One year of freelancing


It was exactly one year ago today that I left my day job as Engineering Manager of LXD at Canonical and went freelance. It’s been quite a busy year but things turned out better than I had hoped and I’m excited about year two!


Zabbly is the company I created for my freelance work. Over the year, a number of my personal projects were transferred over to being part of Zabbly, including the operation of my ASN (, my datacenter co-location infrastructure and more.

Through Zabbly I offer a mix of by-the-hour consultation with varying prices depending on the urgency of the work (basic consultation, support, emergency support) as well as fixed-cost services, mostly related to Incus (infrastructure review, migration from LXD, remote or on-site trainings, …).

Other than Incus, Zabbly also provides up to date mainline kernel packages for Debian and Ubuntu and associated up to date ZFS packages. This is something that came out as needed for a number of projects I work on, from being able to test Incus on recent Linux kernels to avoiding Ubuntu kernel bugs on my own and NorthSec’s servers.

Zabbly is also the legal entity for donations related to my open source work, currently supporting:

And lastly, Zabbly also runs a Youtube channel covering the various projects I’m involved with.
A lot of it is currently about Incus, but there is also the occasional content on NorthSec or other side projects. The channel grew to a bit over 800 subscribers in the past 10 months or so.

Now, how well is all of that doing? Well enough that I could stop relying on my savings just a few months in and turn a profit by the end of 2023. Zabbly currently has around a dozen active customers from 7 countries and across 3 continents with size ranging from individuals to large governmental agencies.

2024 has also been very good so far and while I’m not back to the level of income I had while at Canonical, I also don’t have to go through 4-5 hours of meetings a day and get to actually contribute to open source again, so I’ll gladly take the (likely temporary) pay cut!


A lot of my time in the past year has been dedicated to Incus.

This wasn’t exactly what I had planned when leaving Canonical.
I was expecting LXD to keep on going as a proper Open Source project as part of the Linux Containers community. But Canonical had other plans and so things changed a fair bit over the few months following my departure.

For those not aware, the rough timeline of what happened is:

So rather than contributing to LXD while working on some other new projects, a lot of my time has instead gone into setting up the Incus project for success.

And I think I’ve been pretty successful at that as we’re seeing a monthly user base growth (based on image server interactions) of around 25%. Incus is now natively available in most Linux distributions (Alpine, Arch Linux, Debian, Gentoo, Nix, Ubuntu and Void) with more coming soon (Fedora and EPEL).

Incus has 6 maintainers, most of whom were the original LXD maintainers.
We’ve seen over 100 individual contributors since Incus was forked from LXD including around 20 students from the University of Texas in Austin who contributed to Incus as part of their virtualization class.

I’ve been acting as the release manager for Incus, also running all the infrastructure behind the project, mentoring new contributors and reviewing a number of changes while also contributing a number of new features myself, some sponsored by my customers, some just based on my personal interests.

A big milestone for Incus was its 6.0 LTS release as that made it suitable for production users.
Today we’re seeing around 40% of our users running the LTS release while the rest run the monthly releases.

On top of Incus itself, I’ve also gotten to contribute to both create the Incus Deploy project, which is a collection of Ansible playbooks and Terraform modules to make it easy to deploy Incus clusters and contribute to both the Ansible Incus connection plugin and our Incus Terraform/OpenTofu provider.

The other Linux Containers projects

As mentioned in my recent post about the 6.0.1 LTS releases, the Linux Containers project tries to do coordinated LTS releases on our core projects. This currently includes LXC, LXCFS and Incus.

I didn’t have to do too much work myself on LXC and LXCFS, thanks to Aleksandr Mikhalitsyn from the Canonical LXD team who’s been dealing with most of the review and issues in both LXC and LXCFS alongside other long time maintainers, Serge Hallyn and Christian Brauner.


NorthSec is a yearly cybersecurity conference, CTF and training provider, usually happening in late May in Montreal, Canada. It’s been operating since 2013 and is now one of the largest on-site CTF events in the world along with having a pretty sizable conference too.

I’m the current VP of Infrastructure for the event and have been involved with it from the beginning, designing and running its infrastructure, first on a bunch of old donated hardware and then slowly modernizing that to the environment we have now with proper production hardware both at our datacenter and on-site during the event.

This year, other than transitioning everything from LXD to Incus, the main focus has been on upgrading the OS on our 6 physical servers and dozens of infrastructure containers and VMs from Ubuntu 20.04 LTS to Ubuntu 24.04 LTS.

At the same time, also significantly reducing the complexity of our infrastructure by operating a single unified Incus cluster, switching to OpenID Connect and OpenFGA for access control and automating even more of our yearly infrastructure with Ansible and Terraform.

Automation is really key with NorthSec as it’s a non-profit organization with a lot of staffing changes every year, around 100 year long contributors and then an additional 50 or so on-site volunteers!

I went over the NorthSec infrastructure in a couple of YouTube videos:


I’ve cut down and focused my conference attendance a fair bit over this past year.
Part of it for budgetary reasons, part of it because of having so many things going on that fitting another couple of weeks of cross-country travel was difficult.

I decided to keep attending two main events. The Linux Plumbers Conference where I co-organizer the Containers and Checkpoint-Restore Micro-Conference and FOSDEM where I co-organize both the Containers and the Kernel devrooms.

With one event usually in September/October and the other in February, this provides two good opportunities to catch up with other developers and users, get to chat a bunch and make plans for the year.

I’m looking forward to catching up with folks at the upcoming Linux Plumbers Conference in Vienna, Austria!

What’s next

I’ve got quite a lot going on, so the remaining half of 2024 and first half of 2025 are going to be quite busy and exciting!

On the Incus front, we’ve got some exciting new features coming in, like the native OCI container support, more storage options, more virtual networking features, improved deployment tooling, full coverage of Incus features in Terraform/OpenTofu and even a small immutable OS image!

NorthSec is currently wrapping up a few last items related to its 2024 edition and then it will be time to set up the development infrastructure and get started on organizing 2025!

For conferences, as mentioned above, I’ll be in Vienna, Austria in September for Linux Plumbers and expect to be in Brussels again for FOSDEM in February.

There’s also more that I’m not quite ready to talk about, but expect some great Incus related news to come out in the next few months!

About Stéphane Graber

Project leader of Linux Containers, Linux hacker, Ubuntu core developer, conference organizer and speaker.
This entry was posted in Conferences, Incus, LXC, LXCFS, Planet Ubuntu, Zabbly. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to One year of freelancing

  1. Nice update! I wish you all the best with your independent journey. Starting a similar one though not yet ready to go all-in. I hope Zabbly remains self-sustainable and keeps growing, at least in terms of the ecosystem impact!

  2. Fisher says:

    I was not aware of that the license change of lxd occurred after your leaving – it was considered as the reason of your freelancing in my mind.
    Anyway, good to know that everything’s working well so far, and I do think that it’s good for you – much better than the 4~5 hours meeting out there everyday.

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