Hello from FreeBSD and Azure

This blog is now running on a set of FreeBSD jails on Azure. Setting it up was relatively easy and smooth, modulo a few bumps on the road that I have documented and will share in upcoming posts.

Why FreeBSD and why jails, you may ask? Everyone and their dog seems to be running Docker containers on Linux these days, so going FreeBSD can legitimately raise a few eyebrows. I wish I had a compelling answer and I could start pontificating about performance, security, scalability and the like but this is not the case: my blog doesn’t get nearly enough traffic to even start discussing scalability and I’m not nearly enough conversant on system internals to provide guidance one way or the other.

Truth is, I just resonate with FreeBSD more than I do with Linux. I cut my UNIX teeth on Linux, but I quickly moved to FreeBSD after my Linux workstation was pwned some 15 years ago. I came to FreeBSD for PF and stayed for make world.

Back when Linux was busy creating amazing things and paying a price in terms of slight yet annoying incompatibilities and quirks, FreeBSD has always been a cornerstone of predictable, solid performance. And usability too: hier is a joy, and knowing that anything that is not part of core goes in /usr/local and that port maintainers will leave configuration files alone (Debian, I’m looking at you and your a-little-too-clever Apache’s sites-available) takes a lot of guesswork away.

Over the years I deployed on Linux a number of times, mostly because I needed JVMs and as there wasn’t just enough choice of FreeBSD VMs out there. I did however make a point of being a pain in the backside of many colleagues at Microsoft until we got FreeBSD on VM Depot. The cherry on the cake was some downtime over the recent holidays which allowed me to learn my way around jails and successfully migrate my aging Linux machine over.

You are now connecting to FreeBSD 10.1, with four different jails running a DNS server, a MariaDB service and a couple of websites running mostly WordPress. A testament to FreeBSD quality is that to set it up I just had to dust some memory shelves and learn a couple of new things: despite not having deployed anything serious in the best part of 10 years, things are pretty much the same as they used to be, and the utmost predictability of what’s going to happen on a FreeBSD system is still very much there.

Please don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I don’t like Linux – I obviously did and still do although with many reservations on systemd. It’s just that one way or the other I keep coming back to FreeBSD: home sweet home.



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