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How To: Installing a Virtual NAS

We recently posted an article on some really neat free software to create a full-featured NAS device using older computer hardware, called FreeNAS. After reading that article, I thought about trying the FreeNAS software on my former Linux machine, but then thought, why not virtualize this too?

As discussed in Brandon's article, FreeNAS is an application running on the FreeBSD operating system, stripped down and customized to be a full-featured storage device. In VMware-speak, a combined OS and application solution is often referred to as an "appliance." VMware maintains a website with a wide array of these appliances available for free download, including FreeNAS. Typing "FreeNAS" into the search window brings up several choices

I downloaded the FreeNAS ISO file from VMware's appliance page. I created the virtual machine as I did in the Ubuntu Linux discussion above, this time choosing FreeBSD as the guest OS type. I configured the virtual CD drive to point to the downloaded FreeNAS image and clicked Play to boot up the FreeNAS machine. As shown in Figure 8, the screen shows typical boot up messages within the VMware console window.

FreeNAS boot
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Figure 8: FreeNAS boot message screen in VMware console

In a few short minutes, my FreeNAS appliance was up and available for final configuration. Brandon's article does a really nice job of going through the details of FreeNAS, so I won't duplicate his efforts. Two things to add, though, are the network configuration and allocating more disk space to the Virtual NAS.

FreeNAS uses a command line menu for configurations. To allow the NAS to get an IP address, I simply selected option 2 (see Figure 9, below) which allowed the Virtual Machine to get an IP address from my network DHCP server. I'll be going into this in more detail in the next section.

FreeNAS DHCP
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Figure 9: Selecting DHCP from the FreeNAS menu

To allocate more disk space to my virtual FreeNAS device, VMware has options to add devices to a virtual machine, which are pretty straightforward. After powering down the virtual machine using the shut down options available within the OS, additional virtual hardware can be added to the virtual machine, as shown in Figure 10.

Add Hardware

Figure 10: VMware Add Hardware Wizard

Choosing the Hard Disk option brings up additional screens, allowing selection of which drive(s) and amount of disk space on that drive is to become storage space on the virtual NAS, or on the virtual Linux machine, as in the Ubuntu example.

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