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Apple builds in ZFS

June 21, 2008

Last fall, Apple released a developer preview of Sun's 128-bit Zettabyte File System (ZFS) for Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). There had earlier been a flurry of interest around ZFS and Apple because Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz glibly alluded to Apple making ZFS the file system of Mac OS X. That wasn't exactly true. But ZFS support was present in this early release, although it was read-only. This year at WWDC, Apple pushed ZFS support in OS X a big step forward.
Apple has officially announced that Mac OS X Server 10.6 (the internals-focused "Snow Leopard" release) will provide read and write support for ZFS. Just the server OS? That's all they're saying, and even if the core functionality of ZFS is built into Snow Leopard client, that doesn't mean that it would actually be used any time soon. ZFS may be the future, but it's not clear how fast we'll get there or what its appropiate applicability might be. Chances are you won't want to see it in your iPhone.
But you'll want it if you do high-performance computing. You'll want it for reliability and for ease of use. You'll want it because it's so cool. ZFS is designed to have a 30-plus-year shelf life. It supports 16 exabytes of storage and 200 trillion files. Various calculations suggest that you aren't going to use up that capacity until you've boiled the oceans for power and covered the earth's surface with server farms to a height beyond the orbit of the moon. So it should meet your immediate needs, right?
ZFS is cool. The only way it could be any cooler would be if it were married to Michelle Obama.

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