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I'm looking at a 2009 upgraded Mac Pro with 2 x 3.46 MHz "Westmere" processors with the intent to fill the drive bays (all six) with SATA drives and run FreeBSD-based FreeNAS.

Version 11 of FreeNAS has the ability to run virtual machines on-top of the NAS server. However, according to this thread on their forum, I might have difficulty doing this based on the requirement for these CPU attributes:

  • EPT
  • VT-x with unrestricted guest
  • 32nm processors

Based on my research, it appears I should be OK but I wanted to confirm my findings.

Has anyone been able to get FreeNAS 11 running VMs or any other VMs to run on a Mac Pro with this CPU configuration (I'm not sure if being able to run Parallels is any indication of the ability to run VMs on FreeNAS).

If not, can anyone confirm that 3.46 MHz "Westmere" processors that are usually found in these Macs have these attributes?

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In response to your question:

Has anyone been able to get FreeNAS 11 running VMs or any other VMs to run on a Mac Pro with this CPU configuration (I'm not sure if being able to run Parallels is any indication of the ability to run VMs on FreeNAS).

I don't know why anyone would want to deploy a NAS solution for the purpose of creating a host to run VM but the ability of a machine to be able to host VMs is essentially dependent on two factors:

  • CPU capabilities
  • OS Support

CPU Support

As for the Westmere processors - they are fully capable of supporting Virtualization technology.1 From their webpage:

Advanced Technologies

  Intel® Turbo Boost Technology                                  1.0
  Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology                              Yes
  Intel® Virtualization Technology (VT-x)                        Yes
  Intel® Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d)       Yes
  Intel® VT-x with Extended Page Tables (EPT)                    Yes


O/S Support

FreeNAS is based on the FreeBSD operating system which uses the BSD-licensed bhyve Hypervisor.2 So, because it's supported in FreeBSD, FreeNAS which is based on FreeBSD supports virtualization.

TL;DR

Yes, FreeNAS 11 on your Westmere processors supports virtualization though I don't think you will find very many folks who have deployed FreeNAS for the purpose of virtualization as it primarily a storage centric product.

If your main goal here is to built a virtualization platform, find a OS and Hypervisor that fits your needs. If you just want a good (free) OS that supports Virtualization go for FreeBSD.


1 Intel® Xeon® Processor E5620

2 FreeBSD as a Host with bhyve

  • Thanks for the detail. Primary purpose is ZFS, then work of art, then Plex Media Server, and finally VMs. I need a machine that's solid and highly capable/flexible, and for the money, I cannot think of a better choice. The FreeNAS Mini is a nice server, but I can get more bang for the buck with a juiced-up Mac Pro. – Swisher Sweet May 17 '17 at 23:30

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