ZFS and Apple’s new MacOS X (Snow Leopard)

Sun’s ZFS is, by all accounts, the most revolutionary file system to come along in years. The Wikipedia entry on ZFS has some details, and Sun has a ZFS Learning Center where you can learn how to use it.

Of course, ZFS is in OpenSolaris, but it is also being introduced into FreeBSD as well.

The Solaris Internals site has a beautiful ZFS Best Practices Guide.

What does all of this have to do with Apple’s MacOS X (Snow Leopard)?

Just this: early in the development of MacOS X 10.6, Apple announced that they would use ZFS in the new MacOS X Snow Leopard. The ability to read ZFS volumes had been put into MacOS X Leopard Server. However, ZFS is missing from MacOS X Snow Leopard and Snow Leopard Server entirely. Robin Harris over at ZDNet has an excellent article that explains it all. He then went on to expand on his ZDNet article with more details.

The one detail in particular I wanted to note is the lawsuit between NetApp and Sun over ZFS and related patents. Groklaw has been following the lawsuit, but the last update from Groklaw is October 2008; Sun has more details on their lawsuit page. Way back in 2007 when the patent lawsuit erupted, CompuerWorld had an article suggesting that Apple might be forced into the lawsuit since it had been courting ZFS – or could be sued next if NetApp won. Neither Apple nor NetApp would comment.

It would also be worth noting that when IBM was in talks to buy Sun in March 2009, there were articles about how the ZFS lawsuit would affect such talks – especially given that IBM and NetApp had a strong partnership already (IBM remarkets NetApp hardware for instance). AMLawDaily had a nice article about it, as did CNET. It wasn’t much more than a month later – in April 2009 – that Sun announced it was being bought by Oracle.

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2 thoughts on “ZFS and Apple’s new MacOS X (Snow Leopard)”

  1. ZFS is not a holy grail.

    I like your article, but I do not like the Robin Harris one that sounds just like he never had ZFS running with production data on it. I _had_ major data loss with many different file systems (NTFS, HFS+, EXT3, ReiserFS, ZFS, …).

    I’m not against ZFS, I just don’t like the seemingly naive view of things many people show when they talk about it. It is very complex and it is a lot of code, so it has bugs. It does break, like anything else!

    ZFS is not a holy grail!

  2. We are running ZFS in a corporate environment with Solaris 10, and I’ve not heard of problems with data loss.

    The reason ZFS sounds like the greatest thing since sliced bread is because it is so different from the past, and offers capabilities never before seen in any filesystem anywhere. One drastic thing is that the concept of the “filesystem” (such as VxFS) and “volume management” (such as VxVM or LVM) are intermingled; there is no longer any such thing as a “fixed” volume and no such thing as having to “format” a filesystem.

    ZFS is a radical change to the way filesystems and volume management have been done. Yet, as you say, it’s not perfect – just a radical change and improvement.

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