The FreeBSD 'zine
March 2000 : Company Profile

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 possibly could.

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 NT have.

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.

In Closing...

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 of Linux.

In my opinion, if UNIX is a state-of-mind, FreeBSD is a state-of-being. Minimalism is good.


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