April 30th, 2006

WARNING: this boring-ass post is about computer filesystems

There’s a interesting PDF* tucked away on Sun’s site talking about their new filesystem, “ZFS”. Filesystems are inherently pretty dull things — it’s the system that reads and writes your files to disk — but research into new filesystems represents one of the last remaining frontiers of superreliable computing; these days, when your computer fails to the point where you lose data, it’s most often the fault of the filesystem.

The ZFS filesystem implements a much more reliable filesystem than found in Windows’ NTFS or Mac OS X’s journaled HFS+. It not only replaces the need for RAID — you can add cheap drives to your heart’s content and a ZFS filesystem will automatically grow the amount of available storage — but ZFS will also checksum any data written and read from disk, which means even if the disk messes up (which happens!) the data will remain intact. It’s pretty high-end stuff, and according to this post on the ZFS mailing list, there’s some work underway to bring it to Mac OS X.

The real world benefits of ZFS both on the server and on the desktop would be incalcuable; none of us back up our data anywhere near to how much we should, and if you’ve spent any time in your life near a computer you’re familiar with the phrase “the file is corrupt”, often accompanied by the phrases “are you ok?” and “would you like to sit down?”. ZFS, or filesystems like it, would make file corruption largely a concern of the past, which is a Good Thing Indeed.


* The PDF is very well-presented; however, if I were working in the Sun publications dept., I would not publish a technical document where every photo of the engineers involved in the project has been taken while they’re drinking heavily. Just sayin’.

2 Responses to “zfs”

  1. Ben says:

    …except with the ever-present possibility of a mechanical failure, which, I can’t imagine, is something that ZFS can really help with. Don’t get me wrong; something like ZFS + NVRAM-based hard drives would do wonders for the entire industry.

  2. Jeff says:

    A RAID 1 NVRAM ZFS filesystem would be pretty much failsafe.

    Except for power outages.

    Or hippos.