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Important announcement regarding FreeNAS Corral

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Kris Moore

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tl;dr: FreeNAS Corral as it was originally released is being relegated to “TECHNOLOGY PREVIEW” status while we work hard to re-base its exciting new features upon the rock-solid FreeNAS 9.10 base.


As many of you diehard FreeNAS® users know, we released FreeNAS Corral on March 15th, and the initial Community response was largely positive. There was a lot of excitement around the updated UI and the VM/Docker support, especially. However, we’ve also seen nearly half of the initial users revert back to FreeNAS 9.10. User feedback about this drop-off has been clear: challenges upgrading from 9.10, general instability, lack of feature parity with 9.10 (Jails, iSCSI, etc), and some users experiencing lower performance than expected given the increased demands FreeNAS Corral has on system hardware resources. With the subsequent departure of the FreeNAS Corral project lead, we re-examined the features, benefits, and issues with Corral and have decided to revise our plan for its future.

Before we communicate this new plan of record, a little background is probably in order. As some of you may know, the FreeNAS Corral GUI was built on MontageJS framework, originally working alongside the team at Montage Studios. Unfortunately, during the development of the product, the Montage Studio team disbanded, and the development of the MontageJS framework slowed to a crawl (this explains some of the browser incompatibility we’ve seen). So, our first goal following the release was to begin remaking the FreeNAS Corral UI (yes, yet again! …. /sigh) by basing the same UX on a more common framework. Not a huge deal, really, just some extra UI work for the team, but this time with a more common framework, allowing for faster development and more opportunity for contribution from the community. Once that new framework was in place for the UI, the next phase was to begin merging the FreeNAS 9 and FreeNAS Corral code bases and Engineering Teams.

However, in response to the volume of mixed feedback from the user community since release, we decided to undergo a thorough engineering review of the product and started to look deeper into the Plan 9 filesystem code, which allows VMs to access the host’s filesystem. In doing so, we discovered some holes in the architecture which make enterprise-quality file access using 9pfs impossible without a lot more effort and soak time, prompting us to to also re-think how to more safely enable this capability.

After weighing community feedback, and much internal deliberation at iX, we have decided that the amount of work still required to bring FreeNAS Corral (as currently architected) up to an acceptable standard for quality, reliability, and data integrity will take an unreasonable amount of time. The quicker path to a properly stable and enterprise-worthy Corral is to rebase upon the solid FreeNAS 9.10 code, bringing some of the new features that the current FreeNAS Corral offers into a more mature and solid platform. This process has already begun with the inclusion of VM container support and a brand-new Angular-based UI which is already available in the 9.10 nightlies (more on this below).

For the time being, the current release of FreeNAS Corral will be treated as an experimental branch and repositioned from “RELEASE” to “TECHNOLOGY PREVIEW” status, available for download and experimentation by the adventurous among you, but not for use in production environments. 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).

This new direction will allow us to focus our efforts on our next release which will merge the legendary stability of FreeNAS 9 with the whiz-bang features of FreeNAS Corral, while also swapping the GUI with the new Typescript framework. This provides the best of both worlds (stability + features) and has the added benefit of being a far faster path to a rock solid and stable FreeNAS release. In fact, many of the original team behind FreeNAS have already begun the process of taking the 9 series and merging it with some of the new features introduced in FreeNAS Corral, for the next stable and soon-to-be-released FreeNAS Corral.

In the meantime, our next release, FreeNAS 9.10.3 is currently slated for May, and here is a look at the current roadmap (subject to change as we move farther along, of course):

  • New Angular-based web UI: You can test-drive the early work now in 9.10 nightlies prior to the upcoming 9.10.3 release.


  • Expand and improve support for jails and jail-based plugins: For maximum compatibility with lighter system requirements.

  • VM Support: We have added a new “VM” menu which allows you to host your own Virtual Machines on FreeNAS, landing in 9.10.3.
  • Docker support: As a Virtual Machine-driven service.

  • Improve support for DevOps-class alerting, PagerDuty, AWS Alerts, OpsGenie, and Slack (coming in 9.10.3).

  • Local and distributed S3 bucket support: Initial work landing in 9.10.3.

  • FreeBSD 11-stable base: Landing in 9.10.3.
Most of these items are already under active development, and we at iX look forward to sharing more details as they become available. As usual, we ask our beta-testing community to test drive these features in the nightlies and provide feedback and bug reports on the official tracker.

Thank you for your continued support and usage of FreeNAS. We appreciate all the users and fans who make this product better on a daily basis.

