I have no real experience with ZFS, and very limited experience with Solaris & FreeBSD. After reading numerous articles about ZFS, I'm pretty convinced ZFS is something I want to use for my home disk array (16-20 disks).

I'm trying to decide between Solaris and FreeBSD. I have no real preference but I don't know the differences between the two.

Can someone point out the differences or benefits/advantages of one OS over the other?


To avoid being "off-topic", I'll rephrase my question(s):

  1. What features do Solaris (or FreeBSD) have over the other in terms of ZFS support?
  2. Are there significant performance differences between Solaris vs. FreeBSD vs. other in terms of ZFS?
  • At first glance I didn't realize my question was really asking "what OS should I use to get ZFS" but after reading ewwhite's response and re-reading my question it seems like I did hint at asking the implied question. – osij2is Apr 19 '11 at 18:51

I recommend Nexenta or NexentaStor for this purpose. NexentaStor is more of an appliance and doesn't require heavy Unix knowledge. It features a web GUI. But if weren't using either, I'd go the Solaris or Solaris-derivative route (Illumos, OpenIndiana).

  • +1: I didn't know about Illumos, OpenIndiana. Thanks! – osij2is Apr 19 '11 at 15:45
  • Silly question: what's the difference between Nexenta vs. NexentaStor? – osij2is Apr 19 '11 at 22:51
  • Spent some time reading up on the Nexenta site. I'm sold. :) – osij2is Apr 20 '11 at 4:35

I'm biased toward FreeBSD so I'd point you to FreeNAS. It's the same idea as Nexenta and others above (those are Solaris based, FreeNAS is FreeBSD based).

OpenSolaris/Solaris/forks, has a higher learning curve than FreeBSD; though the web interfaces do a pretty good job of abstracting the underlying complexities. FreeBSD has an extensive Ports collection making adding over 22,000 pieces of software a breeze. Both are rock solid and proven operating systems. If you're familiar with Linux, FreeBSD is going to share more CLI commands than Solaris; but that only matters if you're using the CLI.

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, this Answer is mine; feel free to disagree.

  • +1: Thanks for the comparison between the two. I actually tried FreeNAS but I found it difficult to work with but that was a while ago (1+ year) so things may have changed drastically since I've used it. – osij2is Apr 19 '11 at 19:08
  • @osij2is, there were quite a few changes in the last few years. Version 7 was quite a bit improved over 6; and 8 again over 7. FreeNAS isn't for everyone, I'd encourage you to try both FreeNAS and NexentaStor and go with the one you like better. – Chris S Apr 19 '11 at 19:12
  • I may do that Chris. I realize that different projects may over time improve in numerous ways so I'd be willing to give it another go. – osij2is Apr 19 '11 at 19:54
  • I've been trying out FreeNAS 8.3 and it's far better than when I had previously tried it. I'm probably going to stick with it pending a few test scenarios but so far, it's pretty impressive. – osij2is Dec 13 '12 at 21:34

I was in your situation about a year ago. At the time I went with OpenSolaris, and about a month later Sun/Oracle killed it, so don't go there. Their packages haven't been updated since 2009.

Illumos and OpenIndiana look promising but I was a bit put off by the flux of the community. Since everything was ported from OpenSolaris and since that coder resource was taken away, I have concerns as to their stability and security in the long run.

It is of my opinion that right now FreeBSD is your best bet for ZFS. Personally I set up Ubuntu and run it in user-space via FUSE but I see very poor performance with that. Should I redo my setup, I would have gone with FreeBSD.

There is also some good ZFS on Linux development going on currently. Last I checked it didn't have proper POSIX support but it looks like they have made progress on that.

Anyway best of luck with your decision and let us know how it goes!

  • 3
    OpenSolaris is dead; but Solaris is available for limited uses free (mostly non-profit/non-production type stuff, see their website for details). Agreed that the forks seem to be adrift currently, perhaps one or more will find better bearings soon. – Chris S Apr 19 '11 at 19:13
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    +1: Great input on the shortcomings of OpenSolaris. Also, thanks Chris for your input on OpenSolaris. I was leery of OpenSolaris largely because of the Oracle purchase and I didn't know where the community was headed (or is currently headed right now). – osij2is Apr 19 '11 at 19:56
  • Since some companies put coding resources into Illumos (e.g. Nexenta and Joyent), I'm not having much concern about the quality of Illumos driven projects such as OpenIndiana. – chrw Jun 22 '11 at 12:59

Solaris 11 Express (build 151a), which is, along with notable licensing changes, the new name of OpenSolaris has the latest ZFS implementation available. The fact its source code hasn't been released prevents FreeBSD, Illumos, Fuse or native Linux and other OSes with ZFS implementation based on OpenSolaris build 147 or older to be on par.

The most visible enhancement that has been introduced in Solaris 11 Express ZFS but is missing from all other implementations including FreeBSD is ZFS encryption.


Being employed by Nexenta is a certain bias. Though, that said I certainly recommend trying it out. Community Edition of our product is very good, and it keeps getting better. With enough RAM you can enable enterprise features like data deduplication, compression, snapshots, cloning, etc. All are native to ZFS. With dedup and compression you could end up with a multi terabyte system with only a few disks.

  • 3
    No offense, but for a Nexenta employee I'd expect some better selling points than the ones you listed. FreeBSD has all those same features because both got the same code from OpenSolaris. How about something that differentiates the two? – Chris S Apr 20 '11 at 2:29
  • Well, technically FreeBSD doesn't have dedup, because its latest release of ZFS is way behind at version 15. IIUC there are patches somewhere that get you up to version 21(?) but I'm not sure where they are. – Dave A Apr 23 '11 at 12:56
  • tbh the community edition is pretty useless with a noncommercial restriction – JamesRyan Apr 26 '13 at 21:53

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