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NetBSD’s Endurance: A Decade-Long Server Uptime Record

Journey through the remarkable survival story of a NetBSD server that continues to operate flawlessly after a decade.

Software upgrades have become the norm today for all desktops and servers. Updates to consumer operating systems (Linux or Windows or Mac) are very frequent due to ever-evolving CVEs and fixes. Thus, it’s rare to find a server that has been running continuously for a decade.

Yet, such a remarkable feat has recently come to light, and it involves an unexpected champion: NetBSD.

Back in 2010, as the year was winding down, an IT professional (Stefano Marinelli) was tasked to provide a client with a comprehensive network overhaul. The client’s requirements were demanding, to say the least: DHCP, internal DNS, Apache + PHP for websites, NFS and Samba file sharing, internal SMTP, and more. The catch? They needed it all set up in just two days.

NetBSD 10 Beta running in virtual machine
NetBSD 10 Beta running in virtual machine

Facing this tight deadline and challenging task, the IT expert turned to NetBSD, an operating system renowned for its stability and reliability. The server, however, was far from what one might consider ideal for an enterprise-grade setup. It was cobbled together from consumer-grade components, lacking features like dual power supplies and remote management. Despite these limitations, NetBSD was chosen as the OS, and the clock started ticking.

NetBSD 5.1 was installed on the server, and the services were compartmentalized using Xen DomU, a preferred solution at the time. Multiple partitions and unique RAIDs were configured on the two disks. With everything set up, including an external connection via OpenVPN, the server was handed over to the client.

Initial feedback was positive, but there were some SMB latency issues. Over the next few years, occasional tweaks were made, but eventually, contact with the client was lost, and the server’s fate remained uncertain.

Fast forward to February 2021, and the phone rang again. It was the same client, in need of updates due to a new firewall configuration. What was astonishing, though, was that the NetBSD server was still alive and kicking! External services were running, though hidden for security reasons, and internal services continued to function smoothly. NFS, SMB, internal DNS, and the SMTP relay were all operational, performing approximately 80% of their original tasks.

However, what truly boggled the mind was the server’s uptime. While exact records were not kept, the last restart was traced back to 2012, following an earthquake. Thanks to a backup generator, the server enjoyed an uninterrupted power supply.

Nine years of uninterrupted uptime on consumer-grade hardware set up in a mere two days and largely left untouched—a testament to the enduring reliability of NetBSD.

This story highlights the value of stable and dependable solutions in the IT world, even if they may not bring in the most profits. NetBSD, a lightweight, secure, and efficient operating system, proved its spirit by keeping this server running for an astonishing decade, quietly defying the odds.

While the server’s current status remains uncertain, this tale reminds us of the importance of reliability in the fast-paced world of IT and the often-underappreciated role that operating systems like NetBSD play in achieving it.

Via blog

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