On behalf of the iX engineering team,


Kris Moore
Director of Engineering
iXsystems

Mod note:

There's an FAQ about moving from FreeNAS Corral to FreeNAS 9.10.2 in the Resources Section. You can find it at this link.

- Ericloewe
 
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m0nkey_

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Kris, thank you for giving this important update. I'm pleased to see the existing 9.x code base will be continued. I'm excited for the next 9.10 release! :D
 

LaserAllan

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Kris, that interface actually looks rather nice, it would be amazing to see such an interface coming to FreeNAS 9.10 and as m0nkey, i am also looking forward to the updates coming to 9.10.
 

Kris Moore

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Thanks folks! I do have to say, you guys have a *fantastic* team of iX / FreeNAS developers who work tirelessly to make all this possible, make sure the next time you see one of them online you give them a solid "Thank you!"
 

Jailer

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It's a hard pill to swallow backing off something you've spent so much time on and changing directions to fix it. I applaud you guys for stepping up and facing those challenges instead of attempting to push a sub par product on the users because new.
 

DrKK

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I am biting my tongue.
 

bollar

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So, is it safe to say the tl;dr for those of us who have committed to Corral is to wait for FreeNAS 9.10.3 and manually create a new config based on that system at that time?
 

Kris Moore

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So, is it safe to say the tl;dr for those of us who have committed to Corral is to wait for FreeNAS 9.10.3 and manually create a new config based on that system at that time?
For the moment that is probably the best plan of action. If you are happy with how the current Corral is working for you, you are welcome to ride it out. But I'd recommend switching to 9.10.3 or later as soon as you are happy with the feature set and ready to make the jump.
 

ddimick

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How will you enable docker container->host storage mappings in 9.10.3?
 

Kris Moore

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So the plan is to enable NFS as the default container -> storage mapping, with an "experimental" option for 9pfs (for the brave). We are investigating another method as well though, that we will talk more about later. (assuming it pans out)
 

Visseroth

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Good to know! Thanks for the update. I was biting at the bit to do some testing before implementation but my old X7DBN wouldn't do the install. Now that I know that 9 will be further improved I'm looking forward to the new features and updates and this means I have one less thing to hit my head on (since it wouldn't install). My head thanks you! LOL
 

croquagei

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Hi Kris

Is the plan to long term ditch Corral in favor of incrementally adding features to 9.x? Or do you guys intend to work on (fix) Corral, if so is there a rough time frame on it (ie 6 months or 2 years)?
 

Kris Moore

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Hi Kris

Is the plan to long term ditch Corral in favor of incrementally adding features to 9.x? Or do you guys intend to work on (fix) Corral, if so is there a rough time frame on it (ie 6 months or 2 years)?
The plan is to bring pieces into the current 9.10 codebase as we go. For example, 9.10.3 will already include VM support using most of the same bhyve functionality from Corral, with more added as time goes on. We want to continue to give you high-quality incremental releases without "going into a hole" for years on end. This is best shown by the UI work, which will ship with 9.10.3, but doesn't replace the old UI. We will be able to run both of them while the new UI is in development. Once the new UI is feature complete we can then look at how long we want to support the old one before deprecating it entirely, giving you the option to ease into the new one and us the time to "make it solid" before flipping it on across the board.
 

B3yondBlu

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Will this implementation of the VMs support USB pass-through? That is really the only reason I reverted back. I liked Corral and notice a decent bump in performance overall. However, I run my home automation in a VM and it uses a few USB radios that I need pass-though so I had to roll back.
 

Jeremy Foor

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So does the current nightly have the new UI or does "You can test-drive the early work now in 9.10 nightlies prior to the upcoming 9.10.3 release." mean that it will only be released with 9.10.3?
 

Wiffinberg

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Stupid question inbound: Will the current iteration of Corral be able to "updatee" to 9.10.3 etc while keeping VM and /or container Config? or best to start fresh and import volumes, rebuild vm?
 

m0nkey_

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Stupid question inbound: Will the current iteration of Corral be able to "updatee" to 9.10.3 etc while keeping VM and /or container Config? or best to start fresh and import volumes, rebuild vm?
Unlikely. The configuration databases between 9.10 and Corral are very different.
 

Kris Moore

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So does the current nightly have the new UI or does "You can test-drive the early work now in 9.10 nightlies prior to the upcoming 9.10.3 release." mean that it will only be released with 9.10.3?
Nightlies right now has the new UI for testing. Its a link you pick at the login screen.
 
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