Mac ZFS dead, again. Thanks, Apple!

File corruption is a fact of life for Mac users, thanks to the ancient HFS+ file system. And now a heroic effort to bring a new primary, 21st century file system - ZFS - to the Mac has been shelved.

It's been a long strange trip, but ZFS, the most advanced file system in production use today, is dead on the Mac as a consumer option. Which is more than a little odd, since it was Apple itself that originally planned to add it to Snow Leopard Server. What happened?

When Tens Complement started work on Mac ZFS they didn't foresee any major problems. Founded by Don Brady, a former Apple engineer who worked on the ZFS/Mac integration project, they had already solved many of the integration issues.

What TC didn't expect though was that Apple's kernel engineers would hardwire HFS+ into their core technologies and applications, such as Versions, File Sharing and Time Machine in Lion, making it impractical to fully replace HFS+. ZFS (or any other file system) is now relegated to the more narrow task of secondary storage.

This past weekend, Tens Complement admitted defeat, turned the code over to deduplication storage appliance vendor Greenbytes, and ceased operations. This is doubly sad because Microsoft is resurgent in file systems. Microsoft's new ReFS is a major overhaul of the 1990's NTFS.

The Storage Bits take Apple designs fabulous hardware, but their reluctance to invest in a modern file system bodes ill for Mac power users. Adopting ZFS would have put them ahead of even ReFS, but that isn't in the cards anymore. The best we can hope for is that someone - Greenbytes? - offers ZFS as secondary storage for the Mac. But at least our data at rest will be safe.

But is too much to ask for Apple software that is as modern and well-designed as their hardware? Evidently. Comments welcome, of course. I'm starting to consider putting Linux on my MacBook Air.

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