Apple announces ZFS on Snow Leopard

Apple announces ZFS on Snow Leopard

Summary: Finally, a modern file system on a consumer OS As if Grand Central weren't enough bad news for Microsoft, now they have ZFS to contend with. Building a reliable, high-performance file system takes years and Microsoft doesn't have years to respond.


Finally, a modern file system on a consumer OS As if Grand Central weren't enough bad news for Microsoft, now they have ZFS to contend with. Building a reliable, high-performance file system takes years and Microsoft doesn't have years to respond.

The formal announcement is for Snow Leopard server, which is how Apple introduces new file systems. HFS+ first arrived on a server version as well.

Who cares? Anyone who stores data should.

Microsoft's NTFS is 20 year old technology borrowed from DEC. Fine for small disks and puny CPUs. Not so great for today's data intensive systems and applications.

Silent data corruption is common - only you don't know it - because the corruption shows up as other problems, like missing DLLs.

ZFS: open source from Sun ZFS is the first desktop file system with true end-to-end data integrity. Thanks to sophisticated tree-based checksums it detects and corrects silent data corruption anywhere in the data path: disks, cables, interfaces and more.

The checksums are stored with the parent block, so the file system always knows that the child block is both uncorrupted and the correct block. That's just one of the errors that NTFS and most other commodity file systems - including the Mac's HFS+ - are prone too.

Sun's ZFS engineering team started working on ZFS 7 years ago as a clean-sheet design. It combines file system and volume management functionality. Instead of managing individual disks, you manage a pool of blocks. ZFS takes care of the details.

Turning up the heat on Microsoft For all of Microsoft's fine talk about innovation they don't do squat unless someone else does it first. Remember IE 6? ZFS is a modern and innovative file system that solves some difficult data storage and integrity problems. Like these:

No more Disk Warrior Data corruption on PCs and Macs is a sad and stupid fact of life. Power failures, flaky RAM, poor grounding, (slowly) failing hard drives, driver glitches, phantom writes and more conspire to rot your data.

ZFS eliminates that. All blocks are checksummed and the checksum is stored in a parent block. ZFS always knows if the block is correct and/or corrupt. Every block has a parent block (with one obvious exception that gets special treatment), so the entire data store is self-validating. You'll never have to wonder if all your data is correct again. It is.

No RAID cards or controllers ZFS implements very fast RAID that fixes the performance knock-off against software RAID. In ZFS all writes are the fastest kind: full stripe writes. And the RAID is running on the fastest processor in your system (your Mac), rather than some 3-5 year old microcontroller.

Just add drives to your system and you have a fast RAID system. With Serial Attach SCSI and SATA drives you'll pay for the drives (cheap and getting cheaper), cables and enclosures.

No more volumes Every time you add a disk to your Mac you see another disk icon on the desktop. If you want to RAID some disks you use Disk Utility (or something) to create the volume. Slow, error-prone, confusing.

ZFS eliminates the whole volume concept. Add a disk or five to your system and it joins your storage pool. More capacity. Not more management.

Backup made easy ZFS does something called snapshot copy, which creates a copy of all your data at whatever point in time you want. Copy the snapshot up to a disk, tape or NAS box and you are backed up.

Create a snapshot on every write if you want, so if your database barfs you can go back to just before it choked.

But that's not all! For in-depth treatment of ZFS see here and here. Includes links to more technical info and benchmarks.

The Storage Bits take It would be nice if Microsoft were driving innovation and reliability, but - like General Motors - they prefer to rest of their laurels. And like General Motors, they are facing a long and painful decline if they don't get their act together.

GM says they are proud that 1 in 4 cars sold in America are GM - but the number used to be 3 out of 5. Microsoft is rightfully proud of their 90% market share. But that share can change - as it has for IE - and they have nowhere to go but down.

As users we benefit from the competition. Kudos to Apple for bringing the latest technology to consumers.

Comments welcome, of course. For more background on data corruption issues check out 50 ways to lose your data, How data gets lost and How Microsoft puts your data at risk.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Microsoft, Storage

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  • Timing

    How sweet would it would be if App??e could deliver Grand Central and ZFS at the point of WINDOWS 7 release. The marketing people would have a field day!
    • A MS Pipe Dream

      Did you ever here of WINFS? MS struggled to get a new file system for years and shelved it because of performance issues
      (longhorn what a disappointment):

      As a long time WindowsForms/WPF/Web developer and now a
      newly proud Mac fanboy I find it hard to believe that MS will
      get a new file system, multi-core processors support and a
      OpenCL equivalent (using the GPU as a parallel processor to
      speed up ordinary apps like excel instead of it doing little or
      nothing when not playing games) by 2010.

      I hope for MS's sake Windows 7 will be what they promise this
      time, but doubt it... There market share will be a slow and humiliating decline. Balmer should resign for simply dropping
      the ball on all of this and of his fixation with Google that
      became fruitless.

