What is FreeBSD? It’s a free, open-source operating system from the Unix family. It was first introduced by Berkeley Software Distribution, hence its name. If you wish to learn more about the FreeBSD features, pros, and cons, read this article. Here, we describe this operating system in detail.

What Is the FreeBSD Operating System?

FreeBSD is an open-source operating system deriving from a previous version of Unix. It was started in 1993 by Bill and Lynne Jolitz, who, unable to work on the 386BSD, came up with a new system – the FreeBSD.

Currently, FreeBSD is a community-driven OS, providing a complete system, with a kernel, device drivers, userland utilities, and documentation, unlike, for example, Linux, which comes only with the kernel and drivers, while relying on third parties to provide other system software. (You can read more in our article on FreeBSD vs. Linux)

FreeBSD Features

Now let’s focus on the most important features of the FreeBSD system. These include:

  • Jails – A security feature available since the introduction of FreeBSD 4.X.. It enables you to create a safe environment that is separated from the rest of the system. The processes occurring in such a jail cannot access any elements of the system outside of it.
  • Thousands of ports – Another great asset of the FreeBSD OS is that, according to the project’s website, it already offers over 30000 apps and libraries that are ported to it and enable you to customize the system.
  • Linux binary compatibility – FreeBSD also offers you the possibility to run Linux binaries without the need to modify them.
  • Open source and community – With a vast community that is still growing, you have a lot of materials and help available for you, to further customize your OS.
  • Virtualization – Due to the use of bhyve, you can create and manage virtualized guest operating systems on a FreeBSD host. This is an efficient and lightweight way to optimize your devices.
  • Monolithic kernel – Despite being a full package OS, FreeBSD handles all processes in the kernel space. This generally results in better performance.

FreeBSD Usage Examples

So, when is FreeBSD used? What devices are based on this particular operating system? Take a look at a few examples below:

  • telecommunication equipment,
  • virtualization platforms,
  • high-performance computing,
  • smart home devices.

An interesting thing is that FreeBSD is not used on microcontrollers but rather on full-on CPUs. This means that you won’t find it in most embedded systems but only in those that require more power. Additionally, due to its high networking capabilities, it might be found in some more common appliances if they rely heavily on these particular features.

What Are the Pros and Cons of FreeBSD Operating System?

Now, let’s get to the practical side of using FreeBSD – the pros and cons of choosing this particular OS. After all, it's significantly different from the Linux operating system or the Zephyr RTOS – let’s see why right now.

The Pros of FreeBSD

Starting from the positives, FreeBSD has the following pros:

  • Customization and available resources – Being open source, FreeBSD comes with a large community and a vast array of resources, which makes customization easier, though bear in mind that it can be said about most operating systems that we work on here at Conclusive.
  • Stability – FreeBSD is well-recognized for its stability, so it’s perfect for devices and purposes where failure is not an option.
  • Performance – Although FreeBSD requires a microprocessor rather than a microcontroller, it pays off in its amazing performance. If speed is the key, FreeBSD is the perfect choice.
  • Security – Due to the use of jails and other security features, this system is simply extremely secure. This applies both to the operations and processes in the system and the data stored in the devices that run on it.
  • Free – While this might not be that much of an advantage when compared to other operating systems, you need to remember that, unlike Linux, for instance, FreeBSD is a fully-fledged OS, and those rarely come without the need to purchase a license.
  • Extremely good networking capabilities – This system is known for being used as the OS for network servers for a reason – its connectivity features are state-of-the-art. This makes it excellent for devices that rely heavily on networking.

The Cons of FreeBSD

Now let’s get to the downsides of using this particular operating system in embedded devices:

  • It requires a microprocessor – While the fact that FreeBSD is a fully-fledged OS might be an advantage at some times, it also means that you cannot simply run it on the weakest controllers. Thus, it’s not the best choice for appliances where energy efficiency, space constraints, and low prices are the main priorities.
  • Complexity – FreeBSD isn’t as developer-friendly as other OS. This means that you need an experienced specialist to configure and customize the system. Nevertheless, if you work with experts like us at Conclusive, this won’t have to be a problem.

The Takeaway

As you can see, FreeBSD is one of the OS that could be utilized in embedded systems. It might be a bad choice for simple devices, but when it comes to the most complex ones that involve network processes, FreeBSD takes the lead and beats the alternative. This is why it’s among the technologies that we use at Conclusive.If you need help with this OS in your embedded device, don’t hesitate to check our operating systems services& contact us– we’ll know what to do!

You may also read: FreeBSD vs OpenBSD: Which is Right for You?