Following the last blog entry, I got to interview Josh Paetzel, iXsystems' IT Director. For those who don't know, Josh is a FreeBSD ports and source committer, a member of the FreeBSD release engineering team, project manager and developer on the FreeNAS project, as well as the Director of IT at iXsystems.
His current projects involve working on FreeNAS 8.x releases. Josh says the most recent release, 8.0.4 beta2, has several incremental improvements. There are several bug fixes, as well as lower ZFS requirements for machines of lower specs (for home users using older hardware). Shadow Copy, a windows snapshot technology, is fully functional. It allows CIFS share users to see versions of their files from previous ZFS snapshots that were created by storage administrators at volume level.
Complete release notes can be found here.
Josh is also working on the highly-anticipated FreeNAS 8.2 release. The team has been concurrently developing 8.2 alongside 8.0.X releases. FreeNAS 8.2 will feature plugin support, multipathing, and command line interactions with ZFS synced with the GUI. He is optimistic that they will be able to announce the release in spring.
Josh notes that one of the most difficult aspects of FreeNAS is to comprehensively integrate iSCSI into the GUI. As he puts it, it's like putting together a 5000+ piece jigsaw puzzle. The end result is visible, but the process is very complex and sometimes tedious. There are lots of options involved: sometimes the developer team needs to go through a trial-and-error process, try different combinations, or “rotate” the pieces, in order to get the results they want. iSCSI FreeNAS is block-based storage virtualized from file-based storage. So it is conceptually more difficult to integrate than a file-based NAS protocol.
Looking forward to the future, Josh says that 2012 holds a lot of promise. He's eyeing infrastructure machines and plotting their migration to FreeBSD 9.0. A portion of the PC-BSD infrastructure is already running FreeBSD 9.0 thanks to hardware upgrades at ISC. For FreeNAS, he hopes that the software will be used by casual home users and professional businesses alike. He is confident that with the unlimited capacity offered by ZFS and a user-friendly GUI, FreeNAS will become a dominant player in the NAS field.
Many thanks to Josh for his insights and assistance with this post. Stay tuned for the next Developer's Corner blog!