The open-source FreeBSD operating system is often in the shadow of its open-source cousin, Linux. FreeBSD is, however, a mature and stable operating system that is now quite literally at the very core foundation of what makes the Internet work. Global DNS and dot-com Top Level Domain operator VeriSign is among FreeBSD's users and is now aiming to help advance the open-source project through new sponsorship.
"We use both FreeBSD as well as Linux, and we do that so we have diversity across the global infrastructure that we operate," Burt Kaliski, CTO of VeriSign told eWEEK.
VeriSign operates part of the root Domain Name System (DNS) that that connects IP addresses to domains. It's an infrastructure that includes three core data center locations as well as more than 70 edge locations around the world. The edge locations enable VeriSign to do DNS resolution on the order of some 70 billion transactions per day. The edge servers run on a combination of Linux and FreeBSD server infrastructure.
"It's important for us to maintain the reliability of all the services, so we don't rely uniquely on any particular implementation in the operating system space," Kaliski said. "Having both FreeBSD and Linux makes it possible to have that diversity."
VeriSign's core DNS infrastructure is run on a platform it calls Atlas. Three years ago in 2009, VeriSign announced that it had expanded Atlas' capability by a factor of 10, thanks to $100 million of investment in the system. Kaliski explained that the edge server system is part of the overall Atlas platform.
As to why VeriSign is using FreeBSD as part of its operating system mix, Kaliski said that there are always lots of choices a company can make when it comes to software and hardware.
"You get comfortable with something because it works well for your particular purposes and can find a good community that you can interact with," Kaliski said. "That all rang true for us with FreeBSD."
FreeBSD has its roots in the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), which is a Unix-based operating system. The FreeBSD project itself got started in 1993 and is currently in the process of building out its 9.2 release.
Kaliski doesn't want VeriSign to just be a consumer of FreeBSD, he also wants to give back as an active participant in the open-source community. To that end, VeriSign is sponsoring the first-ever vBSDcon, set to take place this coming October in Dulles, Va. Kaliski noted that it's important to give back to the FreeBSD community to help it to have a quality event.
Compared with Linux, where there are multiple commercial vendors and a talent ecosystem, FreeBSD has a somewhat smaller talent pool. Kaliski stressed, however, that recruiting FreeBSD talent to VeriSign is not an express purpose for the event.
"It's good to be a participant in a global community, because people will find their own way to opportunities that are good for them," Kaliski said. "The goal of this conference is to encourage the further development of FreeBSD."
FreeBSD vs. Linux
Since VeriSign uses both FreeBSD and Linux, they just might be in a good place to understand the comparative benefits of one system against the other. As it turns out, VeriSign's goal with its platform is to have services run well across the entire infrastructure, regardless of the underlying operating system.
"The service that we provide primarily is DNS resolution, so we're running over certain ports with protocols and the underlying implementation shouldn't be discernible by the application," Kaliski said. "The essence of the DNS protocol is that you shouldn't be able to tell what hardware or software is running."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.