I know a large portion of STH readers use FreeNAS for their storage needs. For those who need a bit of background, FreeNAS is a wildly popular FreeBSD NAS OS supported by iXsystems. FreeNAS Corral launched about a month ago. Since then, Jordan Hubbard the lead on the project departed the company. It seems like that vacuum has had some consequence. The FreeNAS team after over a year of development on FreeNAS Corral decided to essentially call it quits on the new release.
You can read the full announcement here, but I am going to provide you with the highlights and some observations.
FreeNAS Corral “Stable” to “Technology Preview”
There are very few times that a company comes out with a new release after multiple betas, calling it the new Stable, only to downgrade it to a Technology Preview four weeks later. That seems to be what happened.
Here is a summary of the announcement’s description of what happened:
- FreeNAS Corral was the project of a now departed project lead
- When the lead left, the team supporting the old 9.10 codebase won an internal discussion of whether to support the new platform or to integrate features into the old system
- The UI was based on a niche kit instead of a widely used standard so that was seen as a major hindrance as well as some items under the hood
- A decision was made to essentially abandon Corral and instead build on the legacy code base.
For users that is bad. Having done large go/no-go decisions in consulting (e.g. one where I watched a ~$6B divestiture get canned due to commodity pricing as an example) these are very emotional decisions that are not taken likely. For the iXsystems team, I am sure the process was gut wrenching.
Why This is Killer
In the last two hours since the announcement, I have already received over a dozen e-mails asking if we could explore other NAS OSes. Our initial read is that we have a lot of readers spooked by trusting storage that is reverting after a month.
The next FreeNAS 9.10.3 release is expected to be out next month. For users actively utilizing VMs and Docker functionality within FreeNAS Corral, you are essentially stuck. Rolling back means losing those VMs. In fact, Cliff’s guide on Ubiquiti UniFi on FreeNAS STH published today we can no longer recommend undertaking.
Also, as of now, we can no longer recommend FreeNAS for any type of hyper-converged appliance. We know many of our readers were using VMs/ Docker functionality. At this point, we are going to say it is time to halt those ambitions for a few quarters. The move from FreeNAS 9.10 to Corral saw the depreciation of jails for running workloads a month ago. Four weeks later, the VM/ Docker functionality now has an ETA of May with FreeNAS 9.10.3 version until we get some of that functionality back. For those considering doing work in the meantime, this warning is in the announcement:
“This also means it is unlikely you will be able to migrate configuration settings from Corral -> the next FreeNAS Corral product (however, your data will always be importable).” [emphasis added]
What STH Will Do
We hear your comments and are taking feedback as to how STH will proceed in terms of coverage. We did have a series about FreeNAS Corral coming out soon and will likely shelf that and use resources to explore potential alternative storage options. FreeNAS is still a great system that we really like, however, the idea of having time in limbo we know is scary and having weeks of essentially throw-away work building VMs in Corral is painful.
Alas, FreeNAS still provides a ton of value for its users and is still the best free option out there. You should be able to roll-back to FreeNAS 9.10 with a major caveat. The great features like bhyve VMs and Docker containers we know many folks have been using will not stick.
Head to the STH forums if you are looking for alternatives, help to migrate or want to share what you are doing moving forward.