August 28, 2019 Community

Unraid's 14th Birthday: A Q&A with the CEO on the Past, Present, and Future of Unraid

Celebrating 14 Years 3

August 29th, 2019 marks 14 years of Lime Technology being in business. On August 26, 2005, Tom Mortensen, the creator of Unraid, posted the very first introductory post about Unraid and 3 days later the first license was purchased thus beginning the incredible journey and creation of this amazing community! To date, the Unraid community comprises over 130 countries, an untold number of languages, and thousands of friendly, enthusiastic, and welcoming users.

In celebration of this occasion, 14 community members have received our limited-edition Unraid server case badges.

Below are the long-awaited answers to the community sourced questions from the CEO, Tom. If you like this sort of community engagement, be sure to let us know in the blog forum link at the bottom.

Along the way, we've included some staff photos, a gallery of what our website has looked like over the years, and even the original Unraid OS Executive Summary! Without further ado:

Q&A with Tom Mortensen: Founder, Creator and CEO of Lime Technology

Feature Requests/Future of Unraid:

Kizer asks: Are there any big features or solutions you'd like to see come to Unraid that might be a ways out?

Tom: From the beginning I wanted to create a ‘cluster aware’ extension to ‘shfs’ - the Unraid User Share File System. User shares can span selected array devices and the cache pool. I want to let local user shares span storage on devices on other Unraid storage. For example, say you have a group of 3 Unraid servers, each with a Movies share - I want the local Movies share on any server to include Movies on that server as well as all the other servers in the group. Related, I want to build in more intelligence to the ‘mover’ to auto-promote share data based on usage and storage device characteristics available to a server (or group of servers).

Binhex asks: As the industry continues to switch from spinning hard drive to SSD as capacity increases, how do you foresee Unraid will evolve to meet the different challenges that solid state hard drives bring? Just to be clear I'm talking in relation to array drives, cache is a known solved problem running SSD.

Tom: There are two issues with SSD in a parity-protected array. First is dealing properly with TRIM. It all depends on what an SSD reports when a block is read that has been previously TRIM’ed. Some devices return previous contents, some return indeterminant data, some return all-zeros. We can only use devices that return all-zeros. The second issue is that in Unraid all writes to data devices will also require writes to parity device(s), hence those devices will sustain quite a bit more wear.On the other hand, creating a new array or adding an SSD to an existing array can be quite fast since we can make use of full-device TRIM that sets all data blocks to zeros.

A trip down memory lane: The Lime Technology/Unraid Website over the years!

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Above: The Unraid website c. 2005-present!
Kizer asks: With everything "going to the cloud" do you ever see Unraid being a part of it?

Tom: Our primary concern is always “don’t lose the customer data” and “don’t leak the customer data” and “don’t provide access to customer data that is not explicitly authorized by the customer”. We plan on offering certain “cloud based” features without compromising those three concerns.

SuperUnplex: Are there plans to have multiple arrays on a single license?

Tom: Yes.

Related question, Glassed Silver asks: Extending on that I'd love an easy and obvious path to use SSD storage in a protected way beyond just mirroring two SSDs. Maybe filesystem snapshots getting backed up in intervals to the main array?

Tom: Yes.

1812 asks: [Will there be] multiple. cache. pools. ? (and multi-arrays too) ?

Tom: Yes!

Alphacosmos asks: I would love to see an official version of the nvidia and dvb integrated into Unraid so drivers can be added as required. Is this a possibility in the future?

Tom: I guess this might take the form of a plugin which installs the necessary tool chain and includes files necessary to build drivers, and then implement a way to save and install these drivers on server reboot.

ken-ji asks: I'd like to see an official way to build and add in-tree and out-of-tree drivers so we can have driver support for the odd piece of hardware that may have no business being part of Unraid, but the user would like to really have.

Tom: See answer above.

Preview gallery Hawaii Trip Working on Macs
Above: Eric and Jon working on Macs.
ken-ji asks: Will you ever plan to have patch packages, so that if there is a big vulnerability with say Samba, you can release a patched version of it without having to roll out a new version of Unraid (specially in the middle of an RC)?

Tom: This is not likely because then we would have multiple “versions” of Unraid OS running different versions of the base install - this could really complicate support.

Kizer asks: Is there anything that you would like to see brought to Unraid that the community could lend a hand bringing to light? There are several talented people that love to tinker.

Tom: Absolutely, and we already have done that with great success with major components such as the webgui, docker app “store”, etc. We need to formalize a procedure for accomplishing this still.

Mizerka asks: Q1: Do you plan to develop the hypervisor functionality further? such as including common gpu hardware drivers like nvidia, amd or intel for VM passthrough, which is currently achieved through community projects.

Tom: Yes.

Q2: SSD's are currently experimental and not fully supported, do you plan on bringing them along with nvme drives as future data mediums change (also ties into q1 in terms of drivers)?

Tom: Yes.

Mukow asks: I would to know if Unraid has any plans to release an official API?

Tom: Yes, actually we’re working on that now.

