Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Why don't companies use FreeBSD as much in production as Linux?
80 points by pentago on July 31, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments
As die-hard FreeBSD user and admin I'm interested to know why FreeBSD hasn't been used more often (yeah I know about Netflix and Yahoo but still)?



I'm not sure you're going to find one unifying answer, so I'll just contribute my own experience.

- FreeBSD lost the desktop battle to Linux. All joking aside about Linux on the desktop, if you want a *nix environment (and not Mac), Linux distributions are just a lot easier to set up and have traditionally enjoyed better packaging of proprietary software (graphics card drivers, RAID card drivers, applications, etc.). While FreeBSD has some very compelling advantages on the server, for those in my circle, it's not not so much better as to justify the cognitive overhead in switching between two similar, but different, OSes.

- FreeBSD wasn't a first class OS on EC2 for years. This allowed an entire ecosystem of devops tools to evolve with essentially Linux-only support.


I think, Google, EC2 and the 2nd Class Java Support all play its part. You have no Java and No Enterprise, and most of the money are made from Enterprise, less money in the ecosystem, and less people using it. Going in a full Circle.

Heck even Apple dont use FreeBSD with their Servers


I actually ran FreeBSD as a "desktop OS" on more than a few IBM Stinkpads for years. It worked well, driver support -- well, wifi was always fun, but if you knew enough, you could get them going (orinoco cards for the win).

That said, I never saw FreeBSD as anything other than a Server OS. So I wouldn't say the "desktop" comparison really ever fit in.


My experience with FBSD on the Desktop was always polarizing... when it worked well it was FANTASTIC, way ahead of any linux distro. Great drivers support, no bullshit with audio, 3d graphics worked great, etc. Really good.

If it worked.

If your hardware didn't fit inside a fairly narrow box (e.g. Nvidia for graphics), things failed horribly.


It's been a long time since I gave up on FreeBSD on the desktop, but I think back in 2000 I had some bad problems with whatever SoundBlaster card I had (some Audigy thing) and ATi acceleration just wasn't going to happen. But otherwise, it was rock solid. I think from there I went to Gentoo since portage was similar to the ports system.

I did try some of the FreeBSD desktop variants over the years (DragonFly and PC-BSD). But then you're still not quite running FreeBSD. I haven't kept up, but it looks like DragonFly is its own distinct BSD flavor now.


Yeah, the Audigy cards were always flakey (under Linux, too, as I remember). Support for the Soundblaster-series cards was much better.

The sound was really good for the time if you had a supported card, real hardware mixing, /dev/dsp (or was it /dev/audio) that multiple processes could write to and it was seamlessly mixed. Using the commercial version of OSS, as I recall. In Linux at that time you either had the open source fork of OSS (which wasn't nearly as good), or raw ALSA, which was promising but buggy.


>if you knew enough, you could get them going (orinoco cards for the win)

I think that right there was the problem.


That was life in the FreeBSD/Linux world, regardless, for the desktop circa early 2000s.


I used to run everything on FreeBSD. It's a great operating system and incredibly stable and I loved every minute of sysadminning a FreeBSD box. Honestly, what changed was Ubuntu. Being able to have a fairly robust server on the cheap and maintain it fairly well with just a few apt-get commands was a huge game changer.

Admittedly I haven't tried running FBSD since 4/5 timeframe and I'm sure quite a bit has changed since then, but I used to spend hours trying to patch and compile upgrades to software. The ports system that they used at the time (and might still use for all I know) was great for installing stuff, but if something didn't exist in ports or was a few version behind, you were compiling and installing from source.

aptitude has 99.99% of everything I've ever needed to install and manage and some of the newer package management systems like npm and the like cover everything else. What used to be hours each week of administration work has become minutes a month. It might be less secure, it might be slightly less robust, but overall I don't even think about systems administration anymore and (to me) that's such a huge savings in time that it's just not worth trying to go back.

And as emersonrsantos mentioned, I can almost guarantee that every hosting provider has Ubuntu in some form or another. If I need to move to a new host, I can have the system set up and be in business in probably less than an hour. What used to take a few full-time sysadmins has now been replaced by a handful of devops guys that not only manage the systems, but also help my engineers automate and improve our development workflow and pipelines. And, as he also mentioned, I can throw a rock and hit a Linux guy. Finding a FreeBSD expert is nearly impossible and they always cost a lot more.

