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Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/23 20:38:12
by JanusAlpha
Hi All,

I've been using FreeBSD to power a small-scale network for the past few years. I found it to be very well suited for everything I wanted to achieve. Recently however, I've been wondering whether another OS, such as CentOS, could provide a better experience than BSD. Is there much to improve upon? No, but there's no such thing as a perfect system so I'm trying to determine whether CentOS could be a preference for me. :-)

Let's get the disclaimer of out the way: I fully appreciate that both BSD and CentOS are very capable systems and both can be configured for many diverse applications. I understand that either could probably achieve 99% of what the other can do, hence any comparison must be related to (1) specific use cases, and (2) personal preference. No silver bullet solutions, just great building blocks.

Right. Here are my main use cases:
(1) NAS type storage accessed by circa 15 clients. Possibly with differing QoS.
(2) ZFS or equally capable mechanism for preserving data integrity.
(3) Private cloud instance.
(4) Internal and external web service. Very simple and lightweight.
(5) Disk / partition encryption. Possibly also intra-system isolation (think BSD jails, securelevels, etc.)
(6) Media streaming application.

Here's what my research seems to indicate so far:
(1) Hardware support is far better on CentOS. Neutral for me with the exception of integrated GPU support, specifically Intel Quick Video in Xeon HDs, which I suspect I might need in the near future. BSD supports it apparently but yet to be tested... I'll be using enterprise grade hardware so expect support on both platforms.
(2) Package administration seems to be equally trivial on both platforms. = Neutral.
(3) System upgrades seem to easier (and less risky?) on CentOS. = Pro-CentOS, I really don't like the BSD release upgrade mechanism...
(4) Stability, network stack maturity, etc. is comparable on both platform. = Neutral.
(5) ZFS is a big selling point for BSD. I know about Linux ZFS support but heard differing opinions on the maturity of implementation. = Pro-BSD.
(6) Security mechanisms. Both systems can be made secure, however the BSD jail mechanism is quite unique and pretty cool. The BSD project approach also ensures all software is managed by a single team - i.e. beneficial from a code integrity and testing perspective. = Pro-BSD.
(7) Perhaps not the most relevant point solution-wise but I've got more faith in the FreeBSD Foundation rather than Torvalds. I hate the fact that his name is baked into the system name and that he effectively owns the Linux kernel. ;)

What have I missed? What have I gotten wrong? What are your experiences? What would make you choose one platform over the other, were you consider my use cases? Grateful for any insights shared. :-)


Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/23 22:09:01
by TrevorH
(3) System upgrades seem to easier (and less risky?) on CentOS. = Pro-CentOS, I really don't like the BSD release upgrade mechanism...
Between one point release and another, true. Between one major version and the next, that's a reinstall. So CentOS 7.6 to 7.7: yum update, CentOS 7 to 8: reinstall.

BTW, I moved your post as I think it fits better in Social.

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/24 08:10:25
by JanusAlpha
Thanks Trevor. Interesting... that's not too different from the BSD model. What does reinstall mean? Complete wipe or are there tool to enable controlled replacement of every package and config? What is configs differ - are there integrity checking / comparison tools?

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/24 10:08:56
by TrevorH
Reinstall means replace the entire o/s and all its packages. There is no migration from one to the other, you have to start over. If you have other filesystems like /home on separate LVs then you can preserve the content of those though there's no guarantee that you won't then have to do major surgery on the config files under there for things like a GUI to function.

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/24 11:59:18
by scottro
FreeBSD-update has made point upgrades, e.g., 11.1-11.2 easier. Upgrades between versions might be better with FreeBSD. However, as you'll see after 10 minutes on the FreeBSD forums, they separate the base and all 3rd party programs, so where a CentOS upgrade will upgrade Apache, with FreeBSD, it will have to be done separately. (The standard advice is to upgrade all ports and/or packages after an upgrade.)

ZFS on FreeBSD is easy as pie now, including zfs on root, you just make a few choices through a fairly intuitive install. They are going to be switching to Linux's version of ZFS (to oversimplify) because most development is going on there. Hardware support definitely lags behind in FreeBSD, though for server use this is less of a factor. On laptops, for example (or desktops I guess), while some 802.11ac cards are supported, you don't reach 802.11ac speeds.

One other thing that I consider an issue is documentation. There are simply far more Linux users than FreeBSD users, so if you're searching for how to do something, you're more likely to find someone who did it on Linux. The FreeBSD handbook is good, especially for the base system, but, for example, if you follow their LDAP chapter (this was a year ago) slapd won't start because they leave off the fact that you have to uncomment which database you're using in the default config.

The FreeBSD forums aren't bad, but you will see a lot of Linux hatred. They don't allow discussions about CURRENT, even though that's where FreeBSD is going, but threads about hating systemd can go on for 4 pages. I always wonder what will happen if I try, I hate systemd so I installed CURRENT, but the mods are pretty smart. (And if I make them sound bad, that's wrong--they're very knowledgeable and very helpful).

I also find jails one of the more attractive things about FreeBSD, but I think various Linux container technologies are similar. (I haven't used them though--I've been at a FreeBSD shop for the last several years, though we use CentOS for some things that don't run on FreeBSD, such as R1soft backups.)

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/24 13:07:12
by JanusAlpha
Thank you. Very interesting - do you have a link to the ZFS implementation discussion / decision?

Documentation and community: true, the handbook is a great start but not enough. I use a combination of online tutorials, man pages and forums. In my experience, the community's been great. Very experienced and helpful. So far managed to get all the support I needed via aforementioned channels.

Jails vs containers: there's a significant number of forum threads out there debating the similarity / dissimilarity of jails and containers. What I got out of these threads is that containers can't be used to achieve the same security benefits that jails provide. Segregation - different story. My jails use case is security centred.

Backup: you've reminded me I need to re-architect the backup mechanism. What does the backup capability / toolset look like between CentOS and FreeBSD? I'd like to use open source tools wherever possible.

Hardware: we're on the same page here.

CentOS/RHEL: I've read up a bit on CentOS/RHEL relationship and concluded that CentOS is 99% RHEL but there are some minor variations, other than branding and licensing. In your opinion, are these material enough to be considered or petty enough to be safely ignored?

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/24 18:44:53
by scottro
IMHO, the differences are small enough to be ignored between RH and CentOS, but I've never been in a RedHat shop, so can't swear I'm right.

There was a discussion about switching to ZFS on Linux on the FreeBSD mailing lists.
First post here. ... 27085.html

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/24 18:45:06
by aks
Your use case seems to be (at most) 15 users, don't sweat it, anything could do that!

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/05/25 21:30:30
by JanusAlpha
@aks - you just made me laugh! :D I'm not exactly running another eBay, that's true, however I still want to use something decent... and by that I mean something that will save effort, won't cause unnecessary headaches, etc.

@scottro - thank you!

Re: Any ex-BSD users? (Comparison thread for non-flamers)

Posted: 2019/09/26 20:50:10
by JanusAlpha
FYI guys... now on CentOS 8. Needed better hardware support for the new server box. So far so good but waiting for ZoL to support RHEL 8.