Interview with Olivier Cochard-Labbé, founder of FreeNAS

FreeNASThe FreeNAS project (, founded by Olivier Cochard-Labbé in 2005, is an open source network attached storage distribution. The project offers a simple, elegant way for home users and network administrators to host data on a small, stable platform at very low cost. Back in December there was talk of the FreeNAS project moving away from its FreeBSD roots and using Debian as the base for future releases. A short time later, iXsystems offered to the take the FreeNAS project under the company’s wing and continue development using the FreeBSD platform. M. Cochard-Labbé was kind enough to take a few minutes from his busy schedule to talk about the project.

BSD Mag: Monsieur Cochard-Labbé, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. To start, would you please tell us a little about yourself? Where you are from and how you became interested in open source?

OCL: I’m living in France, 33 years old, married with two daughters and I work as a network consultant at Orange Business Services. I discovered Slackware Linux during my studies in 1996, and have been a Linux desktop user since.

BSD Mag: There are not a lot of open source projects providing specialized NAS services. What prompted you to create FreeNAS?

OCL: In mid 2005, I wanted to transform one of my old PCs into a NAS server for home. My goals were simple:

  • Boot from my USB key (the OS should be small)
  • Use a software RAID-5 with 4 PATA hard drives
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I didn’t find an open source project that filled my needs, so I chose to build my own. My second motivation was that I was a simple computer user, and wanted to use this exercise to explore the operating system more deeply. I already had a m0n0wall system at home, and I wanted to have the same interface for my NAS. This is the historical reason why FreeNAS is based on FreeBSD. I learned PHP and discovered FreeBSD by studying the m0n0wall code. And after some days, the first release of FreeNAS was available.

I never imagined that my little customized m0n0wall to NAS would become so famous … And this created some problems: Because I’m not a developer, I had to learn how to use subversion, how to write PHP that supported translation (getext), and I was afraid of unknown potential bugs. FreeNAS was only a hobby, and couldn’t be prioritised over my family life and paid job. Managing this project eats into lots of my sleep time.

BSD Mag: For your latest release, there were over 10,000 downloads for the
project’s live CD. From the feedback you’ve received, would you say most of your users are home users or businesses?

This interview was written by Jesse Smith for the February edition of BSD Magazine. You may read the answer to this and other questions in the interview by downloading the February edition of BSD Magazine (free registration required).

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