TrueNAS Open Storage

Agile and economic enterprise storage driven by open source.


I had the opportunity to meet with Kris Moore, SVP Engineering, Brett Davis, EVP Sales & Marketing, and Morgan Littlewood, SVP Products at iXsystems during the 40th IT Press Tour.


Explosive storage growth accelerates every year. Forrester estimates an average annual data growth at 28% while storage budgets only increase by 10% annually. Organizations of all sizes are struggling to keep up with the challenge of storing exponentially more data with only a modest increase in budget. They are tired of paying too much for old storage technology and practices that make them feel locked into the same vendors


iXsystems created TrueNAS open storage to give organizations the ability to overcome these challenges and keep up with data growth. It's been in the open storage business since 2002 starting as a server and storage integrator focusing on companies that used non-commercial operating systems. They focused on building storage and servers for companies that were using open source technology.


They recognized the proprietary storage market was ripe for disruption in 2010 when they adopted the FreeNAS project. FreeNAS was a widely used prosumer, open-source core-defined storage that served a lot of needs. But it did not yet serve enterprise storage problems. As such, iXsystems rewrote the software and integrated the ZFS file system to democratize enterprise storage making it available to all. It has been free and open source since that time.


In 2013, iXsystems released the enterprise storage appliances as TrueNAS. They were called FreeNAS Pro for about a year but they found it was difficult to sell a product with "free" in the name. In 2020 they merged FreeNAS and TrueNAS into one brand and one software.


TrueNAS is open, flexible, and economic enterprise storage. It has more than one million deployments and 10+ exabytes managed. It has the world's largest storage community with more than 250,000 members and it is the most widely deployed ZFS distribution -- more than Sun who created ZFS, and Oracle who acquired it.


Open storage is a growing force in the enterprise storage market. Open storage takes the flexibility of software-defined storage and puts it on steroids. Similar to how Linux became the predominant data center OS in the early 2000s, we will likely see the same transition with open storage due to the freedom and flexibility it provides.


TrueNAS enables users to choose the tool they need for the job. Choose the software edition, the hardware platform, and the support model that fits the storage needs to address a wide array of storage applications from primary to archival. The platforms can be configured as hybrid and all-flash, and can scale up and scale-out. All editions and all hardware are managed by the same user interface called TrueCommand -- a single pane of glass management interface. It's also the scale-out clustering interface for TrueNAS scale.


As for features, even the community edition of TrueNAS, TrueNAS Core, has 80 to 90% of the features of a typical NetApp FAS system and it is completely free to use. The same open-source economics and flexibility that Linux brought to the data center, TrueNAS brings to enterprise storage without having customers sacrifice on features, security, integrations, performance, or support. This empowers organizations to manage data growth effectively without having to give anything up.


All TrueNAS software shares the same functionality and feature set. They are unified and serve file, block, object, and application workloads. They have the same security, data management, data optimization features, data protection DFS provides, and the same single pane of glass management interface -- TrueCommand.


TrueNAS Core, the community edition formerly known as FreeNAS, is free and open-source software-defined storage targeted at non-critical applications like labs, dev-test environments, simple file sharing, tertiary backups, and archiving. Most customers begin with TrueNAS to evaluate the software since it doesn't require a purchase order or a contract. Users can just spin up a VM, bare metal, or a cloud and take it for a test drive.


TrueNAS Enterprise is designed for more critical use cases, it is delivered as appliances, it has a superset of enterprise features, performance, and management enhancements, and 24/7 enterprise support. It currently scales up to 20 PB with five 9s reliability.


TrueNAS Scale is for higher levels of capacity, performance, and resilience, or for customers looking for hyper-convergence. The first deployment was 1 PB of all-flash object storage to replace a pure storage flash blade. This was for a high-frequency trading company in New York.


TrueNAS strives to offer storage freedom to keep pace with data growth while keeping budgets under control.