Briefing Note: TrueNAS is FreeNAS for the Enterprise – iXsystems makes Open Source Data Center Ready

iXsystems has been a part of the FreeBSD community for years. It developed FreeNAS, one of the most popular open source Network Attached Storage (NAS) software solutions on the market. While FreeNAS can hold its own, feature wise, with almost any commercially available NAS solution, adoption of the solution by production data centers is sometimes a challenge. The problem is that many data centers are too busy and their staffs stretched too thin to support the “do-it-yourself” nature of open source storage solutions. iXsystems solves this problem by delivering TrueNAS, hybrid and all-flash storage systems based on open source software and designed for enterprise data centers.

Open Source Storage Challenge – Assembly Required

Open source software is a flexible and cost effective way to deliver a variety of IT services to an organization. The penalty for that flexibility and cost efficiency is time. It takes time to identify the right open source software, the best hardware to put that software on, and to get the two installed, integrated and operational. Also, some open source software solutions don’t provide all the availability and performance of their commercial counterparts. Finally, open source software support tends to be community based; in other words, operators are not always standing by.

These challenges are especially true with open source storage software. There are multiple hardware components to select: storage server, storage media, network connectivity, and integration. Implementation is typically more complex since storage needs to support a variety of operating systems, directory services and storage protocols. Finally, for a shared storage system, high availability and responsive support are essential, since the storage system is supporting multiple applications and users.

As a result, open source storage software is typically only used in data centers where there is more time available than budgets, where there is a large amount of internal expertise, and/or where the storage system is not critical to operating the business. There are many situations where an open source storage solution makes sense; simple office file servers, tertiary backups, scratch space, and storage experimentation.

TrueNAS – Open Source for Busy IT

There are also times when IT does not have the time or expertise to do it themselves, and there are times when storage will be used in a more business critical environment. For these situations iXsystems provides TrueNAS, which is based on FreeNAS, with high availability (HA), vendor interoperability certification, and dedicated support, delivered on purpose-built, tool-less storage hardware. TrueNAS is also updated less frequently than the more bleeding edge FreeNAS. The code is well-vetted and adheres to a more methodical release cycle. TrueNAS comes bundled with storage hardware and is preconfigured for the task. Simply connect the system, provision your storage and it is ready to use.

Open Source Hardware

iXsystems leverages the open source foundation of their solutions to keep costs low, and solutions range from home storage use cases to business and mission critical use cases. The FreeNAS Mini has a maximum storage capacity of 24TBs and the TrueNAS Z35 has a maximum storage capacity of 1.54PBs. Each of the systems, including the FreeNAS Mini home system, supports a hybrid configuration of flash and disk. iXsystems also has an all-flash solution that delivers 30TBs of capacity.

The home systems are based on FreeNAS, but delivered as turnkey solutions. The office/enterprise systems, also delivered turnkey, are based on TrueNAS and feature both HA and 24/7 support.

All the products support standard IP protocols (CIFS/SMB, NFS, AFP, WebDAV, and iSCSI). They also deliver an impressive feature list including: hybrid storage pools, real-time compression and deduplication, scheduled snapshots and clones, REST APIs, remote replication, encryption, and automatic updates.

Committed To Open Source

While iXsystems delivers a solution that is competitive with other commercially available storage solutions, they remain committed to Open Source. They are a key contributor to ongoing FreeBSD and FreeNAS development and they contribute to PC-BSD, an initiative to bring FreeBSD to the desktop.

StorageSwiss Take

Most commercially available NAS/SAN solutions have grown beyond the most common need: the storing of home directory data so users can collaborate. They are too feature rich and too expensive to be assigned this relatively simple but important task. FreeNAS is a very viable alternative to solve that problem. iXsystems’ FreeNAS Mini and FreeNAS Certified are ideal choices for IT professionals that don’t want to spend the time assembling a FreeNAS solution.

But NAS/SAN systems have moved on from home directories with many acting as the storage infrastructure for virtual desktop and server environments as well as hosting database applications. These environments need more, namely performance, reliability, and support. The iXsystems TrueNAS product line fills that gap and does so at very competitive price and performance points.

George Crump is the Chief Product Strategist at StorONE. Prior to StorONE, George spent almost 14 years as the founder and lead analyst at Storage Switzerland, which StorONE acquired in March 2020. In his spare time, he continues to write blogs on Storage Switzerland to educate IT professionals on all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought-after public speaker. With over 30 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, SAN, Virtualization, Cloud, and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration, and product selection.

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