But, it was my first unix and I've got a lot of love in my heart for the BSD way of doing things. (NetBSD and OpenBSD are other fond loves of mine). I ran a hosting company in the early 00s that was powered entirely by OpenBSD off cheap commodity hardware. And NetBSD runs on everything, which is also a pretty cool plus.

These days, I'm content knowing that my kickass Mac desktops owe their existence to the OS I grew up loving.


> Honestly, what changed was Ubuntu. Being able to have a fairly robust server on the cheap and maintain it fairly well with just a few apt-get commands was a huge game changer.

That hurts to read. Debian (upon which Ubuntu is based) has been around for decades (literally: it's 22 years old), and has been providing an extremely stable server, for free, with just a few apt-get commands.

> What used to be hours each week of administration work has become minutes a month. It might be less secure, it might be slightly less robust, but overall I don't even think about systems administration anymore and (to me) that's such a huge savings in time that it's just not worth trying to go back.

Or you could switch to Debian and get the same ease-of-use with better security.

If you really wanted security, of course, you'd choose OpenBSD.


> That hurts to read.

Why? Ubuntu is based on Debian and I guessing it shares and contributes to same package ecosystem.

> Debian (upon which Ubuntu is based) has been around for decades

Found Debian, after being around for decades, never quite won the desktop market. Debian got there perhaps 80% ofthe way, but the final 20% was just hard to achieve, and I think Ubuntu put a great effort into that 20%, polishing it up and making it a much better experience. After trying Debian, CentOS, Mandriva, Gentoo for my dev machine, I ended up with Ubuntu, and with it I stopped worrying about my OS. Almost everything works. I don't even think about or notice the OS anymore. And that's a good thing!

So, back to Debian, once I want to deploy something and I've played with it on my Ubuntu dev machine, which OS would I evaluate first? Ubuntu Server, of course. So I think the server story paradoxically often starts on the Desktop.


So, back to Debian, once I want to deploy something and I've played with it on my Ubuntu dev machine, which OS would I evaluate first? Ubuntu Server, of course.

Maybe, but Ubuntu Server has serious downsides when it comes to security updates. Canonical only releases security updates for main/restricted, while Debian releases security updates for the whole distribution. So, if you are using packages from universe/multiverse (which I guess a lot of people do), security updates are not guaranteed. Or as Canonical puts it:

Canonical does not provide a guarantee of regular security updates for software in the universe component, but will provide these where they are made available by the community.

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Repositories


Fair point, thanks for mentioning it.


Nobody is knocking Debian. Ubuntu picked Debian, for apt-get and stability, after all.

But apt-get has undergone many improvements because of the swell in Ubuntu users. And that user-base has brought more documentation and energy to linux than any other distro.


Ubuntu contributes very little to Debian.


> Or you could switch to Debian and get the same ease-of-use with better security.

Honest question: In what ways is the security story on debian better than the security on ubuntu?


It's not. I've been using Debian GNU/Linux as my main OS for well over a decade, and I love it both on technical merits, and on the great effort put into it to maintain a user-driven, non-profit, democratic (both in the sense of voting, but even more in the sense of participating) organization.

All that said, I've used Ubuntu on and off since it launched, and they've been a great benefit to both Debian and Linux in general. There were some issues in the start, with not handling cooperating and resource sharing very well, there were a few sore people as a result of that -- but as far as I can tell most of those growing pains are well behind us now.

I personally sneer a bit reflexively when people mention Ubuntu on the server, but frankly that's an issue with me, and not with Ubuntu. I got burned by Ubuntu doing stuff like changing gid/uid numbers for system groups/users and little incompatibilities that made it hard to maintain services across Debian old-stable, stable and a couple of Ubuntu LTS releases at the same time for a while (the typical incompatibilities which generally have plagued Linux for as long as there have been more than one distro).

My impression is that since Ubuntu 12.04 pretty much all the major kinks got worked out, including avoiding issues with LTS -> LTS release upgrades - and Ubuntu is now as solid an OS as pretty much anything else.

