Apple can do better than Sun’s ZFS

Apple StoreApple has posted a notice on their “Apple has decided not to use ZFS on Mac OS X,” Louis Gerbarg writes for /dev/why!?!

“Sun calls ZFS ‘The Last Word in Filesystems.’ but that is hyperbole. ZFS is one of the first widely deployed copy on write FSes. That certainly makes it a tremendous improvement over existing FSes, but pioneers are the ones with arrows in their back. By looking at ZFS’s development it is certainly possible to identify mistakes that they made, and ways to do things better if one were to start from scratch,” Gerbarg writes.

“Apple has a lot of talented filesystem engineers,” Gerbarg writes. “They are certainly capable of doing something comparable to ZFS, at least for their target market. The problem with developing a new modern filesystem is that it generally takes longer than a single OS release cycle. Most companies are really bad at having large teams focused on projects that will not ship in the next version of the project they are working on.”

Gerbarg writes, “This is a particularly acute problem at Apple, which traditionally has done things with very few engineers… I think people don’t appreciate how productive Apple is on a per-engineer basis. The downside of that is that sometimes it is hard to find the resources to do something large and time consuming, particularly when it is not something that most users will notice in a direct sense.”

Gerbarg writes, “The only major downside [with Apple developing a new modern filesystem in-house] is that if Apple is just starting on a next generation FS now it could be a long time before we get our hands on it.”

Full article – recommended – here.

[Attribution: Daring Fireball. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “MacRadDoc” for the heads up.]


  1. So Mac OS 11 (or whatever they’ll call it) could usher in the new file system, and that really would be appropriate! As the world switches, so does Apple. For by that time the Ballmersoft will be no more.

  2. Let me suggest that they start with a utility that bridges the gap opened by Snow Leopard’s ignoring filetypes and creator codes and/or files without extensions that launch in the wrong apps or are remapped to ridiculous <strike>filetypes</strike>.

  3. The ability to have one large storage space you can enlarge when needed with new drives seemlessly is wonderfully useful. I bought a very cheap ububtu-installed house box pc at microcenter, stuck a bunch of drives in it, and now have a three and a half terabyte iTunes volume shared with my macs. Each time the volume gets near full I just add drives. I have some old external drives I use to back up, but if 2tb drives come down in price I’ll just start raiding in the box.

    Apple would do logical volume management much more intuitively than linux, but the lvm management utilities aren’t bad.

  4. @Gabriel

    “Take a look at info on Oracle’s open-sourced BTRFS, and you’ll see why an Oracle-owned Sun might reconsider its dedication to ZFS …”

    Yes, they’re already working on something similar:

    “Btrfs … is a … file system … announced by OracleOracle has also,/I. begun work on CRFS (Coherent Remote File System), a network filesystem protocol intended to leverage the Btrfs architecture”


    Oracle acquiring Sun changes everything. Why would Oracle want to maintain two filesystems targeted at the same usage scenarios?

    Besides, there are the legal difficulties with NetApp.

    @ bioness

    “what? MDN is now against ZFS?”

    Is it?

    It posts Louis Gerbarg’s piece because it’s of interest to Mac users. Why not? That doesn’t mean MDN agrees with all he says. And, anyway, even if it did why would that make them “against ZFS”?

    It’s good stuff. However, it’s not, apparently, an ideal fit for Apple. Moreover, <i>Oracle acquiring Sun changes everything — if Oracle drop ZFS, it becomes less attractive to Apple to maintain it on their own. … And then there’s the legal issue with NetApp.

    ZFS is a very fine filesystem. But it’s not now necessarily a good option for Apple everything else being as it is.

  5. ZFS wasn’t some bolt-on product Apple would deploy on a future release of OS X. They would have been integrating code to allow for seamless operation.

    The work would have started at least ten years ago, so it wouldn’t surprise me if all Apple had to do is begin replacing Sun’s work with their own.

    In other words, Apple could be much farther along than we think.

  6. I never understood how a normal person like myself would benefit from ZFS outside of parity reasons.

    Pools sounded like a pain for me on my laptop. I use a lot of external storage, but disconnect and reconnect quite often. Maybe I’m not seeing it, but it always sounded like with ZFS there wasn’t a real way to know what was on one volume vs another. Just a big pool of data that got larger and smaller. So, when disconnected and was on the go I wouldn’t know if I had some of my files on my laptop that I needed. If I ran server farms and has huge numbers of static drive, it sounds fabulous. For me as an individual with portable needs it didn’t sound so hot.

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