Friday, December 12, 2014

More From Your Newest Board Member: An Interview with Cheryl R. Blain

Recently, The FreeBSD Foundation announced the addition of Cheryl R. Blain to the Board of Directors. We sat down with Cheryl to find out more about her background and what brought her to the Foundation. Take a look at what she has to say:

Tell us a little about yourself, and how you got involved with FreeBSD?
I was bit by the entrepreneur bug in 1999 when working for a non-profit. I’ve worked with high-tech, venture-backed, small-cap companies ever since.  My typical engagement finds

Cheryl R. Blain
me streamlining operations and sales teams to prepare companies for their next step forward, which most often involves financing.  

I have a master’s degree in business administration with a dual emphasis in finance and sustainable enterprise, from Saint Mary’s College and as a visiting student at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Xinuos is the latest high-tech, venture-backed company to which I’ve plied my wares.  While working for Xinuos, I was exposed to FreeBSD for the first time in 2013.  During my first week on the job, I was asked if I was willing to go to Ottawa, Canada to learn more about FreeBSD and the community of developers.  The head of engineering and I felt the conference was very important to Xinuos’ future, so we decided it was an opportunity not to be missed.  Since the trip was so unexpected, I actually had to have my passport over-night shipped to me in our New Jersey office so I could leave the following day!  My colleague and I attended BSDCan and it was everything we had hoped it would be.  We were welcomed by the development community and pleasantly inundated with inquiries about our interest in FreeBSD.  David Chisnall was an especially helpful evangelist of FreeBSD, and made sure my colleague and I had the information we needed.

Why are you passionate about serving on the FreeBSD Foundation Board?
The FreeBSD community (including the board) is in no small part the reason I chose to learn more about the project as a commercial offering two years ago.  My passion is in building businesses, and I wanted to work on a project that was technologically sound, well supported and attractive to people who I like and respect.  The FreeBSD community quickly forgave me for being the least technical person in the room, and was wonderful in embracing the value I can bring to the community from a business perspective.

I look forward to doing my part to ensure that the FreeBSD project has a vibrant future.

What excited you about our work?
There are many things that make FreeBSD interesting...but the first time I think I got really excited was in Ottawa in 2013, when Matt Ahrens gave his talk on ZFS.  Every developer in the room was abuzz with excitement.  In Matt’s presentation he listed logos of the other open source operating systems using ZFS, but I connected with how the room full of BSD developers really embraced Matt as their own.  His bold move to pack his box at Oracle to continue his open source work, helped me realize the people associated with FreeBSD are not status quo...they are pushing the envelope. Then I met Peter Grehan and Neel Natu and was introduced to their work on bhyve, and Justin and George as Foundation board members and FreeBSD committers and knew that even though the FreeBSD project has been around since 1993, new excitement and innovation is happening right now.  And I haven’t even mentioned Capsicum or Clang! Oh and I can’t forget, I was there for the naming of Groff with all the rowdy laughter and good spirited banter, and it was then that I felt like I was among friends.   

 What are you hoping to bring to the organization and the community through your new leadership role?
I hope that my participation in the planning discussions will encourage other business leaders to join in the discussions as well.   

I also hope to encourage those who use FreeBSD commercially to become more vocal about their experiences and use cases, to encourage others to develop with FreeBSD as well.  In doing so, there is a great opportunity to build an endowment among alum to ensure a vibrant future for FreeBSD.

