June 27, 2024

Presenter: Various contributors

The discussion on integrating Rust into FreeBSD, which spun off of the FreeBSD 15 release planning sessions, highlighted the potential benefits and the challenges of adopting the memory-safe programming language within the FreeBSD ecosystem. Contributors focused on Rust’s ability to modernize FreeBSD and enhance its security, particularly due to its memory safety features. However, the frequent updates to Rust pose significant challenges for maintaining a stable base system.

The discussion opened with an acknowledgment of Rust’s rapid release cycle, which is faster than FreeBSD typically manages for its base system updates. This discrepancy necessitates careful coordination with the Rust community to ensure compatibility and stability. One contributor noted, “Even though there is really one big Rust toolchain implementation out there, they just release too often, at least for our base system cadence.”

Despite these challenges, Rust is a valuable tool for improving userland applications and the kernel. The session explored how Rust could replace parts of FreeBSD’s existing codebase to enhance security and performance. Contributors expressed interest in seeing Rust support in the userland, hoping to integrate it into the kernel eventually. One contributor mentioned, “HardenedBSD is definitely interested in supporting Rust at the very least in the userland but would love also supporting the kernel.”

The discussion emphasized the importance of feedback from downstream consumers. It highlighted the need to gather input from those building products derived from FreeBSD to understand where Rust could be most beneficial. “We are interested in knowing what sort of use of Rust in kernel or userland people building products derived from FreeBSD see a need for and when,” one participant noted​​.

Additionally, the discussion touched on the broader industry trends, noting significant support for Rust within major tech companies and cloud services like Amazon EC2. This industry momentum proves Rust’s viability and the strategic advantage of integrating it into FreeBSD. “There’s a huge amount of support for Rust on Amazon EC2 as well as other services,” a contributor pointed out, illustrating the language’s growing importance​​.

While integrating Rust into FreeBSD presents challenges, particularly due to its rapid release cycle, the potential benefits in terms of security and modernization make it a worthy endeavor. The FreeBSD community is encouraged to actively engage with the Rust ecosystem to address these challenges and leverage Rust’s capabilities to enhance the FreeBSD operating system.