As for the security bit, I think Ubuntu still comes with more out of the box, both on the server and on the desktop than Debian does. Like eg. the ssh daemon, maybe some bonjour networking stuff. Ever since OpenBSD forced everyone to re-examine what "runs by default" I prefer a cleanly installed OS to not listen to neither UDP or TCP at all out of the box. In that sense, Debian might possibly be considered "more secure" -- but I don't have the impression that there's a big difference in patch rates etc between the two.

Ubuntu/Canonical has gone to great lengths to make Ubuntu for Desktop and Server work out-of-the-box for the great majority of users -- and I honestly think they've done a great job with it. I still prefer Debian, but I also accept that it's a matter of preference not some strict criteria of superiority or the like.

Oh, and I have a special place in my heart for Debian/kFreeBSD even if I've yet to actually get to play with it: https://wiki.debian.org/Debian_GNU/kFreeBSD

Phew. Apologies for the long post - hopefully it has a few interesting nuggets.


> In what ways is the security story on debian better than the security on ubuntu?

See danieldk's comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/reply?id=12201051&goto=threads%...

I'd add that Ubuntu encourages the use of PPAs, which are a security nightmare.


Ports for building customized binary packages was a really nice solution to building a customized operating environment 10-15 years ago. It's still a good solution, but not so much better than what I get on Fedora or Ubuntu provide these days to justify letting devs and admins retrain themselves on FreeBSD during onboarding.


My experience with FreeBSD seems to mirror yours exactly. The only difference was moving into big corp world, everybody ran Solaris and RHEL. Try as I might, there was no appetite for FBSD, and most vendor SW wasn't supported.


After 18 years of running FreeBSD on my servers, my $0.02:

Politics/marketing:

* Most "unix" admins only know linux and will advocate for it vigorously because it is so much better than.. "what do you use again? Fedora? Ah, FreeBSD, something with F, I knew it!"

* Management not always listens to reason but just wants a discussion go away, so they listen to the loudest advocates.

Knowledge/Community:

* It is easier to copy a solution to a linux problem from stack overflow than to read the FreeBSD handbook, understand the problem and fix it.

* FreeBSD only is fun when one has a higher level of expertise: Knowledge of sh and at least a basic understanding of make are required, being able to at least read c code makes life much easier.

* Reading docs is hard. FreeBSD forces one to understand the standard unix tools that come with it. That means one has to spend some time reading the docs (or at least skimming over them so one knows where to look when the need arises). If one does not understand the tools, even simple init scripts are black magic.

* No exposure to FreeBSD at all: most hosting companies won't even list FreeBSD as an option (though in most you'll find some unix geek who'll happily connect KVM or IPMI and insert the install-CD for you).

* The FreeBSD community is much less forgiving than the linux community: Ask a question that can be answered easily by reading the handbook or some man-page and the response will probably be silence (rarely flaming, just silence).

And finally also some points where one could argue that it makes sense not to use FreeBSD from an economic point of view:

* When using FreeBSD one is regularly forced to clean up linux-BS when venturing outside what /usr/ports provides: #!/bin/bash - or even worse #!/bin/sh that actually wants a bash - is one of the most common problems.

* When compiling software from source that does not come from /usr/ports one regularly has to do research what $leenox-distro-package XY provides because documentation just gives command lines for the most common linux distributions. "Soo.... what exactly does that software need to compile when the docs tell me to simply apt-get foo-23.5 and bar-42.666?"


> most hosting companies won't even list FreeBSD as an option (though in most you'll find some unix geek who'll happily connect KVM or IPMI and insert the install-CD for you).

Some of my datacenter clients use freeBSD for various bits, and I have been that guy. In the end they're migrating away because it's incredibly hard to find experienced engineers. What you describe as "reading docs is hard" can be equated to "my team will be slower for negleglible gain." Dicking around with ports and make is fun, but at the end of the day, we seek lower latency services and faster outage response times.

EDIT: there's also a network effect in puppet / chef / ansible -- More work for your operations team when every community module for managing services doesn't support your platform of choice.


TL;DR: You are absolutely right - but that is very, very sad.

> What you describe as "reading docs is hard" can be equated to "my team will be slower for negleglible gain."