How do you see your background and experience complementing the current board? 
I will be delighted if I am successful in bringing a business lens to the board discussions.  I would like to help elevate FreeBSD in the minds of technology companies worldwide and see a broader acceptance of the OS as a commercially desirable alternative.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Super Computing Trip Report: Michael Dexter

Michael Dexter has also provided his trip report for Super Computing:

In case you have not heard of the Supercomputing.org conference, it is a meeting of 10,000 researchers, computer scientists, engineers, students, managers, sales engineers and three-letter agency representatives that takes place in a different US city every year. I have hosted a booth at the event since 2009 when it passed through Portland and this year showcased the bhyve Hypervisor and explained all things BSD to brilliant attendees from around the world. I was joined by Patrick Masson, General Manager of the Open Source Initiative, who helped shed light on the pervasive yet unrecognized use of open source software by the universities, organizations and companies at the event. Literally 90% or more of the exhibitors rely on open source but few give it any recognition. For years, GNU/Linux has dominated the Top500 list of supercomputers that is announced at the event each year and I set out to help change that by highlighting bhyve, OpenZFS and other great technologies in FreeBSD.

SC14 could not have started on a better note thanks to the announcement on the first day that the FreeBSD Foundation received a million dollar donation from WhatsApp founder Jan Koum. I heard many people say "I used FreeBSD ten years ago" and the news instantly got their attention and set the tone for the rest of the event. By showcasing ZFS, we drew the attention of ex-Sun Microsystems engineers and executives and even had a visit by UC Berkeley CSRG research assistant Clem Cole. The message that "BSD is back" was loud and clear and I canvased the Student Cluster Competition to help inspire a new generation of users who had never heard of the BSDs.

The bhyve booth was in the heart of the ARM pavilion which made for some enlightening conversations. bhyve and the ARM CPU architecture both stand out for operating without emulation, resulting in simplicity and performance for bhyve and significant power savings for ARM. A roadmap exists for bhyve support on ARM and hopefully this will be something to showcase at SC15. Of the exhibiting ARM partners, the SoftIron team stood out as loud and proud users of FreeBSD and I look forward to seeing them at future BSD events.

FreeBSD vendor iXsystems was also at the event demonstrating FreeNAS and TrueNAS, as were the SaltStack team who received a bhyve demo and expressed a sincere desire to include support for bhyve. A handful of other open source vendors like Red Hat were in attendance plus FreeBSD consumers like Spectra Logic, EMC/Isilon, NetApp and Juniper. Many individual open source users came to the booth and my favorite quotation came from a conversation at a Mellanox event: "Our administrators use FreeNAS at home and come work and ask 'why the heck aren't we using ZFS?'" Open source is winning but there is still much work to be done.

Speaking of work, I asked many people, including Navy researchers moving massive uncompressed video streams, what FreeBSD needs to do get back on the Top500 list of supercomputers. The short list of answers I received was: OFED/OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution support, OpenMPI/Message Passing Interface support and Lustre distributed file system support. Surprisingly, NUMA/Non-Uniform Memory Access did not come up. Interconnect vendor Chelsio Communications stood out as a solid supporter of FreeBSD and dominant player Mellanox expressed interest in expanding their support for FreeBSD given the opportunity it represents. All in all, people were very receptive to giving FreeBSD and other BSDs a try, especially given that it would be a homecoming for so many users.

I wish to thank the FreeBSD Foundation for sponsoring the bhyve booth at SC14 and I am delighted to hear that ARM has just made a generous $50,000 donation to the Foundation. In total I gave out 250 tri-fold brochures and talked to hundreds of people at SC14. Hopefully those seeds will take root and we will start seeing FreeBSD systems in the Student Cluster Competition and on the 2015 Top500 supercomputer list!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

FreeBSD Foundation Welcomes New Board Member - UPDATED!

The FreeBSD Foundation is pleased to welcome Cheryl R. Blain to the Board of Directors. 

Cheryl became involved with the FreeBSD community in 2013.  She joins the Foundation's board with extensive experience managing software development and building strategic alliances for privately-held, small-cap companies. Cheryl's background includes community outreach, marketing and fundraising efforts with non-profit organizations. We are thrilled to have her as part of the team.

One of the responsibilities of our board is to focus on the big picture, by defining our vision, mission, strategic direction, project planning, as well as governing our organization. Our board has decades of experience on working on FreeBSD in design, development, documentation, research, education, and advocacy. We've been strong in providing support in the project development area. As we've grown, we've identified the need to expand our board, and we've identified skills, talents, and experience we want in new board members. 

