March 27, 2024

The FreeBSD Foundation has recently made a significant investment of over $100,000 to install a server cluster in Chicago. This investment aims to strengthen the infrastructure of the FreeBSD Project, improve its capabilities, and provide better services to its users. To support this expansion, the Foundation has partnered with NYI, which has generously contributed four racks in their Chicago facility.

Hardware configuration and cluster composition

The FreeBSD cluster at NYI in Chicago
Image: The FreeBSD Project cluster at NYI in Chicago

The new cluster configuration is designed to optimize the FreeBSD Project’s operational efficiency and includes:

  • Two routers: For directing network traffic.
  • Five package builders: Aimed at accelerating the package release process.
  • Three general-purpose servers: These will enhance the availability and performance of the FreeBSD Project’s public and developer-facing services (Bugzilla, Git, Phabricator, Wiki, etc.).
  • Two package mirrors: One hosted in the new cluster in Chicago and one hosted by ISC in California.  These are part of the FreeBSD Project’s growing network of and servers, strategically positioned around the world to offer faster package downloads. 
  • Two CI servers: To improve the speed and efficacy of automated code testing.
  • One admin bastion: A secure entry point for managing the cluster, which runs the Cluster Administration team (clusteradm) tools, cluster DNS, monitoring, and other services needed to administer the systems. 

This hardware setup is expected to significantly improve the processing capabilities and service responsiveness of the FreeBSD Project.

The installation of the new cluster

The FreeBSD clusteradm team played a crucial role in the integration phase of the new cluster.

  • Hardware compatibility and firmware debugging: Several initial hurdles had to be overcome to ensure the server firmware was compatible with FreeBSD. The cluster relies on being able to netboot machines and requires reliable out-of-band management.
  • Network configuration and automation: After the servers could reliably boot, the network was configured, including the cluster-internal DNS, packet filter rules, and BGP sessions to the Internet.
  • Automation and system provisioning: The team’s automation tools largely automate installing and configuring servers. After overcoming some bootstrapping issues using a temporary FreeBSD installation, the servers were netbooted into the cluster installation image and installed using the standard cluster builds.
  • Monitoring and management integration: The team installed and configured a monitoring proxy on the admin server, integrating the new site into the Project’s central monitoring system. This allowed for efficient management and troubleshooting of the cluster, ensuring stability and performance.
  • Final system installation and network services setup: The team concluded the integration work by reinstalling the admin server using the tooling automation, setting up routing and firewall configurations, and bringing up the BGP sessions on the fibre uplinks. This setup ensured the new cluster was operational and optimized for performance and security.

Impact and future prospects

This new setup provides faster and more reliable services and better positions the FreeBSD Project to serve the global user community’s requirements for adapting to technological developments.

About the FreeBSD Foundation

The FreeBSD Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the FreeBSD Project and community. Accepting donations from individuals and businesses, the Foundation uses funds to develop features, employ software engineers, improve build and test infrastructure, advocate for FreeBSD through in-person and online events, and provide training and educational material. Representing the FreeBSD Project in legal affairs, the Foundation stands as the recognized entity for contracts, licenses, and other legal arrangements and is entirely donation supported. Learn more at