Yes, but only from a very short-sighted point of view. I cannot count the "devops"-meetings I had to attend as a consultant during which I hacked a command line that solved the problem the meeting was supposed to make a plan for and estimate costs... I dare to argue that letting the ops learn the ropes on company time would have been much cheaper than my fees plus costs for working time employees spent on that meeting. But I understand this is very hard to quantify and that in a startup culture people don't want to think beyond the point where the financing is used up.

My fav. test for sysop/devop candidates: "Tell me how large the home directory of all users who use [t]csh as a login shell is on that machine; no, you cannot install anything, there is no perl, ruby or python. You have 90 seconds.". 99% fail. I've even interviewed people who applied for a sysop/devop positions who could not set up a host if not through puppet because they know sh1t about the target OS.

PS: Thanks for being "that guy" who allowed me to use a mature OS. People like you allowed me to have a 336 day uptime as the lower limit. Most of my machines have more than a thousand days of uptime :)


This is a attitude classic case of engineers optimizing for the wrong damn thing. Sure, we've all sat in on 18 month projects that should have been a five line shell script. One hopes that whatever expert is teaching ops "the ropes" knows this already. But at least you get a consultant paycheck for their ignorance.

> My fav. test for sysop/devop candidates

But how do you query your LDAP server without installing additional tools? Because in 2016, we have more than one machine. Hundreds. Grepping /etc/passwd is missing the forest for the trees.

You can have all the shell experts, I need people who can write Chef code that passes peer review. kitchen lets us poke around the OS all we want to inspect proper functioning.

> People like you allowed me to have a 336 day uptime as the lower limit. Most of my machines have more than a thousand days of uptime :)

AFAIK, none of the BSDs have online kernel replacement facilities. So you willingly admit you haven't upgraded your kernels in years? I know fBSD has a reputation, but every once in a while this still happens: https://threatpost.com/freebsd-patches-kernel-panic-vulnerab....


> But how do you query your LDAP server without installing additional tools? Because in 2016, we have more than one machine. Hundreds. Grepping /etc/passwd is missing the forest for the trees.

You are missing my point, it's about being able to filter and transform textual output. If a sysop can only do what the UI provides s/he is useless when creative solutions are asked for.

> You can have all the shell experts, I need people who can write Chef code that passes peer review. kitchen lets us poke around the OS all we want to inspect proper functioning.

Every good sysop I've met can write your Chef code. Understanding system basics and managing with high level tools is not mutually exclusive. Tools like Chef are the result of exactly those sysops automating what they could. You know that saying? "Tomorrow I'll replace you with a shell script." ;)

> So you willingly admit you haven't upgraded your kernels in years?

Yes, I only update when a security problem concerns me and that is pretty rare with custom kernels that only have what is required. Even my desktop setups need a new kernel only once a year or so.


> It is easier to copy a solution to a linux problem from stack overflow than to read the FreeBSD handbook, understand the problem and fix it.

I'm (a little) ashamed to admit tech support via trolling. Linux sucks because you can't even [whatever].

It is nice to get a quick response of "it's just [whatever], noob".

Although, that was a last resort. I've met a couple of people that reread man pages every year, i've never quite picked up that practice. Once you get the hang of parsing the super terse examples, man is pretty great.


> It is nice to get a quick response

Indeed, it is. But one won't learn anything of value. One just learns the solution to a very specific problem. If one chooses to learn the basics, more often than not one will decide that it is quicker to dive into the problem and fix it than to "troll" tech support.


Often finding an answer gives me useful knowledge I can then use in other circumstances, but I can't possibly know every corner of my OS.

Recently I found my only machine running FreeBSD (as a testing machine) was kernel crashing occasionally. On a whim I googled '<machine name> kernel crash', and found a page which discussed an extra linux boot-time flag I had to add, to disable some feature of the graphics card. I couldn't figure out how to do the same thing on FreeBSD, so just switched to Debian, and added the magic option. No more crashes. Now the machine runs a FreeBSD VM on top of linux.


Well, this specific case is trolling zealots, not tech support.

I mostly agree with you, but there are some unique facts that, back in the day, you just sort of had to know. something like

    echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
You know exactly what you need to do, but haven't memorized the name of the bit to twiddle to get the behavior you want. Now there are, of course, tools to configure these sorts of things. More importantly, google and stackoverflow help immensely with this kind of thing.


