Booting FreeBSD 11 with NVMe and ZFS on AMD Ryzen

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AMD Ryzen 03 FreeBSD 11 ZFS NVMe Title
AMD Ryzen 03 FreeBSD 11 ZFS NVMe Title

We recently took one of our test systems and tried an experiment: could we boot FreeBSD 11 from a NVMe SSD using ZFS root file system using AMD Ryzen. At STH we have many FreeBSD users and developers so when there is a new hardware class out, we tend to try it in FreeBSD and sometimes popular FreeBSD appliance OSes such as pfSense and FreeNAS. You can see an example with our Knights Landing Xeon Phi x200 system booting FreeBSD OSes. In our recent testing with AMD Ryzen we found major installers with the latest CentOS 7.3 and also had issues with Ubuntu crashing using current LTS image kernels. We wanted to see how FreeBSD would fare given it normally lags in terms of hardware support.

Testing AMD Ryzen Booting FreeBSD 11 with ZFS and NVMe

ZFS is a major feature for FreeBSD and FreeBSD 11 has better support for NVMe. In many OSes, booting from NVMe can be an issue, especially with new UEFI firmware and chipsets. ZFS is a popular feature with STH readers and the FreeBSD crowd so we tried that as well. We built a test system that you can read about in the STH Blue Ryzen System forum post. If you are a FreeBSD developer, this configuration works so it would be a good one to replicate.

The biggest issue we encountered was when we started powerd and tried using that to control CPU P-states. That gave a constant string of console errors. Our advice, do not install powerd until this gets patched. It seems like the AMD team has a lot of work to do on the software side, but until then, that is our workaround.

For those wondering, we did not try older FreeBSD kernels and pfSense 2.3.3 and FreeNAS 9.10 because we know newer versions are coming soon using FreeBSD 11.

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