said. "For people running things like disk encryption, this is a huge improvement. In many cases disk performance reaches near native speed, as opposed to being CPU bound."
The final FreeBSD 7.x release is also out this week with FreeBSD 7.4. The FreeBSD 7.x branch was first released in February of 2008. It has since been supplanted by FreeBSD 8.x.
Paetzel noted that the end of life (EOL) for a FreeBSD branch is two years past the release date of the final release. As such, since FreeBSD 7.4 is the last release in the 7 branch, EOL will be in February 2013, at which point all support will stop.
Though the FreeBSD 7.x is near the end of its life, that doesn't necessarily mean that users need to migrate to FreeBSD 8.x
"If you are to put yourself in the shoes of a FreeBSD 7 user, migration really becomes a question of, what's my compelling reason to migrate?," Paetzel said. "ZFS is far superior in 8 as compared to 7, but realistically, if that's your compelling reason you've probably already migrated."
Paetzel noted that BSD UNIX has at its core a tradition of conservatism, and there are going to a large number of users who simply won't migrate until they are forced to.
"I received an email last week from a guy who had just finished deploying a few hundred FreeBSD 4.11 servers recently, and that went out of support in 2006," Paetzel said.