Our History with FreeBSD
by Joe Read <[email protected]>
I am the Vice President of TurboISP, Inc., which does business by the
name of Global Hosting Internet Services.
We're a web hosting provider in the Portland, OR area, and we serve over
100 web sites and over 200 e-mail addresses on one FreeBSD server. The
primary reason I like FreeBSD is because our Server is not much different
from what you'd find as a desktop system, a simple Pentium II with 128
megs of RAM and a 9 gig hard drive; but our uptime has been well over
100 days in the past (it's at 48 days now due to physically having to move
the server) and our load average rarely goes above 0.03 even with web sites
generating thousands of hits a day.
How It All Began....
I first got introduced to FreeBSD by a friends of mine, whom was
interested in it mostly for his "security vulnerability"
monitoring activities, showing me first of all the number of root
exploits available for Linux, and then the number of exploits that
would hack root on a FreeBSD system. Even today, with the increasing
popularity of FreeBSD, the number of exploits available is fractional
compared to Linux.
I was also impressed with the ease of configuration for almost all
aspects of the operating system. In Linux, the configuration methods are
typically menu-driven and change for each distribution, but for FreeBSD,
the method of configuration is .conf-file based and handles all boot
parameters, which daemons to load, flags for those daemons, network
configuration, (including ifconfig aliases which Linux doesn't even have
without adding the dummynet module), etc. A lot of people claim that the
point of switching to a UNIX-based system is to get away from GUI's, so
why then the curses-based menu systems? I bet these same people make X a
top priority of there new server configuration routine.
When the company I am now vice president of first started, the network
was entirely Windows NT based, consisting of 8 servers. At that time,
the servers were used to run a dial-up provider AND web hosting, of which
we had half the customers we do today. With NT, we needed to run the mail
server software and the web server software separate of each other, as the
hardware couldn't support the CPU-intensive requirements of heavy mail
traffic, heavy web traffic, AND the 30% CPU overhead always in use by NT.
The other machines had the same story, we needed to keep the primary
name server software and the news server software on different servers since
each NT application, when in the foreground, used up as much CPU as it
With FreeBSD, the daemons that run services such as mail, web, news, etc.,
have all been around a long time, have been debugged for more years than
Microsoft has even been in existence, and don't have the memory leaks or
cascading loops that many brand new service-based software packages for
The same thing could be said for other Unix operating systems as well,
but I have to say that the streamlined nature of FreeBSD in particular
makes it the best choice for ISPs, since by its very name it presents a
minimalist view on operating systems. FreeBSD is free, and therefore
you're not going to get a lot of commercial time and effort put into it.
What you get with FreeBSD is an open-source kernel that is nice and fast
both for console and network applications, you get some programs (more and
more everyday in fact) ported over besides the standard POSIX shell
commands, and you get membership to a community of some of the more
intelligent UNIX-based OS users on the net.
I have found that questions on FreeBSD actually get answered when asked
on FreeBSD mailing lists, IRC channels, etc., and because FreeBSD is so
powerful yet simplistic in its implementation, once you get a feel for
how its laid out and how most programs get compiled/configured/installed,
you start to expect certain things from most other programs said to work
in FreeBSD and usually end up satisfied that your expectations have been
met. Linux is more a free-for-all, between Debian, RedHat, SuSE, Slackware,
and the other distributions, the only thing constant is how the kernel gets
compiled, and even then the menu interface made by the manufacturer has a
different command every time.
Unlike Linux, there's only one FreeBSD, which makes it easy to learn the
nuances of the operating system and the dynamics of the different release
versions. It makes it easy to learn what makes FreeBSD a BSD-style UNIX
when compared to a SysV-style UNIX, and it makes the user comfortable with
being the administrator of their own box with the existence of only one
type of configuration interface rather then afraid they'll break something
with the poorly-thought-out configuration scripts/config-files/menu-interfaces
In my opinion, if UNIX is a state-of-mind, FreeBSD is a state-of-being.
Minimalism is good.