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FreeNAS sheds storage skin, tries on sexier hyperconverged garb

Open-source storage software adds a hypervisor and Docker support

By Simon Sharwood, 16 Mar 2017

FreeNAS, the FreeBSD-derived software that turns a server into a network-attached storage box, has upgraded, changed its name and now asserts it's a hyperconverged platform.

The new name is FreeNAS Corral, replacing the expected FreeNAS 10, because “Only a new name could do justice to the sheer amount of change and new functionality here” according to the project's blog.

That boast may not be unjustified: during development Corral was described as a “totally redesigned, ground-up rewrite of FreeNAS” thanks in part to a “rewritten middleware architecture”.

While OpenZFS is still under the hood, the GUI's been rebuilt, complete with speedometer-styled dynamic dials reporting on the disposition of disk and IO. Other new additions include the bHyve hypervisor and a web-based virtual machine management tool that “launches guest operating systems in serial consoles using VM templates or .iso installation images.” If you fancy doing compute in containers rather than virtual machines, Docker's been integrated too.

iXSystems, the company that sponsors FreeNAS development and will happily sell hardware for you to run it on, is therefore billing it as a general-purpose computing appliance that enjoys close proximity between compute and storage, rather than a mere NAS. It's also claiming that FreeNAS Corral is the world's first open-source hyperconverged platform.

The hyperconverged market has, to date, mostly been about targeting large-ish organisations. Even smaller players like Scale Computing have emphasised mid-market buyers with dozens or hundreds of seats. So there's probably a niche out there in which Corral can round up many users.

There's a demo of the new release in the 29-minute “State of the Union: video below. ®

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