> the response will probably be silence (rarely flaming, just silence).

This is my favorite part of the Linux community. Ask something that you aren't sure of, and if it's wrong, you'll get quite some volume of responses correcting you!


Community support. More like community derision from the FreeBSD world.

In the early 2000's, I had to set up a dedicated CVS server for my 10-person startup. I was the dual hat "dev & admin" guy. We were small, but had good desktop machines with good SCSI disks in them (top of the line Seagate, if I remember right).

I set up both a Linux and a FreeBSD dedicated CVS server. We were all happy to try one server for a day, copy the repo to the other one for a day, and try things out.

Well, FreeBSD was a bitch to set up compared to Linux and was easily 10X slower in every way measurable. Like, "cvs up" would take 5 seconds from the Linux server compared to a minute on FreeBSD (yes, same repo...). Hopping on to the FreeBSD box locally showed that every kind of disk activity was way slower than Linux.

I went to the FreeBSD newsgroups and got laughed at. Not a single piece of helpful info. I did get several large words thrown at me about how I didn't understand the benchmarks and the performance shouldn't be noticeable to the end users. At least one guy took to emailing me directly about how I shouldn't be comparing Linux to FreeBSD.

After 2 or 3 days of wrestling, I powered off the FreeBSD box, installed Linux on it, and never considered FreeBSD again.


Simple answer - knowledge share. Many more people know and are familiar with Linux than FreeBSD. Throw in companies like Red Hat, etc. and that makes it more compelling for those wanting some sort of support backing.

Personally, I've been running FreeBSD (including some commercial installs -- years ago) for about 16-17 years.


Pretty much this this.

Linux (especially Debian-based distros), is usually the first UNIX flavour that people coming from Windows get in touch with. While FreeBSD has excellent documentation, Ubuntu and others simply have the larger newbie-friendly community.


This sums up my experience. I still have an ISO of FreeBSD 10.1 sitting somewhere on my system just waiting for me to copy over to a USB drive once I work out how to set it up on a dual-boot system along with Windows.

So far, all the guides I've seen for dual-booting have been for Linux, and they've all been straightforward.


I agree and especially it should be noted that Ubuntu and RedHat had huge marketing budgets compared to pretty much everyone else for the last decade. Nobody really pushes for FreeBSD in business settings because there is no social capital that comes from doing so. All three require a lot of skill to manage but that skill seems lest costly for Red Hat and Ubuntu even though it's not necessarily true. That's the power of marketing.


It's kind of a virtuous cycle (or vicious cycle, if you prefer BSD): more people use Linux; more guides are written to help others, more software is readily available, and more testing is done by virtue of having a larger user base; so more people use Linux. I don't think there's much to say about qualitative comparisons between Linux and BSD that hasn't already been said to death, but I do think the two are borrowing from each other in healthy ways and approaching parity, at least in an "on paper" sense.


These days mostly because of the network effect.

People both get more value from Linux and add more value to it by using it and writing software for it. Take docker or nix for example, huge value for Linux and not so much for systems, where they don't work or aren't first class citizens.


I have vendors that require a certain OS. Often, its not even "Linux", its "Red Hat Enterprise version 6.x". If you've ever dealt with an Enterprise Software Vendor, you know the added level of fun of using something other than the strict requirements given. Red Hat is the new Windows for government vendors I've had to deal with.


I read / "think" Yahoo is not using FreeBSD any more. The move to Linux started before Marissa era. And I think by now they should be 99% Linux.

Netflix I "think / read" is only using FreeBSD with their Storage Appliance. So that is relatively small parts in number of Servers. Most of their operation, those Chaos Monkey killed machines are all EC2 and Linux.

Whatsapp is Erlang and FreeBSD, a real rare bleed. But i read Facebook is hiring Engineers to make Linux Network Stack better then FreeBSD. Bold claim on the Job Description, then there were rumours Whatsapp moving to integrate with Facebook, i.e moving off FreeBSD to Linux. I doubt thats an coincidence.

Despite the many / some similarities between FreeBSD and OSX, even Apple aren't using any FreeBSD on their Servers. At least there hasn't been any evidence in hiring.

So really, which large, Internet Company is actually using FreeBSD?


