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Embarrassing! FreeNAS downgrades latest release to 'tech preview'

'Nearly half of users' rolled back due to 'general instability', so it's been taken behind the shed ...

Well this is embarrassing: FreeNAS has downgraded its latest release to “technology preview” status.

The new release, version 10 aka “Corral”, was released in March 2017 with much fanfare because it took the project from being a software-defined-network-attached storage with the ability to run VMs into a hyperconverged contender that could run VMs and containers.

A free, ZFS-based hyperconverged stack sounds appealing. And would be if it worked: but Kris Moore, director of engineering at FreeNAS overseer iXsystems has revealed that it often doesn't.

Moore says users have reported “challenges upgrading from 9.10, general instability, lack of feature parity with 9.10 (Jails, iSCSI, etc), and … lower performance than expected given the increased demands FreeNAS Corral has on system hardware resources.” The new UI also didn't play nicely with all browsers.

Things are so bad that Moore's post says “nearly half of the initial users revert back to FreeNAS 9.10.”

And no wonder: his post goes on to say that the Plan 9 filesystem that lets VMs talk to a host's filesystem has “some holes in the architecture which make enterprise-quality file access … impossible without a lot more effort and soak time”.

So much “soak time” that Moore says “After weighing community feedback, and much internal deliberation at iX, we have decided that the amount of work still required to bring FreeNAS Corral (as currently architected) up to an acceptable standard for quality, reliability, and data integrity will take an unreasonable amount of time.”

iX's plan is now to take some of Corral's new features and bake them into FreeNAS 9 in the hope the more stable underpinnings will let the new code shine. FreeNAS 9.10.3, due in May, will therefore add features such as container support and make FreeBSD 11 its base, a plan that Moore says represents “a far faster path to a rock solid and stable FreeNAS release.” But there's no timeframe on when a stable Corral release will arrive and based on Moore's comments, holding your breath doesn't seem advisable.

Moore's announcement has generated 15 pages of comments, some supportive, some remarking that it was not reasonable to expect 10.0 code to be stellar and some frustrated by the need for downgrades. The Register can't help but sympathise with the latter; we cannot recall a similar downgrade to a prominent project. ®

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