FreeNAS 11.1 released, is FreeNAS back after Corral departure?
FreeNAS is probably the most popular and most used Free NAS Operating System. FreeNAS 11.1 is the new version of the popular NAS operating system released on the 13th December 2017. As you’ll see in a moment, FreeNAS 11.1 is a feature release bringing significative improvements over FreeNAS 11.
I’m overjoyed, where can I download it?
Corral, FreeNAS and 11.1: a twisted story
First things first: back in March 2017, iXsystems announced the availability of FreeNAS Corral: the beautiful, elegant, next version of FreeNAS. After all the waiting, Corral seemed to deliver a superb experience (for the users who managed to make it work without issues). Apart from the many issues Corral was on the right track, until… iXsystems retired FreeNAS Corral about one month later.
After the usual update releases of FreeNAS 9.10, the developer team finally released FreeNAS 11, the successor of FreeNAS Corral. FreeNAS 11, however looked inadequate compared to Corral, the impact of the latter was so big that FreeNAS 11 couldn’t possibly compete. It must be precised that FreeNAS 11 only took 3 months of development (compared to 9+ months of Corral).
Nevertheless, the Corral retirement was a huge blow to FreeNAS and many users lost their trust in the project. Its successor: FreeNAS 11 sported an half-baked alpha user interface and a few new features, most notably support for Virtual Machines. Of course the project has had better years, but here comes FreeNAS 11.1 that might put FreeNAS back on its rails.
FreeNAS 11.1 new features
FreeNAS 11.1 is an exciting new release which aims to win back the trust of many users after the Corral incident. Here’s an excerpt directly from the release notes:
- The base operating system has been updated to FreeBSD 11.1-STABLE. This brings in many new features and drivers.
- There have been many improvements to OpenZFS. Users should notice a significant speed difference when listing a large number of snapshots or when deleting multiple snapshots and large files.
- The algorithm used for scrubs and resilvers has received many improvements which will be most noticeable on fragmented pools.
- Samba has been patched to address these security vulnerabilities.
- OpenVPN has been updated to version 2.4.3.
- The system now sends an email when a scrub finishes.
- The system will issue an alert if the system reboots itself.
- Cloud Credentials has been added to System. This can be used to provide a secure connection to a cloud services providers. Supported services include Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage, Backblaze B2, and Google Cloud Storage.
- Cloud Sync has been added to Tasks and can be used to synchronize files or directories to remote cloud storage providers with a specified transfer mode.
Other notable features:
- The (new) user interface was polished and entered the beta stage, it now supports theming. Overall it still lags behind the classical interface, feature-par is expected for the next release: FreeNAS 11.2 .
- Docker “VM”s have been added in the relative Virtual Machine section. Although Docker is a containerization technology rather than proper virtualization, FreeNAS now offers a VM-like approach to Docker containers. This process uses RancherOS under the hood.
The FreeNAS project has been kind of silent in the past months, and the FreeNAS 11 release hasn’t been welcomed as the previous releases by the community. Many users (including me) have lost a bit of trust, and many others have entirely switched operating system for their NAS. I’ve seen quite a few users waiting before upgrading to newer FreeNAS version out of caution.
On the other hand FreeNAS 11.1 looks more promising and polished compared to FreeNAS 11. I must say that the new interface isn’t yet on-par with the classical interface, but it is steadily improving, and in the long term I believe it may become more appealing than Corral (it will make me forget). Important features like Docker and Cloud sync support are slowly coming in the game once again, and that’s a pretty good signal.
In conclusion, FreeNAS 11.1 still lags behind Corral and the whole FreeNAS project is still suffering, but I do think they’re getting back on the right track.