I think it was a network effect. Around 1992 The free PC-based BSD distributions like 386BSD were at around the same level (if not slightly ahead) of Linux.

However in 1992 and 1993 there were some internal political problems in BSD land (which eventually led to FreeBSD spinning off) and the "USL v. Regents of the University of California" lawsuit also cast a shadow on the legality of the BSDs.

During those two years Linux kept developing, jumped ahead and basically grabbed all the mind-share and marketing share.

The BSDs have been playing catchup since. For instance with fewer developers they had problems supporting a wide range hardware so were not even an option for many.


Some reasons I could think:

- It's easier and cheaper to find Linux sysadmins than BSD ones

- There's more commercial software supported on Linux

- There's more companies offering support for Linux

- Linux is more portable than BSD

- Linux is one of the standard server OS offered by providers, BSD isn't


- Linux is more portable than BSD - Linux is one of the standard server OS offered by providers, BSD isn't

that's the big one there. My favorite, Hetzner (not only mine, they have a ginormous amount of dedis) offers BSD but a) not all servers are compatible and for older servers you can't even know whether they are without booting into Linux first b) it's much more of a hassle like installing Linux gives you a ready-to-go system while the BSD install needs tweaking with sysctl and network both.


How is Linux more portable than BSD?! NetBSD has been ported to nearly every platform known to man, even toasters.

I'm surprised that more embedded devices don't run some sort of BSD because they wouldn't have to release code. The PS4's OS is FreeBSD, which they did release a lot of code in return, but they don't have to open source or release all their code (i.e. DRM and other "Security" based stuff) if they don't want to.


There's platform, and then there's drivers. There's no point on having an OS on a net-enabled device if that OS can't talk to the network hardware, for example.

Linux has had a ridiculous amount of work from a variety of sources in it's drivers. I once used a git animation tool (forget the name of it, sorry) on the linux kernel source, and the area where the drivers were put was buzzing like a beehive, as people from all sorts of companies were making sure their stuff was supported on linux.


>I once used a git animation tool (forget the name of it, sorry)

Probably Gource I would imagine http://gource.io/


That's the one, thank you.


> The PS4's OS is FreeBSD, which they did release a lot of code in return, but they don't have to open source or > release all their code (i.e. DRM and other "Security" based stuff) if they don't want to.

And that is a 2-way road, where some people cry on forums and maillists anyway, that companies tend to use BSD and not return to community. There is no need to paint it as a win-win situation(distribute proprietary derivate software) when it clearly has its problems too.


Many embedded Linux vendors don't release their code. They get away with it because many are only around for a short period and enforcement resources are limited.


> NetBSD has been ported to nearly every platform known to man, even toasters.

Linux runs on all these platforms and more - that toaster only had an ARM board sticked to it


I'm confused by what you mean by "more portable." Do you mean that it runs on more CPU architectures and platforms? Or do you mean more driver support, etc.? BSD can run a rather diverse set of platforms: http://www.netbsd.org/ports/


Quantitatively speaking, Linux has a large share on diverse platforms, and is on the top usage as client (eg. Android), server, and embedded devices that run a typical computer OS.


I'm not confused, I assume they mean /more compatible/ (with hardware on the shelf).


All of these (expect for VAX) are supported by Linux too


Thanks everybody for answers!

From what I gather from all these replies people's main concern is that FreeBSD is generally harder to use/configure and management is hard to persuade into supporting it because it would make DevOps less productive.

From the standpoint of a person who run FreeBSD in production on both bare metal and VM's and manages several commercial applications and websites, I must say that plenty (if not all) of these phobias are unjustified. Yes, there are some edge cases but 95% of the time, there's nothing new to learn you already don't know, except new package manager commands and slightly different file system layout.

Not using awesome technologies like ZFS, Boot Environments, Jails, Qjail, Poudriere and awesome PF is just a plain missing out in my opinion.

I personally don't care about desktop, there are already 2 awesome OS's that majority of people use for a reason and that's pretty much enough I think.

I personally heard nothing but praises from people who are long term Linux users/admins who tried it.

Once people figured out couple of OS specifics its all breeze :)


In my experience, the BSDs used to be trusted for their reliability and performance. Linux has come a long way in terms of reliability and configuration cost - though performance is harder to tune for. Docker has enabled a lot of trusted deployments. 6-8 years ago I remember the question "Why don't companies use Linux as much in production as FreeBSD?"

