Return of The BSDs

The clocks have fallen back, the leaves are hitting the ground and new BSD releases are on the Net.

Among all the noise and buzz created by Linux, it’s important to
remember that it’s not the only open source variant of Unix.
OpenBSD, NetBSD and FreeBSD are all still very much alive and kicking and have
recently been released from their respective projects.

OpenBSD 3.8 includes improved hardware support, such as a new X.org video
driver for the Intel i810 graphics chipset among others. The latest version
of the OpenBSD-sponsored OpenSSH project version 4.2 is also part of the
release.

The release theme for OpenBSD 3.8 is “hackers of the lost raid,” which
OpenBSD developer Bob Beck explained comes from the addition of bioctl(8), a
raid-card-independent RAID management interface, and some great management
features for ami(4) cards.

Beck also noted other important additions in OpenBSD 3.8,
including hostapd(8) for wireless access points, ipsecctl to simplify IPsec
management, sasyncd to synchronize IPsec SAs for failover purposes, network
interface aggregation with trunk(4) and DVD filesystem support.

In Beck’s opinion, OpenBSD does security better than anyone else with a
particular strength in “firewalling” and routing. Stable functional features
are what sets OpenBSD apart from other operating systems.

“OpenBSD doesn’t chase features at the expense of stability and
security,” Beck told internetnews.com.


Not to be overshadowed, NetBSD is also sporting a new release this week.
NetBSD 2.1 includes kernel subsystem updates, networking, file system,
security, system administration and user tools improvements.


Version 3.0 is expected at the end of November.


The FreeBSD Project is also gearing up for its next major release, version 6,
which is expected in the coming weeks.

FreeBSD is one of the earliest open
source operating system projects and is a direct descendant of the original
open source BSD work performed at the University of California, Berkeley.

FreeBSD 6 will include a number of important improvements that will build
on the strong foundation of the FreeBSD 5.x series originally released in 2003.

Scott Long, FreeBSD release engineer, explained that developers spent a lot
of time in the FreeBSD 5.x cycle developing new technologies to carry the OS
forward.

“Much of that time was bumpy due to the nature and the depth of the work
that was happening,” Long told internetnews.com. “But, it was all very
important in order to build a good foundation for the future.

“With 6.0 we’re taking that foundation and making it shine.”

New performance improvements in FreeBSD 6 will take advantage of the new
SMP architecture. It will also have the ability to scale to eight,
12, and 14 processors. The filesystem is now multithreaded, which, according
to Long, will allow for much better performance of mail servers and database
servers.

“Future 6.x releases will continue to focus on taking advantage of the
new architectures to improve performance,” Long said.


Long said each BSD has something that they do really well compared to
the others in the family. In FreeBSD’s case, it’s the focus on SMP
performance now.

According to Long, “this is vitally important now that the industry is
turning towards putting multiple processors into desktops and laptops, and
increasing the CPU density in servers.”

The FreeBSD approach to SMP is a better one than that taken by Linux in
Long’s opinion.

“Linux took an approach that was fairly easy and non-disruptive, but
ultimately has limitations that we feel will limit its scalability for
general computing,” he explained. “FreeBSD took a much more difficult
approach to the problem, and with 6.0 the benefits are starting to be seen.

“There are reports of FreeBSD starting to benchmark much faster than
Linux for certain filesystem tasks on SMP systems.”

OpenBSD developer Bob Beck said it’s hard to get quality code out
of the Linux development model where features are added from a random bunch
of maintainers doing stuff on their own.

OpenBSD development is a whole operating system with both kernel and userland utilities built together and maintained together, according to Beck.

“BSDs in general are also much more corporate friendly than Linux, which,
if used in a product by a company, puts some serious restrictions on what the
company can do and still comply with the GPL.”

FreeBSD’s Long also sees continued adoption among enterprises of BSD.

“Companies continue to choose FreeBSD for their embedded products and
their corporate infrastructure because they understand the reliability and
efficiency that it brings,” Long said. “And I’d like to see that continue to
grow.”

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