I am having a bit of split in thought.

I am looking at getting a NAS for my company, we need it for our VMware server.

Originally the idea was to buy a NAS (a Netgear ReadyNAS)

But then I got some recommendations from the community (ServerFault) to build a NAS from a server and use something like NextentaStor, Openfiler or FreeNAS.

I have eliminated Openfiler for several reasons and I am now left between Nexentastor and FreeNAS.

The problem I am having is whether FreeNAS can be counted on for a production environment.

Is FreeNAS good enough to be an iSCSI back end to VMware? The last time I used FreeNAS it was version 0.7.

We would be using Nexentastor community not the paid version.

Any insight would be great.


We were recently in the same situation, and no, unfortunately FreeNAS is not ready for the enterprise. With 8.0.1, we had tons of issues with Active Directory integration working intermittently, as well as periodic lockups. All you need to look at are the change logs for recent beta releases to see that there are still major bugs being addressed in the 8.0 series.

Unfortunately, you get what you pay for when it comes to storage. We were just going to use FreeNAS as a backup target, but it wasn't stable enough for that task, much less stable enough as primary VMware storage.

  • What kind of hardware were you running on, I am curious. We would not be using active directory support so that feature does not matter. – ianc1215 Aug 1 '11 at 15:25
  • We were running on a SuperMicro something-or-other... I am too lazy to go into the datacenter to look right now. Basically a single Xeon 5300-series with 8 GB of RAM and 6xSATA drives in JBOD configuration (no RAID controller). The hardware is known-good, as it was running Windows Server 2003R2 x64 edition flawlessly for several years as a file server that was a backup target. – rmalayter Aug 1 '11 at 19:04
  • Sounds nice, I was just wondering what hardware it was running on. – ianc1215 Aug 2 '11 at 9:24

"Enterprise" means different things to different people. I would feel comfortable using FreeNAS in a small office networking environment, particularly as a non mission critical machine such as a secondary backup target. Many folks here seem to consider it reliable.

However I think the final nail in the coffin for using it as serious "enterprise-grade" storage presentation is simply that FreeNAS just isn't designed to do that. The bulk of FreeNAS' target market is on SuperUser.

This is from an interview with the FreeNAS project manager Josh Paetzel:

Q: What is the target market for FreeNAS? Is it mainly for personal use by people who want networked storage at home, or is it used in production environments -- would you consider it enterprise-ready, for example? In some respects it seems to straddle both consumer and business markets -- it has features that would be great for home storage, but also features like iSCSI targeting and 10GigE support.

A: I think in some ways it does straddle the high-end home user market and the low-end commercial market. In its current form it has moved away from the multimedia centre that many people were using FreeNAS for and more towards a storage appliance. We certainly intend to get back to that role in the future, but that's where we are at today. It's also missing the features of really high end storage, like active/active failover, a clustered filesystem, single name-space, or horizontal scaling. So it can't compete with the likes of a BlueArc, NetApp, or EMC at the high end. What we are finding is that there's a lot of room in the lower end, where features like snapshots and dedup are needed, but things like active/active failover are not. People need more features than a Netgear ReadyNAS offers, but less than a NetApp offers. FreeNAS fits into that very nicely.

  • I would be using FreeNAS for a small VMware deployment. I looked into FreeNAS. I like it but it is disappointing that they are not using a version of ZFS with Dedup included yet. – ianc1215 Aug 11 '11 at 0:05
  • Out of curiosity, what did you end up going with for a storage solution? – user62491 Aug 16 '11 at 5:29

I would concur. FreeNAS has greatly evolved since version 7 but the current version 8.0.1 doesn't support automatic failover to a spare drive (FreeBSD ZFS bug) and still has a number of major bugs.

FreeNAS as a backup target is debatable, but as a production iSCSI target for your VMs it isn't production ready in my opinion.

Nexenta - if you can pay for it - is the better option. Nexentastor isn't bad, but you might have to check the licensing terms if commercial production use is allowed. They also changed the terms to be 18TB of RAW disk rather than USED space.

  • Yeah, that is what made me very interested in Nexenta after hearing about it. – ianc1215 Aug 1 '11 at 16:15
  • The bug you mention would not affect us, we would be using hardware RAID. Mainly all I need from it is iSCSI for VMware and maybe NFS. and maybe maybe maybe a tiny bit of CIFS but the latter is slim to none. – ianc1215 Aug 1 '11 at 16:19
  • @Solignis NEVER use hardware RAID on ZFS, it defeats a lot of the point and prevents it from properly handling data integrity. – StrangeWill Feb 7 '12 at 22:37

@Soliginis: I have read of several instances where hardware raid (raid specific) data was present on drives while zRAID was setup. Such setup is not recommended since it will cause a lot of grief with zRAID especially since you will be having two RAID systems compete for the disks. As @StrangeWill: stated above will also limit the functionality of your zRAID thus causing possible data integrity issues.

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