ZFS filesystem for Mac OS X is dead

Apple's official project of porting ZFS to Mac OS X has been cancelled.

In a simple message posted by MacOS Forge, Apple stated only "the ZFS project has been discontinued. The mailing list and repository will also be removed shortly."

ZFS is an advanced file system and logical volume manager originally created by Sun Microsystems. The file system boasts features such as support for high capacity storage devices, continuous integrity checking, automatic repair and integration of file system and volume management.

Apple's interest in ZFS stemmed back to initial discussions with Sun to use ZFS as a file system in Mac OS X. By 2007, a read-only port of the file system was created and command line support was added to Leopard.

However, the merger between Oracle and Sun Microsystems in April 2009 saw Apple back away from the technology. This was largely rumored to be because Oracle already owned an advanced open-source file system, BTRFS, which upon merger with Sun put the future of ZFS at risk.

By June 2009, all mention of ZFS disappeared from Apple's website and all code was removed from developer builds.

Apple now holds an unfinished file system that, according to rumors, could encounter patent issues with the newly merged Sun/Oracle should they bring it back to life.

No announcements have yet been made as to whether Apple intend to port Oracle's BTRFS to Mac OS X, or whether they will simply continue to build features into the existing HFS+ file system.

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28 Comments

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Why would they write their own when there are perfectly good open source options available they can use for free? Honestly, low level OS/platform development is not Apple̢۪s core competency. They tried for years to replace the old classic OS with a home grown alternative and each project got scrapped early on. What they are good at is user interface, making something intuitive, easy to use, powerful and appealing, all the things that are important but have nothing to do with a file system that never gets seen by end users. I would more expect them to take something off the shelf like ext4, combine it with some kind of object oriented data store for enhanced metadata and the build a killer new version of the Finder to expose a bunch of new features to the users who ultimately don̢۪t care what the file system technology is.

Here is why this is kind of big...

1) ZFS going mainstream probably won't happen
2) The *nix world is STILL trying to develop a comprehensive/fast OSS FS technology
3) ZFS was the closest OSS FS that could compete with NTFS on major features.

Right now on *nix to get the same functionality of NTFS you have to slap on several technologies, and this is not so good when even the base FS technology you are building from can't meet the performance of NTFS, let alone when you add in the extra features.

A quick Wiki lookup doesn't really show the benefits or why NTFS has been a holy grail of the OSS world, but in a nutshell, they need a full journalling, repairing, copy on write based FS technology, etc. And this doesn't even try to catch up to NTFS on inherent file level encryption and compression.

These are also important technologies that have evolved in NTFS over the years that have paid off for Microsoft.

NTFS always did system level journaling, Vista added full volume/application level journaling. (This is how the indexing system knows what has changed and also cleans up if power was removed during important writes to the Hard Drive.)

NTFS since Win2k and more so the XP days has offered copy on write technology, this is what was one of the MAIN features ZFS was bringing.

The NTFS version of copy-on-write technology is what gives the OS Volume Shadow Copies, Previous Versions, System Restore, etc.

(Previous Versions is the techology that gives Windows users OS X Time Machine functionality but without the need for external backups. - Although Previous Versions like Time Machine also works with external backups too.)

thenetavenger said,
Here is why this is kind of big...

1) ZFS going mainstream probably won't happen
2) The *nix world is STILL trying to develop a comprehensive/fast OSS FS technology
3) ZFS was the closest OSS FS that could compete with NTFS on major features.

Right now on *nix to get the same functionality of NTFS you have to slap on several technologies, and this is not so good when even the base FS technology you are building from can't meet the performance of NTFS, let alone when you add in the extra features.

A quick Wiki lookup doesn't really show the benefits or why NTFS has been a holy grail of the OSS world, but in a nutshell, they need a full journalling, repairing, copy on write based FS technology, etc. And this doesn't even try to catch up to NTFS on inherent file level encryption and compression.

These are also important technologies that have evolved in NTFS over the years that have paid off for Microsoft.

NTFS always did system level journaling, Vista added full volume/application level journaling. (This is how the indexing system knows what has changed and also cleans up if power was removed during important writes to the Hard Drive.)

NTFS since Win2k and more so the XP days has offered copy on write technology, this is what was one of the MAIN features ZFS was bringing.

The NTFS version of copy-on-write technology is what gives the OS Volume Shadow Copies, Previous Versions, System Restore, etc.

(Previous Versions is the techology that gives Windows users OS X Time Machine functionality but without the need for external backups. - Although Previous Versions like Time Machine also works with external backups too.)



There's also the rather problematical point that NTFS is the FS of over eighty percent of the planet's desktops, seventy-five percent of the planet's portable computers (not including netbooks) and a goodly portion of the planet's server storage capacity.

Not to mention that there are *three* ways of bringing NTFS to Macs today (two of them are actually free), and that Larry Ellison is as lawyer-happy as Apple itself (which is likely the real reason ZFS on Apple hardware got killed).

If your point is that NTFS will take over I think you are mistaken. With good open source options out there and a strong development community don't expect NTFS to ever be used by anyone other than Microsoft.

I feel what was just said by avenger isn't reliable. I fail to see how NTFS is superior to open source alternatives like ext3 and ext4. plus i haven't seen one open source person seeking this "grail" of a filesystem that NTFS is supposedly.

Revenge2K said,
I feel what was just said by avenger isn't reliable. I fail to see how NTFS is superior to open source alternatives like ext3 and ext4. plus i haven't seen one open source person seeking this "grail" of a filesystem that NTFS is supposedly.

ext3 isn't even in the same league as NTFS or ext4. Journaling is about the only modern feature it supports.

RealFduch said,
Does that mean that Mac OS X Leopard now has 299 new features instead of usual 300?

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard never shipped with public ZFS support in the first place.

The long and short of it was, Apple and Sun couldn't come to terms on the licensing. Sun wanted a lot of money for giving it to Apple under different terms and the amount they wanted was in the range of "hell, we could do it ourselves for that".

Add to that, the Oracle buyout and Sun going into management paralysis, and Apple decided to go it alone.

Apple's CoreOS team includes several of the lead engineers from the ZFS project (who fled the remnants of Sun in the Schwartz melt-down), and the architect of the BeFS. I'm expecting Apple to do their own next-generation file system, probably in the 10.7 timeframe

Nightwind Hawk said,
Didn't they have a commercial about Vista not delivering its promises with the new filesystem?


Well, that was different, in that Microsoft was doing it on their own, not just trying to license something and bolt OS X on top. Don't worry though, there's lots of other open-source filesystems they can glom themselves onto.

Mega Goatlord said,
Well, that was different, in that Microsoft was doing it on their own, not just trying to license something and bolt OS X on top. Don't worry though, there's lots of other open-source filesystems they can glom themselves onto.



really? that was just silly.

Nightwind Hawk said,
Didn't they have a commercial about Vista not delivering its promises with the new filesystem?

WinFS isn't a filesystem.

Frank Fontaine said,
There is no reason for Apple to do that, exFAT is inferior to the current FS they use

I'm pretty sure he was being sarcastic...

Frank Fontaine said,
There is no reason for Apple to do that, exFAT is inferior to the current FS they use

Apples and Oranges. exFAT is meant for portable media.

NTFS is arguably superior to HFS+ in many ways, though.

:(

Well, HFS+ has plenty of life left in it anyway, They've got some time to work out a new file system, if it's decided that one is needed.