      I am certain Apple will capture at least 10-15% market share by
      2010 because of all the people MS pissed off with the Vista
      abortion. I considered it a beta release when it launched a year
      ago simply because MS 2005 SQL Studio not being able to run
      on a pre release of Vista, my whole team lost it when MS had
      to make a patch for there own software. They lost there way
      and I am sure Apple is and will take advantage of that.
  • Kudos to Sun for inventing such a great FS.

    I wonder how long it will take for Apple users to fervently believe Apple invented it. (like everything else Apple sells) The power of the Jobs Reality Distortion Field is amazing.
    • Kudos to Apple for actually making new tech usable

      Apple users know full well that Apple hasn't necessarily invented most of the technologies they use, but they were the first to make them actually usable by people other than nerds and geeks with tape on their glasses, and wearing pocket protectors.

      Even with Apple's examples staring them right in the face most tech companies continue to fall over themselves making products that have laundry lists of features you can check off but only a bare handful of those features, if any, are actually usable.

      TiVo seems to be one of the few others that can actually get hardware+software done right. Palm started off doing a good job, but they've lost it ever since they turned their PDAs into phones. Conversely, Nokia lost it when they stopped making their phones just be phones. I suppose some of the GPS makers aren't too bad. Sony had the ability to make usable products but lost it a long time ago.

      Thank goodness that a company like Apple is around to raise the bar, or we might all still be controlling our computers mostly from a command line. (And anyone who proceeds to defend command lines after this has completely missed the point.)
      • Please tell me how ZFS is more useful in Leopard Server than Solaris

        [i]Kudos to Apple for actually making new tech usable[/i]

        Go ahead. Does the file system have a nicer UI? Are the bits written with little Apples on them?

        You gave the standard excuse about how features are bad but you never wrapped it up with a specific example for why Apple gets kudos for making ZFS more usable. I'm presuming you've seen some advanced copy of Apple's version of ZFS so please share with us how Apple ZFS is better than Solaris ZFS. Thanks! :)
        • If it's so easy

          why hasn't MS done it?
          • Maybe they don't feel the need to do so?

            Seriously...has this really been the problem that Robin would have us believe it is?
          • Ye, are you still using the FAT file system as your default?

            Or did you finally graduate to NTFS? Microsoft themselves must know that NTFS is outdated, because they had "tried" to create a new file system call WinFS with the release of what has become known as Vista. However, they couldn't get it to work right, so dropped it from the release just to get the overdue OS out the door. Or do you remember that (maybe intentionally forgetting in your bias)?
          • Nope, strictly NTFS on Windows systems.

            Look...I'm not arguing against progress. I use ZFS on some of my Solaris systems. I just don't think other file systems are nearly as unreliable as Robin would have us believe.
          • Not quite right...

            WinFS didn't replace NTFS, but rather provided data modeling capabilities on top of a NTFS drive.

            NTFS may be old, but it is a lot more robust than people give it credit for.
          • The Microsoft Apologist's new case for simplicity.

            Microsoft's new reality: nothing broken, nothing to fix.

            Microsoft can't claim being innovative any longer.
          • Uh - Let me see..."bit rot", many drives and 3rd-party drive snapshots...?

            ::DING!DING!DING!:: <b>YES!</b> It's DEFINITELY even worse of a problem than Robin makes it out to be!
          • What are you talking about?

            Please clarify as I have no idea what you're trying to say.
        • Have you tried to setup ZFS in Solaris?

          Its not an easy adventure, at all. Yes you need to be pretty fluent in Unix, but beyond that, its time consuming, even if you know what you are doing.

          And with Apple always wanting to make everything into an easy to use GUI, I can pretty much assure your that setting up ZFS under OS X will be a point and click adventure that takes just a few moments.
          • Yes, it's dirt simple. That was one of Suns goals.

            mirror: zpool create my_pool mirror /dev/dsk/c0t0d0 /dev/dsk/c0t0d1

            RAID"5": zpool create my_pool raidz /dev/dsk/c0t0d0 /dev/dsk/c0t1d0 /dev/dsk/c0t2d0

            Wouldn't take a lot to wrap this in a GUI.
          • Seriously?

            What's so difficult about `zpool create <DEVICE>`. Man, that's a toughie!
        • How is Apple ZFS better than Solaris'?

          Well first of all, Apple is a company and Solaris is an
          operating system. So your question is really: How is Apple's
          ZFS better than Sun's ZFS?

          That's easy. Apple's ZFS runs on a Mac.
          • No it doesn't.

            [i]Apple's ZFS runs on a Mac.[/i]
          • You're being nit-picky

            Obviously I mean on a Mac running Snow Leopard, which, by
            the way, is in the hands of those who attended WWDC 2008.

            But you can even run ZFS on today's Leopard. You just have
            to download the beta.
          • Only as much as you my friend.

            I think it was fairly apparent his question was really:

            "How is Apple implementation of ZFS better than Sun implementation of ZFS"

            But, true to form, ABMers can't see the forest because of all those trees.