ZFS and Samba on BSD; Open Source Enterprise File Storage

A company such a ProcoliX provides hosting services, which most people with some awareness of the field will understand as that we host the infrastructure behind web sites. While it’s true that the web forms a substantial part of our business it’s not the only use to which a secure hosting environment can be put. We also for example provide hosting for corporate infrastructure, allowing a company to get on with whatever it is they do without having to worry about their servers.

An example of this type of service comes in file storage. You may be used to working in an office with a file server, but imagine for a moment a company whose offices cover the whole country and whose users connect from a wide variety of networks. At this point a traditional file server in a server room becomes a major headache to reliably administer, and moving the storage to a location that already has the infrastructure to handle it becomes an attractive option.

A ProcoliX customer had the requirement for a very large file and reliable storage platform that would integrate seamlessly with their own Active Directory user and access controls from their Windows network, but which would have the speed and security of our data centers. As an open-source company we approached it in our usual way by finding open software that could fit this need.

ZFS is an open source file system originally created by Sun Microsystems and released into the open-source world. It’s designed to securely hold large quantities of files with an emphasis on data integrity and a high level or protection against corruption or hardware failure. Alongside that is the Samba package, which provides compatibility with Microsoft file server environments and Active Directory. This combination offers a proven, reliable, and secure solution to our customer’s problem, without presenting them with the financial burden of the extensive per-seat licensing that would be required had they implemented it using Microsoft software.

Our usual approach to this deployment would have started with the Debian Linux-based distribution as its operating system, but in this case we weren’t satisfied with its support for Active Directory access control  via an unsupported module. Happily the world of open-source software provides an alternative in the form of the long-established FreeBSD operating system, which provides an extremely reliable platform with native support for Samba access control. It thus delivers a rock-solid secure storage solution for our customer that integrates seamlessly with their existing Active Directory infrastructure, and saves them a fortune in license fees.

This is but one example of our work with open-source software, using it to provide flexible and reliable real-world corporate infrastructure on a large scale.