Cheryl fills the need for bringing on someone who has a strong business development background. She will help provide a clear direction, strategic planning, and guidance for us to support FreeBSD in the future. In order for us to continue our growth, we need a more stable and consistent funding pool. Cheryl's extensive fundraising background and business connections will help us build and strengthen our business relationships to encourage multi-year donations.  She brings with her a passion for FreeBSD and a desire to use her talents to advance the mission of both the Project and the Foundation. Hear more from Cheryl here.

Please join us in welcoming her to the board.

MeetBSD Trip Report: Michael Dexter

The Foundation recently sponsored Michael Dexter to attend MeetBSD, which was held in California in November. Michael provides the following trip report:

This year's MeetBSD California marked a departure from its UnConference roots in favor of a showcase of exciting new developments in the community. Western Digital kindly hosted the event which made for a pleasant, professional atmosphere and attendees traveled from as far as Japan and Eastern Europe to attend.

Of the many talks, the Sony confirmation that is a long-time BSD user was simply historic and just may be the result of years of encouragement by AsiaBSDCon attendees. It's not every day that you confirm the existence of millions of more BSD users! Yes, "BSD" users at the request of the Sony legal department. On the same theme, "600M+ Unsuspecting FreeBSD Users" by Rick Reed of WhatsApp also shed light on the heavy lifting companies are doing with FreeBSD and finally, Scott Long and Brendan Gregg of Netflix reminded us how they are pushing 1/3rd of US Internet traffic each evening. Brendan spoke about performance analysis strategies at both MeetBSD and the Developer Summit that followed and I dare say is downright giddy about the performance analysis options available on FreeBSD. In his second talk he incorporated audience feedback on the spot and I for one am delighted to see Sun Microsystems refugees like Brendan come to the BSD community as they each bring a wealth of experience.

Kirk McKusick's “A Narrative History of BSD” was a delight as always and reminded us that there is absolutely nothing like BSD: professional and open source from the start with a mission to bring sanity to government computing. That mission sounds more like a contemporary meme than 1970's and '80's funded government initiative! Kirk told us about Bill Joy's prolific coding and how they navigated the pressure to incorporate the BB&N network stack into BSD. Kirk also told us the story of how a delay in grant funding accidentally got him into a lifetime of fast file system development and how we almost had 48-bit IP addressing. Hearing both Kirk and Brendan Gregg talk about the frivolity of most benchmarks decades apart was eye opening!

Finally, David Maxwell's "Pipecut" talk was a mind-blowing introduction to a pet project of his that promises to change how we all use the Unix command line. Most of these talks are online and can be found via meetbsd.com/agenda/.

As with any BSD event, the hallway track was worth the price of admission and I had the pleasure of meeting bhyve and FreeNAS developers that I had only met online. Adrian Chadd tinkered with a Surface Pro system and eventually got the keyboard working late one night and naturally had the only working WiFi in the hotel lobby. Glen Barber and I continued our "the good, the bad and the ugly" talk about distribution mirror layouts based on his work as FreeBSD release engineer and my work supporting various OSs on bhyve. Devin Teske provided scripting advice as always and I cornered people about topics ranging from the status of virtual networking and a ZFS panic.

Every BSD event has its own character and MeetBSD is no different. The fact that it takes place in Silicon Vally allows it to have a great mix of speakers and attendees who might not make it to international events. Thank you iXsystems for putting on yet another great MeetBSD!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The FreeBSD Cluster: Infrastructural Enhancements at NYI


I spent several days on-site at our east-coast US colocation facility in July 2014 and again in November 2014 racking and installing servers that the FreeBSD Foundation purchased for the FreeBSD Project.

