FreeBSD 10.0 Final Released
After an extended series of beta releases, the FreeBSD team has released version 10.0 of the venerable operating system. FreeBSD 10.0 contains major improvements in the kernel, better hardware support, improved virtualization, root on ZFS, and many more welcome changes. As promised, this release removes more GPL licensed components, replacing them with BSD licensed equivalents, most notably replacing gcc with clang as the default compiler. The choice of the FreeBSD team to distance themselves from the GNU project and their philosophy on licensing is controversial, but further differentiating FreeBSD from Linux may be just what the system needs to regain its popularity.
Full release notes are available here. Where Linux has been the wild kid on the block, FreeBSD was always the wiser, more grounded older brother. Unfortunately, the wild kid was also the more popular one, gaining the attention of developers and corporations alike. Over the years the two systems have both matured, and Linux adopted the stability of its older sibling, while constantly gaining in popularity. In the past few years, Linux equivalents to FreeBSD Jails like LXC have developed to be both reliable and sophisticated. Further, tests run by FreeBSD developers have shown FreeBSD to be slower than Linux in real-world tasks.
For fans of FreeBSD, neither the popularity of Linux or the speed tests meant much. We would return to FreeBSD because of the stability, security, and reliability of the system. FreeBSD has been rock-solid as a server OS for many, many years, and will most likely continue this tradition. I have to admit a certain fondness for the system, perhaps it is because my Unix roots were dug in BSD, and perhaps it is because I love being able to track the pedigree of the system clear back to the basement at Bell Labs. Maybe it is the excellent documentation. I have no doubt that FreeBSD will continue to be developed and supported by a dedicated fan base, as well as by contributions by downstream commercial interests. What I do have doubts about is widespread adoption of FreeBSD outside of the immediate supporting ecosystem. Try as I might, I can not make a good business case for adoption of FreeBSD when Linux is widely deployed, supported, very actively developed, and every bit as dependable.
FreeBSD 10.0 looks like a solid release, but the question remains of where the OS will find its place in the new cloud-driven economy. The era of the server operating system is coming to an end, superseded by application centric systems like Docker. FreeBSD was positioned well to take advantage of the turn to container based systems with Jails and early support for ZFS, but the system lacked the developer support and widespread adoption of Linux. It is quite possible that FreeBSD 10.0 will be the last major release of any consequence from the BSD camp. As a BSD enthusiast myself, I will mark the systems passing with remorse, and grieve for the beautiful, simple, and powerful systems that might have been. Will FreeBSD 10.0 be enough to turn the tide? Perhaps, but I’m not getting my hopes up.