Maybe I'm sheltered.


I was in devops in a Dotcom in the 1999-2000 era. Back then Linux was still a pretty shaky server OS. In particular the network and NFS stacks were unstable and slow. We originally tried to deploy on Linux but had to switch to FreeBSD to get a stable environment.

But Linux has come a long way since then. The major issues have been resolved and IMO the overwhelmingly larger ecosystem Linux enjoys outweighs most if not all advantages FreeBSD might still have on a technical level.


However much I hate the politics surrounding Docker and systemd, they have done a LOT for Linux to provide a standardized way to configure most distros and reliably deploy apps/stacks. I still feel that tuning Linux for networking is not an easy thing to learn about.


Personal anecdotes:

About a year ago I wanted to replace newlines in a file with "sed" on FreeBSD. I couldn't.

At first I thought there was an error on my side. I was very surprised to find out that you could not do that at all, it said so right there in "man sed".

Dirty hacks to work around this problem posted on stackoverflow did not work on that machine either.

Tried to mess with newlines with python. Turned out there was some kind of other problem if you open files in 'wb' mode under FreeBSD.

This experience with some of the most basic tools not working as they do on GNU/Linux made me want to avoid FreeBSD if possible.


Lowest common denominator.

Those people who are familiar with a Unix variant are more familiar with Linux. Linux is different enough from *BSD that what people do learn about Linux doesn't translate.

Linux entry level is actually easier than Windows these days. In fact when I look for candidates if they only have Ubuntu / Docker on their resume its trash.

What used to be considered entry level skill sets are now called "Michael Jordan" level skillsets ( kernel compile / tuning , C debugging etc etc )

Currently I use Linux because it makes me money. I use the BSD's because I like them


> if they only have Ubuntu / Docker on their resume its trash

I hope there's some wiggle room in there for folks who may know more but cater their resumes to what they want to do and/or the buzzwords recruiters are filtering by.


I can tell you my experience as to why Linux won out in production. Many years ago when I was doing enterprise systems administration, we were using both Linux and BSD equally in the beginning. But what eventually gave Linux the edge was hardware support and package management. Linux had solid SMP support first, which meant we could replace expensive UNIX servers like Suns and AlphaServers with much cheaper Intel based multi-processor servers. PLus Linux had more drivers for hardware like RAID and network cards. We didn't have to hunt down specific, often older, hardware like we did for our BSD servers. Also IBM ported Linux to it's z series servers so Linux had a (what we used to term) "big iron" server solution first and could replace proprietary solutions like the high end HP9000's. Package management was a huge plus. It greatly reduced administrative time. Major software upgrades, like when we had to replace libc6 on all our *NIX servers because of a major security bug, would take hours on the BSD servers but minutes on our Debian servers.


Perhaps they have some security concerns. https://vez.mrsk.me/freebsd-defaults.txt - more admin time spent tweaking poor default security == more money being spent.


Many of the "points" mentioned therein are misleading, at best, if not outright wrong. There was a nice discussion / rebuttal of this article somewhere, although I can't remember where at this moment. Unfortunately, I'm just about to leave but I'll see if I can find it later.


Which points are misleading or wrong?


Apologies, I just glanced at this link and I think I mistook this article for a "troll" article that has been posted and shared several times. I just looked at this article, started reading through it and it doesn't seem familiar. I don't think I've seen it before. I'm trying to find the "troll" article that I thought this was but I'm not having any luck at the moment.


It comes down to the fact that there are more people familiar with linux than BSD. Orders of magnitude more in the US. Unless you're working on something where the GPL is a concern, it's easier to default to linux.


Keeping software up-to-date on FreeBSD sucks. That's my one and only complaint. If that got comparably easier, I'd be switching from Ubuntu/Debian on servers back to FreeBSD.

I still run FreeBSD 8.4 on one production system, and recently decommissioned a FreeBSD 5 box that had been happily humming away in a colo for 10 years. I learned FreeBSD before Linux and prefer almost everything else about it...except that part about updating software.