This hardware is essential for supporting the FreeBSD Project in a number of ways.  It provides services for public consumption (FTP mirrors, pkg(8) mirrors, etc.), as well as resources that can be used by FreeBSD developers for various tasks, such as building third-party software packages, release building, and miscellaneous (a.k.a, "testbed") development of services for general use.

More Horsepower to Serve and Support the FreeBSD Community

Since July, fourteen machines were purchased for the east-coast US site, generously hosted by New York Internet in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

The servers were purchased with the end-goal being a complete mirror of the primary site on the west-coast US.  The newly-added servers bring the machine count at NYI to sixty-eight total.

Reorganizing for Redundancy

Two of these servers are being used as firewalls, each equipped with four-port Intel(r) NICs.  Both firewalls have direct connections to the switches in all four cabinets at NYI, providing a redundant uplink to each of the four switches so we can reboot either firewall without losing connectivity

Restructuring for Additional Services

November's site visit had two primary goals: install and configure the recent shipment of machines, and reconfigure the network topology behind the firewalls.  Before many of the machines could be brought online, several changes needed to be made to the network.

Each FreeBSD.org site further separates services behind the firewalls using VLANs, limiting each set of services provided within each VLAN to its own network restrictions.  In order to properly allocate network space for the new machines, several of the VLANs at NYI needed to be redone.

The most publicly-disruptive part of this was reallocating the VLAN that contains the firewalls.  Thanks to Peter Wemm, there were no major service disruptions (aside from a planned simultaneous firewall reboot).

Although not all of these machines have been brought online yet, several of them have been allocated and assigned to the teams that will be using them.

Two machines have been allocated to the FreeBSD Release Engineering Team, one of which was used for the 10.1-RELEASE builds.  Four machines have been allocated to the FreeBSD Ports Management Team, which were brought online and handed over just this week.

FreeBSD, Powered by FreeBSD

If you are like me, words about new hardware do not do as much justice as seeing them.  Enjoy!


new servers - front view
new servers - rear view

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

FreeBSD Foundation 2014 Year-End Fundraising Appeal

Dear FreeBSD community,

I'm writing to you today because I know you are passionate about FreeBSD. You care that it's innovative, secure, stable, reliable, well engineered and documented, and loved.

For 14 years, the FreeBSD Foundation has been providing funding and support for the FreeBSD Project and community worldwide. We are fully funded by donations from people like you. That's why I'm excited to tell you that we've kicked off our year-end fundraising campaign!

This has been an exciting time for the Foundation and FreeBSD community. As you may have heard, we kicked off this fundraiser with the largest donation we've ever received. Whether you are a developer, writer, advocate, organizer, user, or investor, this donation is a positive reflection on the work you are doing for FreeBSD.

Our goal for 2014 is not only to raise substantial funds, but also to grow our community investor pool from our current number of 933 donors to over 2000 donors. Last year we had 1732 community investors. Increasing the number of investors will help ensure a stable and consistent funding stream to support FreeBSD over time. This not only helps keep us a public charity, but it shows the world that we have a strong community supporting FreeBSD.

Your investment in the community provides a wide set of opportunities for people worldwide. Thanks to you, individuals have the chance to learn and gain employable skills, work in areas that follow their interests, and be part of an inclusive and welcoming community. Your support also advances FreeBSD so that it is a perfect research and development platform, working everywhere from academia and start-ups, to Fortune 500 companies.

Speaking of gaining employable skills, I have an inspiring story to share with you from Jan Koum, Co-Founder and CEO of WhatsApp. Jan began using FreeBSD in the late 90s, when he didn't have much money and was living in government housing. He said one of the main reasons he got a job at Yahoo! was because they were using FreeBSD, and his involvement with the Project provided the required skills needed for the job. Years later when he co-founded WhatsApp, he used FreeBSD to keep their servers running. He believes that FreeBSD helped lift him out of poverty. To say thank you and shine a light on the work being done by the Foundation and FreeBSD Project, he recently made a $1,000,000 donation.

