Home Business IT Open Source Take-up on the rise as FreeBSD turns 20
FreeBSD developers in Hungary celebrating the 20th birthday of the operating system. FreeBSD developers in Hungary celebrating the 20th birthday of the operating system. Featured

The FreeBSD project has just turned 20 and is seeing a large increase in the number of products developed around it, senior developer Marshall "Kirk" McKusick says.

The project was kicked off on June 19, 1993, a couple of months before the Linux kernel was first released. The foundation set up to handle the fund-raising and other activities for FreeBSD is now 13 years old.

The Foundation normally raises funds towards the end of each year. This year, it began a "Raise a Million, Spend a Million" campaign to be run over three separate periods of the year. The first campaign, which ran in April and May around BSDCanada (the largest BSD conference), aimed to raise $US100,000.

"Setting out to raise money in the spring (which we are told is a tough time to raise money) proved to be very successful," McKusick said.

"Last year when we were far less focused on fund raising, we had raised $US56,196 by the end of May. By contrast, this year we have raised $US365,291 by the end of May. We also plan to have a fall (autumn) fund-raiser in August and September surrounding the EuroBSD conference (in Malta this year), and, of course, our traditional year-end fund-raiser."

During the April-May campaign period, the Foundation raised $US219,806. "It broke down as $US205,973 from 12 organisations and $US13,833 from 365 individual donors," McKusick said. "In the same period last year we raised a total of $US23,422, broken down as $US10,566 from two organisations and $US12,856 from 53 individuals."

He said that while most of the money came from organisations, the individual donors were very important. "Most importantly it highlights the level of community support for FreeBSD. It also helps us meet our US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) public support test. To be considered a public charity, an organisation must show that it is of benefit to the general public and is not just a tax-dodge for large corporations.

"While we show this by sponsoring conferences and supporting the release of FreeBSD, it also helps to show that we have a large number of individual contributors."

McKusick said the following projects were in progress or had been recently completed to help improve FreeBSD:

Capsicum security-component framework;

Transparent superpages support of the FreeBSD/ARM architecture;

Expanded and faster IPv6;

Native in-kernel iSCSI stack;

Five New TCP Congestion Control Algorithms;

Direct mapped I/O to avoid extra memory copies;

Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) boot environment;

Porting FreeBSD to the Genesi Efika MX SmartBook laptop (ARM-based); and

NAND Flash filesystem and storage stack

"For the first time we have hired technical staff members to help us work directly with improving and adding these features to FreeBSD, as well as provide support for the Release Engineering and Security teams," he said.

The funding helps the Foundation to continue its sponsorship of events like BSDCanada, EuroBSDCon, AsiaBSDCon, BSDDay, NYCBSDCon, vendor summits and developer summits (often in conjunction with the conferences).

The additional money raised also helps to fund developer's travel to these events and increase the Foundation's marketing efforts.

"We have been able to increase our marketing efforts to help promote and advocate for FreeBSD," McKusick said. "We designed and produced a high-quality FreeBSD 9 brochure to hand out at conferences. We also designed another brochure that educates the novice on what FreeBSD is about. Lastly, we just contracted someone to write FreeBSD-related white papers.

"Over the past 18 months we have seen seeing a large increase in the number of companies that are developing products using FreeBSD. With its adoption by Netflix to run their servers, it now is responsible for serving up more than 25 per cent of the Internet traffic. At 20, FreeBSD is really beginning to take its place in the world."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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