By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2004-11-22 Print this article Print

Already well-regarded as a security-focused network operating system, OpenBSD stands to further upgrade its reputation with Version 3.6, which combines enhanced services with wider hardware support.

OpenBSD 3.6, which was released last month, will be a good fit for companies that wish to put services at the network edge, such as firewalls or VPNs, with more flexibility than appliance-based options could provide.

OpenBSD 3.6 runs on 14 hardware platforms, including Intel Corp.s x86 and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s AMD64, and is freely available in a 4.6MB boot-disk image from one of the FTP sites at www.openbsd.org/ftp.html. In eWEEK Labs tests, we used this image to begin our OpenBSD install and pulled down the additional OpenBSD software packages we required from an FTP mirror site during installation.

Alternatively, OpenBSD 3.6 ships in a $45 three-CD package that is available on the OpenBSD site (www.openbsd.org).

OpenBSD 3.6s expanded hardware options include support for various Ethernet adapters. However, we believe the most notable addition is support for SMP (symmetric multiprocessing), which makes its debut in this version.

Although SMP is currently available only on x86 and AMD64 platforms, OpenBSDs new SMP support widens the range of hardware for which the operating system is suited. SMP support in OpenBSD eventually will be even more important as multicore processors—which occupy space on the road maps of Intel, AMD, Sun Microsystems Inc. and others—become more prevalent.

Click here for a review of Suns latest Sun Fire servers, which are built on multicore UltraSPARC IV CPUs. OpenBSD 3.6 boasts a good-size repository of ready-to-install applications, called the ports collection. However, the operating system doesnt benefit from as wide a range of third-party software as does Linux.

For a look at one such software option, the PortBrowser application, click here. The value proposition of OpenBSD centers not on being a general-purpose operating system, but rather on being an operating system for which the software options that are available have been closely audited.

OpenBSD 3.6 ships with a new Network Time Protocol Daemon, called OpenNTPD. Produced by the OpenBSD team, OpenNTPD is much simpler (and therefore, according to the OpenBSD team, potentially more secure) than the software provided by the ntp.org project with which most Linux distributions ship.

Indeed, the three-line configuration file we needed to modify to set up time synchronization on our test OpenBSD system was much simpler to deal with than the equivalent configuration file on the Linux systems weve tested. OpenNTPD is also available in a "portable" version that supports most Unix-like operating systems.

OpenBSD 3.6 ships with an updated version of OpenSSH (Secure Shell), which includes support for session multiplexing—we could carry out multiple SSH log-in shells and SCP (Secure Copy) and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) file transfer sessions with a particular host after authenticating once.

The single-authentication session multiplexing capabilities can speed up secure remote server access operations.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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