The story highlights how working with FreeBSD and its positive community environment can lead to great accomplishments. It shows how with enough support, FreeBSD can continue to offer people incredible opportunities that not only can help move people out of poverty, but also assist more startups and companies in creating something successful.

This year your donations helped FreeBSD by:
  • Funding development projects to improve FreeBSD, including: Native iSCSI kernel stack, Updated video console (Newscons), UEFI system boot support, Capsicum component framework, IPv6 support in FreeBSD, Auditdistd improvements for FreeBSD cluster, and adding modern AES modes to OpenCrypto (to support IP/SEC).
  • Providing release engineering support, resulting with on-schedule releases.
  • Sponsoring BSD-related conferences including BSDCan, EuroBSDCon, AsiaBSDCon, NYCBSDCon, MeetBSD, Developer and Vendor Summits, and the Grace Hopper conference to recruit more women to the Project.
  • Providing travel grants to FreeBSD developers and contributors to the above conferences, to provide face-to-face interaction with other FreeBSD people, to work together to solve problems, implement new designs, and learn from each other.
  • Purchasing hardware to build and improve FreeBSD project infrastructure.
  • Educating the public and promoting FreeBSD, including bringing on a full-time marketing person.
  • Funding a new FreeBSD magazine
  • Protecting FreeBSD IP and providing legal support to the Project.
For 2015, we have identified some areas that we want to grow, to increase the impact of FreeBSD on our world. Some of the areas of growth will be:
  • Funding more project development, like improving the binary package build, distribution, and verification mechanism, improving automated testing, and updating development and performance analysis tools.
  • Supporting and improving the FreeBSD security advisory triage, notification and release process.
  • Increasing our FreeBSD marketing efforts.  Efforts include providing more marketing literature to educate people on FreeBSD; recruiting more people to the Project; promoting FreeBSD and The Foundation; helping fundraise; and encouraging more testimonials. This not only includes assisting advocates in the US, but also offering this material in multiple languages to FreeBSD advocates who represent the Project at conferences around the world.
  • Providing resources and travel grants to help get more FreeBSD representatives to conferences around the world to give presentations on FreeBSD.
  • Funding more FreeBSD research projects.
This is an exciting time for the Foundation and FreeBSD. We’ve had huge successes this year and are in a tremendous stage of growth. We need your donations now to help us sustain this growth to better support the FreeBSD Project and community.

Please help us continue and increase our efforts for FreeBSD by making a donation today.

Thank you for your support. We can't do this without you!

Sincerely, 

Deb Goodkin
Executive Director
The FreeBSD Foundation

Monday, November 24, 2014

64-bit ARM architecture project update

In this month’s project update we will take a look at the ongoing FreeBSD 64-bit ARM port. AArch64 is the official name for the 64-bit ARM architecture, but it is also known as ARMv8 and arm64. The 64-bit ARM architecture is expected to find use in traditional server markets, in contrast to the embedded and mobile markets where 32-bit ARM is widely adopted.


The FreeBSD Foundation is collaborating with ARM, Cavium, Semihalf and Andrew Turner to port FreeBSD to arm64. Cavium is contributing directly to the Foundation, supplying engineering expertise and hardware for the development community. Cavium's ThunderX platform provides a great match for FreeBSD’s strength as a server operating system, and it supports up to 48 cores in a single package. ThunderX will be the initial reference target for this project, but ports to other arm64 platforms are expected later on.


The kernel bring-up portion of the project is nearing completion; FreeBSD/arm64 boots to single-user mode on ARM's reference simulator. Work is underway on the remaining kernel drivers, and on userland support.

This project’s overall goal is to bring FreeBSD/arm64 to a Tier-1 status, including release media and prebuilt package sets. More information about the arm64 port can be found on the FreeBSD wiki at https://wiki.freebsd.org/arm64, and the in-progress source tree is available through the FreeBSD Foundation’s GitHub account at https://github.com/FreeBSDFoundation/freebsd.