Hawaii Trip Eric and Tom playing Chess 3
Hawaii Trip Eric and Tom playing Chess 2
Above: Tom and Eric do some team building around a game of chess.
Joshstrange asks: I might be in the vast minority but I can only run desktop servers (i.e. towers not rack-mount). There are a number of reasons for this: sound, power, space, and knowledge (I’ve built computers since I was I was 14 and have a good grasp on that, SAS/backplane/etc is foreign to me and frankly scares me). For all of these reasons I’m currently running 3 Unraid servers. I have one “main” server where all the heavy lifting happens and then 2 “storage” servers that might have 1-2 containers running on them max.
My question is: do you foresee Unraid as ever supporting “multiple servers acting in coordination”?

Tom: Yes!

Johnny121b asks: Any plans for adding support for LTO backup? Speaking as a data hoarder, I know my server has grown to a size such-that a catastrophic failure would be almost impossible to recover from, yet 1:1 backup options are limited IF you want LONG TERM storage. Hard drives don't last for decades in cold storage, and I suspect many of us are only one good power surge away from disaster. A UPS and power conditioner transformer only protect you so far.

Tom: Sounds like a good project for a plugin.

Jidovu Marius Adrian: Are there going to be added new features in the future Unraid versions?

Tom: Yes- absolutely!

Hmoney007 asks: One of my biggest fears is my Unraid USB drive failing causing my entire system to go down. I'm wondering if there are any plans to allow for a secondary USB to be left in my Unraid machine and in the case of my boot drive failing, the secondary drive would become the primary with a notification in the gui of what happened.

Tom: That’s a feature on our to-do list dating back to the beginning.

LordRaiden asks: There are many plug-ins made by the community covering basic options that should be available out of the box in Unraid. Have you considered integrating\absorbing them in the future?

Tom: Yes, and we have done that with a few, for example, with APC UPS code. I guess we haven’t seen the urgency to integrate more.

Preview gallery Hawaii Trip Dah Boys 1
Above: Tom, Eric and Jon enjoying some stogies.
Ashe asks: Will an Arm version of Unraid be released? With the increased power of the raspberry pi 4 this would be a perfect small fileserver with dockers.

Tom: You are not the first to ask this, but would be a daunting project I think.

thehacker asks: Will you add wifi support at some point in the future, for them times where we can’t run an Ethernet cable all the way from 1 room to another?

Tom: Yes, that’s percolating up the ole Laundry List.

Busa1 asks: Do you see any advanced virtualization tools coming to Unraid such as VM cloning, snapshots, IP management of VM’s, oversee other VM’s of other Unraid machines, and managing those?

Tom: Yes!

Maticks asks: I really do love the simplicity of Unraid for my home server uses. My question and request is probably far from what has been posted here, but, I run an ESX Server in the Data Centre for my critical cloud apps. I have been unsuccessful trying to get Unraid working on ESX using a USB thumbdrive booting in an VM. Are there any plans to release a cutdown Unraid Version for VM. I am happy to pay a license for it. I simply want a stripped down version of Unraid for Docker and VM Management. Every other Linux OS has a weird and frankly annoying way to manage Dockers, I really love Unraid's approach to this. In my research of trying to get this working there was a fair amount of interest in a VM version of Unraid. I would love to Beta test Unraid in a VM if you're ever looking for someone to do that.

Tom: This is a possibility if we can work out the licensing.

The Original Unraid Executive Summary

Check out the original Unraid executive summary from 2005!

Personal Questions:

Bonienl asks: How does your "dream" machine look like (hardware wise)?

Tom: Honestly, I have no dream machine, hardware changes too rapidly. I just take Eric’s hand-me-downs, he gets the dream machines!

servidude asks: Are you the original author of emhttp? Do you still get to do any coding? If so do you do most of it by yourself? Thanks for this slick, powerful OS!

Tom: Yes and yes and yes. All written in C by the way.

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Above: Tom doing some multi-tasking with his granddaughter.
KidCastro asks: What is one thing that makes you proud and one thing that you look forward to for Unraid?

Tom: That we have such a loyal community and great set of moderators and plugin authors.

Lev asks: Looking back from where Limetech began in 2005, what's been the most rewarding part of the journey over the years for Tom personally?

Tom: That I don’t work for “the man” - can I say that? ;-)

Jschultz070 asks: Do you see drive capacity affecting Unraid the licensing model? With 10+ TB drives I know I don't need more than a couple of those.

Tom: Yes, we have some new licensing ideas coming but can't say much more right now.

Beer Related:

bastl asks: German beer or your own beer? 😁

Tom: The best beer is the one you have in your hand! That is, there is a time and place for every beer, for example, laying on the beach under a hot sun calls for Bud, Corona or even a Coors Light, well maybe not a Coors Light. Sitting in a pub you go for a lager. At home firing up the BBQ I go for a pale ale. Watching golf on TV, go for several double IPA’s.

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Get your own Unraid pint glass.

Jcloud asks: On a casual note, do you have a favorite beer recipe, "Tom's Brew," or do you tend to experiment, change it up from batch to batch?

Tom: We experiment a lot but we have a pretty good Pale Ale that’s our go-to recipe.

Thank you to all who participated in the original call for questions for Tom and a big cheers to everyone in the Unraid community for an amazing 14 years. Here's to 14 more!

Thank you all for an incredible 14 years!

Let us know what you think in the forums