FreeNAS 9.1 released, last week. According to the official release notes, there is a new wizard for creating and managing volumes and better plugin support. Yes, FreeNAS can be used to store files, photos, videos etc.. but enhanced with plugins it can also handle miniDLNA which can stream media files such as music, pictures, and video to clients on a network.
I was using FreeNAS as an iSCSI target in my VMware lab (recently testing Nexenta) as the system could get installed on an USB stick, so the rest of hard drives was used for storage. It was an easy to setup of that storage appliance, which get easily configurable as a shared storage for my ESXi hosts. You can find the article here – How to configure FreeNAS 8 for iSCSI and connect to ESX(i) - it’s an old post, but it’s step-by-step if you’re new to VMware.
FreeNAS is very interesting, as it can use ZFS as a file system (you got the choice), and with ZFS if you got some SSD laying around, you can define it as a cache to speed up the performance. I’ve seen many VMware users with their homelabs running some kind of ZFS. (BTW Nexenta uses ZFS too…).
See the new volumes management wizard on the right. There you can chose which disk to pick up for the log (ZIL) or cache (L2ARC). You can click to enlarge.
Quote from the release:
Major parts of the Web User Interface have been overhauled to add functionality and improve usability. The volume creation interface has been completely replaced with a new wizard that assists the user in creating the most ideal storage pool and optimal setup for the number of disks available, also helping those unfamiliar with ZFS to make correct early configuration decisions and avoid painful rebuilds later. The encryption interface has also been modified to emphasize the correct steps for safely and securely encrypting a newly created pool.
For newcomers, the very basics or how FreeNAS works and how to install it, I can recommend this video (it’s for beginners only) :