Apple’s File System

John Siracusa had an epic “rant” on filesystems on Hypercritical #56 and I greatly recommend that you go and listen to the whole thing. I’ve been using ZFS on my FreeNAS box for the past month, and listening to John sing his praises of the filesystem brought a smile to my face. I agree with everything he said on the podcast, so go and listen to it.

After that, read part of his review of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion on the filesystem for some more background.

I send you to listen and read so that I can say the following without having to worry about people misunderstanding me:

HFS+ is old and broken and Apple needs to get a modern filesystem under the hood of OS X and iOS with all possible speed.

That’s it.

ZFS was supposed to be it back with 10.5 Leopard. Even if they had just rolled it out with OS X Server with 10.6 and 10.7, that would have been fine. Showing some real movement to a new, modern file system would have been all anyone is asking for. That is not what we have received.

Instead, HFS+ keeps getting more and more tacked onto it in order to support more and better functionality in the OS. I shudder to think of what Apple might be able to focus on if they had gone with ZFS and switched it to the default file system for 10.7 or 10.8.

Microsoft is doing just that by beginning their long march with the announcement of ReFS. I applaud Microsoft for taking the plunge. I hope it might force Apple to doing the same.

During This One Podcast Episode 4, Phil and I talked about what we are looking for most from Apple in the coming releases of OS X … and I missed this. I want Apple to finally either develop or pick a modern file system to be the basis for their operating systems and ship it. Don’t tease us. Don’t trick us. Do it.

This is a huge, glaring weakness in Apple’s ecosystem right now. As a former Apple Genius I remember dealing with file system issues and there was really nothing that we nor the person could do about it except hope that Disk Utility could fix the issues or they had a good backup somewhere. ZFS would have, by its very nature, had us deal with less issues with the file system, saving work time and customer frustrations.

This needs to be done.

2 replies on “Apple’s File System”

I agree with you Bob and I was so looking forward to ZFS back in the OS X 10.5 days, when the licensing issue became a problem. Ugh. Apple being secretive about what is coming does not help. I too think it is a fundamental weakness as far as file systems go. However, Apple should do the right thing with its file system NOT because Microsoft is fix their own problem, but because it benefits the customers of its products and protects the customer’s data.

I think Don Brady was working on an implementation of ZFS for OS X. I guess there is a shipping product in ZEVO, but I have not used it yet. Guess I should give it a try and see how it works. My wife’s school could use some extra storage units. Here is the link to that product –

I’ve seen that and will be watching it. Sadly, you can’t use it for your boot volume … that is ultimately what I would like to see happen.

I don’t think Apple will do anything in response to Microsoft directly, but any kind of pressure to get Apple to update old technologies is welcome in my book. Something like this should be transparent to the user, but infinitely worthwhile because we are talking about keeping all of the bits in order.

Perhaps I’m thinking too old-school and that they are waiting for SSDs to be available in everything before they roll out a next-gen, SSD-aware and optimized filesystem.

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