If you take security seriously, you apply security updates in a timely fashion. For a while I was diligent about it on my FreeBSD boxes, monitored vuxml, and updated vulnerable packages regularly with this:

    portaudit -a |
    sed -ne 's/^Affected package: //p' |
    sort -u |
    xargs portupgrade -P -rv
When things go well, and binary packages exist for everything, this is almost as good as `unattended-upgrades` on Debian. But things don't usually go so well. Building packages from source occasionally doesn't bother me. Random breakages in ports and their dependencies bothered me a lot, and became the rule rather than the exception.

Near as I can tell Ubuntu/Debian wins here because it freezes packages alongside the OS release, except for backported security patches if you're on LTS. FreeBSD has only one ports tree. It's in constant flux, and (in my experience) is constantly broken. Why can't ports be branched off alongside the OS release and receive security backports? Maybe FreeBSD doesn't have the manpower to do this, maybe it's cultural, I'm not really sure. What I can say is it's relatively easy to check out, tweak, build and install ports on a case-by-case basis if for some reason you need the latest and greatest of something. I don't see the value in constantly having the latest and greatest of everything though, and it even seems a little antithetical to FreeBSD to me.

Anyway, so port upgrades suck, but base upgrades also suck. Doing an `apt-get dist-upgrade` to go from Ubuntu 12.04 to 14.04 "just worked." Rebuilding world to upgrade from FreeBSD 7.x to 8.x worked, but just barely, and the whole process scared the shit out of me. Random incompatibilities continued to crop up for some time after.

I think this one comes down to the integrated base userland + kernel in FreeBSD versus the "everything's a package" approach in Ubuntu/Debian. Kernel upgrades are much more common on Linux. Not that this is an objectively good thing, but rare events don't tend to get tested and optimized like routine ones do.

Note: if you're a diehard FreeBSD user and you've figured out how to keep your system up-to-date with minimum fuss, please school me.


It's a lot easier these days with the new pkg tools.


I've used the new pkg tools a little. Can you be more specific? Can they be used to reliably apply unattended security updates now?


There days people use freebsd-update to do this. http://serverfault.com/a/738217/41952

Accompanies with ZFS boot environments there's literally minimal fuss about upgrading and worrying about possible breakages.


Thanks, I hadn't seen `freebsd-update install --not-running-from-cron`. I'll give that a try.


It's easier to find Linux admins and it's easier to look up Linux stack traces on SO. "Nobody ever got fired buying IBM," updated for the modern age.


Early companies like IBM threw a lot of weight and money behind linux around 2000 or so. From there, Google and other big companies chose Linux as well. This is a large basis of engineering talent and knowledge to build upon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOtKZA9ri7M


Java runs on Linux. There are tons of bespoke and third party Java apps running in companies. Running Java on any other x86 UNIX is a hassle.


I run several Java applications on a FreeBSD server without problems. Is there a particular subset of Java features that don't work other than on Linux? I also haven't had any issues with Java on macOS.


When I put on my pointy corporate IT hat, and I go to the Oracle web site to download Java, I see that Java runs on Linux, MacOS, Solaris, and Windows. Then when I go to download WebSphere, I see that it runs on a similar set plus AIX. Java support for Linux comes from the vendor while Java support for FreeBSD comes from the "community." Corporations will generally not depend on infrastructure that does not have reliable vendors who will sell them support contracts. Linux has this ecosystem in place. FreeBSD does not.


If they should use BSD, wouldn't OpenBSD actually be better? (Default to security)


I use OpenBSD for quite a few services, but end up using FreeBSD for my file servers (OpenZFS). If the progress on multiple CPU usage and virtualization continues on OpenBSD, the only real thing holding me back from getting rid of FreeBSD is the filesystem. I am looking at the progress of HAMMER2 on DragonFlyBSD to see if it is a good fit.


Ditto for me. I run OpenBSD for a few specific services (transparent SMTP/spamd proxy, SSH jumpboxes, firewall) but mostly stick with FreeBSD for production primarily because of ZFS.

ZFS really is amazing. Before I ever actually tried it, I couldn't understand why people were so amazed by a filesystem. It's incredibly hard to "go back" and I often feel a bit "crippled" when managing machines not using ZFS.


I can't speak for anyone else, but video card support is better in Linux. shrug Otherwise I'd switch to BSD.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: