I avoid using the cloud in situations where it’s not really necessary which is why I had the “whole” infrastructure with me during Ansible trainings: no dependencies on the Internet not working at a customer site, firewall rules forbidding access to resources, etc.

During the second half of 2019 I dreamed up and created an Ansible training environment based on FreeBSD and spent quite a bit of time getting it just right. TL;DR: it was a laptop with FreeBSD and a number of jails on it. Students would each have three “machines” from and onto which they could perform deployments in labs during the training. The setup contained a package repository and a PIP repo for select installs required during labs, a local DNS server, etc.; everything was self contained. Perfect for me, and after its first productive use I reported how enthusiastic I was that nobody had noticed anything untoward:

They looked at me a bit curiously, and when I told them they’d all been working together on one laptop, I saw the odd jaw open.

You might have noticed that last report is dated beginning of the pandemic: February 2020.

As you can imagine, all planned events for that year (and the next, and the next, but I digress) were cancelled, postponed, or requested as “online” versions. How to solve the problem of my portable data center?

Use the cloud, they said.

I found Digital Ocean offered FreeBSD as one of their Droplet operating systems, and I was quite quickly able to convert my setup to one of their Droplets. A few hours before a training, I would launch my magical shell scripts (sue me!), and behold I’d have a for me perfect setup for doing the labs. Once the training over, I would destroy the Droplet and reiterate at the next occasion.

Life was good. The setup performed well, and I tweaked and changed things to suit me better, but I was happy with how it all fitted together, and I don’t recall having heard a complaint during a training. (Once, a student said: “this isn’t Linux, is it?”). Then came the time when I learned that FreeBSD 12.2 was to become EOL. I contacted Digital Ocean to ask about FreeBSD’s future on their platform: hmm, nothing specific could yet be said. They were discussing it internally and couldn’t comment at this time. I thought that ominous.

Just after 12.2 EOL in March of this year it turns out that Digital Ocean are dropping support for FreeBSD entirely. FiLiS reports about Digital Ocean saying:

the action plan is to retire FreeBSD versions through the UI starting June 2022 and through the API starting August 2022.


I became aware that it is possible to upload FreeBSD custom images to Digital Ocean, and a number of people responded to tweets etc. telling me likewise, but I simply am not interested in hacking that. First of all because I don’t care to actually do the work and have to maintain the lot, and secondly because storing images isn’t free of charge. It’s not a large amount of money, but there’s the odd gin&tonic to be gained from not doing so. But honestly, why should I do this if alternative operating systems are maintained? I don’t see a benefit for myself.

The good folk at BastilleBSD pointed me at Vultr who actually do have a current (13.0) version of FreeBSD, but unfortunately it’s UFS file system only, and I need ZFS because of my iocage use. I’ve asked Vultr, and they’ve logged a feature request to their development team, but it’s unknown whether it will happen and in which time frame, and that’s a problem: if Digital Ocean really kill FreeBSD in June/August, then I’m in dire need of a working solution.

I probably could, providing enough time and effort, change, replace, rip out, re-insert, and whatever, for example replace iocage by BastilleBSD, but I just don’t feel like it any more. I’ve reached an age at which it’s just no fun. I need something with a “best before” date further in the future. Preparing for a course the evening before only to realize that stuff doesn’t work and I have to stay up for hours so that a dozen students don’t realize it didn’t work is just no longer my cup of tea. (This occurred to me near Utrecht a few months ago: at midnight I set up the servers only to have the system fail because a change to the way pkg bootstrapping worked was sprung upon me. Not fun.)

At the moment I don’t see an alternative to changing my setup. I will likely use individual Droplets, virtual machines, instances, or whatever you call them, launching them, getting a few things prepared and being done with it. I’m a perfectionist during trainings, and labs etc. have to be just so.

And to be quite clear, this is certainly not a reason for me to stop using Digital Ocean’s offerings, on the contrary. They’ve been good for me and will hopefully continue to be so. It’s not as though they’ll be losing a huge amount of money from my not using an 8GB machine once in a while, right? FreeBSD is likely not big business for them and hence they drop it. C’est la vie. We will gladly continue using their services for our Linux-based DNS & DNSSEC trainings.

I’ll get over it and solve the problem, but judging from what I’ve looked at the past 24 hours it won’t be using FreeBSD.

Further reading

ansible, freebsd, and linux :: 28 Apr 2022 :: e-mail