NetApp helps bring FreeBSD to Hyper-V

Posted by Anandeep Pannu
Senior Program Manager – Open Source Technical Center

NetAppToday at BSDCan, NetApp and Microsoft presented their collaboration with Citrixto bring native support for FreeBSD on the Windows Server Hyper-V hypervisor.  This continues a commitment to extend support across platforms to the Windows Server Hyper-V solution, making it easier for more customers to realize the benefits of server virtualization and progress toward cloud computing.  We caught up with Joe CaraDonna, NetApp Technical Director of Core Operating Systems, for more on how this collaboration will support FreeBSD and Microsoft customers and partners, as well as his insights into what’s next. 

  • Tell our readers about NetApp.

NetApp is dedicated to creating innovative storage and data management solutions for our customers and partners. We have more than 11,000 employees at 150 offices around the world, and have been driving innovation in storage for the past 20 years.

  • How did this project get started? What inspired you to develop the BSD device drivers for Windows Server Hyper-V?  

NetApp and Microsoft have a long-standing relationship, which dates back more than 10 years. The two companies continuously seek opportunities to innovate together, leveraging each other’s knowledge and technology to bring new products and solutions to our customers. In the case of Windows Server Hyper-V, Microsoft expressed interest in expanding its guest operating system support to include FreeBSD. NetApp leverages FreeBSD in its products, one of which is Data ONTAP-v: a Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) delivering our multiprotocol storage management and data protection capabilities to virtualized environments. Given our interests, it made good sense to work together on this project.

  • How will this project help Microsoft and FreeBSD customers and partners?  

This project will enable FreeBSD to run on the Windows Server Hyper-V platform. Microsoft knows that customers and partners have the need to run a variety of operating systems for a variety of reasons. The more operating systems that run on the Windows Server Hyper-V platform, the more flexible and compelling the platform is and the more customers it can support.

As for FreeBSD, NetApp has been a major supporter of the FreeBSD Project and FreeBSD Foundation for many years. As a consumer of open source, we at NetApp believe it is important to give back to these initiatives, both technologically and financially. When consumers are also producers, it allows the cycle to continue and advance.

The virtualization space is of particular interest to us, and it’s an area where FreeBSD had not been keeping pace. Last year at BSDCan , NetApp released a native FreeBSD hypervisor, called BHyVe. This work was a product of some exploratory development at NetApp, and we felt the community could benefit from the technology so we gave them the source code.

This year we’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Microsoft and Citrixto deliver Windows Server Hyper-V support to FreeBSD. I think the combination of these virtualization technologies helps round-out the FreeBSD virtualization story, and makes the FreeBSD operating system a more compelling offering.

  • What was the most interesting part of the process?

It’s always interesting when multiple companies come together to work on something. The different styles and perspectives challenge you. In this case we decided to play to our strengths, where Microsoft would concentrate on the hypervisor interface layer (vmbus), and NetApp would concentrate on the storage. Citrixwas key as well, concentrating on the network. All three companies worked together amazingly well, sharing ideas, and driving to an aggressive schedule. We started the discussions last October, and will soon have a code drop to show. I think the FreeBSD community will be happy with the result.

  • What surprised you most about working with Microsoft?

I’ve never worked with Microsoft on an open source project before. I was surprised to discover how committed Microsoft is to open source initiatives. We decided from the very beginning that we were going to open source the code under the BSD license. No strings attached. They were as eager as us to support the project, and then give the code away. How cool is that?

  • Have you received any feedback from the FreeBSD community about this collaboration?

Last November we hosted a FreeBSD Vendor Summit at NetApp. This forum is an opportunity for companies who use FreeBSD in their products to come together and discuss their wants, needs, and contributions to FreeBSD going forward. There were about 20 companies represented. We (NetApp, Microsoft, Citrix) introduced the launch of this project there. Microsoft was new to the group, and people were curious to know what this was about. There was certainly interest in the room, but as these things go, it’s not real until you have code to show. I’m looking forward to see where this goes once people have it in their hands early this summer.

  • What kinds of collaborations would you like to see Microsoft undertake with open source communities moving forward?

The Windows Server Hyper-V ecosystem will evolve, and I would like to see Microsoft continue to actively support FreeBSD as a first class citizen on Windows Server Hyper-V.

  • What do you believe will be the “next big thing” in open source for enterprise customers?

I think virtualization is pretty hot right now, whether it is on-premises or in the cloud, and will continue to be for some time to come. The next big thing is what people do with it. Hypervisors are great, but they are merely enablers. Virtual appliances are where the solutions are in this space, and when people are enabled, creativity and innovation ensue. The tools are now there for technologists to get innovative with virtualization using Windows Server Hyper-V and FreeBSD.

Thanks to Joe and the NetApp and Citrix teams for their diligent collaboration supporting the FreeBSD community and extending the Windows Server Hyper-V experience to more customers. Let us know what you think of the FreeBSD support in the comments.  What additional enhancements or support would you like to see for Windows Server Hyper-V?