back to article Apple dumps Sun's ZFS

Apple is dumping ZFS. A notice appeared on Mac OS Forge on Friday: "The ZFS project has been discontinued. The mailing list and repository will also be removed shortly." ZFS is Sun's 128-bit file system, created for its Solaris operating system and distributed as an open source package. It is highly scalable, contains …


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  1. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    filesystem job

    So this job, is it to work on a state of the art filesystem, or just for hfs+ ?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No reason for Oracle to dump ZFS

    I don't know why you would suggest such a thing. The NetApp ZFS lawsuit has little merit, and will likely be settled. The basis of NetApp's argument is the ZFS designers wanted certain functionality "like WAFL, and to "prove" a patent violation they use the public source code as evidence. I fail to see in court how NetApp could successfully sue without publicly revealing the WAFL source for the functionality in question.

    That the open source community failed to get enraged by NetApp shows the open source zealots nothing more than Orwell's pigs. But I digress.

    There are also the questions: Is the functionality patented by NetApp really copied by ZFS, or is it sufficiently different; if similar enough, is ZFS a legitimate "clean room" implementation of said functionality; and is NetApp's patent valid, given prior art?

    The NetApp patent in question regards storage snapshots, a concept originally patented by StorageTek, who NetApp had a long history of licensing multiple patents from, and who's patent is now owned by Sun.

    My guess for Apple is they find ZFS to be overkill for a desktop/laptop/cellphone/MP3 player OS. Snapshots, copy on write, triple parity RAID, these things are rarely needed on desktop OSs.

  3. Werner Donné


    That is a pitty. ZFS is a revolution in the filesystem world. It should be a piece of cake for a company such as Apple to integrate it in the OS. I don't understand why Apple and Microsoft bother to build their own filesystem. That is not their core business. They should rather focus on the user experience. In the meantime people have to live with crap filesystems such as HFS+ and NTFS. I have had to reinstall both Mac OS X and Windows several times, just because it is possible their filesystems can get corrupted. Not only servers contain valuable data.

  4. Louis Wheeler

    It's hard to tell what is going on, yet.

    We merely know that Apple has dumped ZFS, but not why. It has put in an advertisement for a file system specialist, but we do not know what he or she will be working on. Will Apple be designing a completely new proprietary file system? That does not seem likely.

    Given Apple's embrace of Open Source, one possibility is that it will be adopting "btrfs" or the B-Tree File System. Btrfs is approaching completion for Linux in the next several years. It seems like an opportune time for Apple to design a version which would suit Apple's future needs.

    ZFS was always inclined toward mainframes with many disk drives, so it was not a perfect match for Apple, who's users often have only one internal drive and an external backup disk. I always wondered if Apple was planning for the far future when all peripherals and devices will have Computers-on-a-chip and internal SSD drives inside. Both ZFS and btrfs would handle such a distributed system.

  5. john jones 1

    better be Btrfs

    if they are going to break out and try a new file system they have to go with soemthing that is going to work out and have support...

    they would be best placed to go with Btrfs since thats going to be the standard in linux soon enough !

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Sun...and Oracle Sucks

    ZFS is nothing special. Sun used to have to rely on Veritas then came out with a file system that is tied to Solaris.

    Ponytail boy who is essentially unemployed, but can be fired yet by Oracle tried to say Apple would move to it but he was wrong.

    UltraSPARC - dead as of January 2009

    SPARC64 - no 45nm so esssentially dead

    Rock - dead Summer 2009

    SPARC CMT- only alive because Oracle charges by the core

    Openstorage - Sun gave away 85% of the boxes shipped to customers

    STK - please please EMC buy the us!!!!

  7. asdf

    too bad, lawyers ruin another good tech

    From everything I have heard about ZFS (overkill for my home needs so haven't implemented myself) it really is the next greatest thing in enterprise file systems. I have a feeling some system admins will not want to hear ZFS is in trouble. Once again another example of a great technology that is ruined by patent troll lawyers, accountants that cant cash in it right away for the next quarterly report and worthless business suites with no vision. Oracle I am sure won't let it die but will charge everyone through the wazoo to use it. I wish people would wake up and see our current house of cards virtual land rush patent mind field is doing more to destroy technical innovation and protect entrenched vested interests instead of encouraging visionaries to improve our way of life. The people that envisioned the original patent system would be disgusted to learn how modern lawyers have turned it into legal extortion.

  8. LouDobby

    Slightly skeptical ....

    What are the issues, anyone know??

  9. Shingo Tamai
    Thumb Down

    Licensing problems indeed

    See link:

  10. Chris Mellor 1

    FreeBSD, ZFS and HAMMER

    Sent to me and posted anonymously:-

    You are perhaps aware that ZFS has been popular, perhaps to the point of hype, among FreeBSD developers. The filesystem, designed for large amounts of data, has a tendency to eat a lot of memory. That's fine for servers, but maybe not so much for desktops.

    I'd like to know what happened at apple. The guy that likes ZFS quit? Who knows. Personally I'd like FreeBSD to take a good look at Matt Damon's HAMMER, of DragonflyBSD fame. Perhaps apple is doing the same, or perhaps they're thinking of something else entirely.



  11. Chris Mellor 1

    New MacZFS project and ZFS licensing

    Sent to me by Alex Blewitt:-

    Chris, can you link to the new project?

    We've already got a build available for Snow Leopard and are looking to continue this forwards. Incidentally, in a mail to the OpenSolaris mailing list, Jeff Bonwick (creator of ZFS) essentially confirmed it was a licensing (or rather, payment) dispute:

    "> Apple can currently just take the ZFS CDDL code and incorporate it > (like they did with DTrace), but it may be that they wanted a "private > license" from Sun (with appropriate technical support and > indemnification), and the two entities couldn't come to mutually > agreeable terms.

    I cannot disclose details, but that is the essence of it.


  12. Anonymous Coward

    Do Apple Inc sell servers??

    So what if Apple drop ZFS from their laptops; I don't recall too many of them in use in customers DCs, and quite frankly, it's overkill on a system with *1* disc.

    Oh, and good luck to the team charged with developing a new filesystem. See you all in 6years, patent disputes pending.

  13. Uwe Dippel

    Easy answer: It doesn't work

    That's our experiences here.

    And I guess, Apple's experiences as well. Think it over: ZFS is spot on for Time Machine. Silently doing exactly what is needed, out of the box.

    Go to the OpenSolaris website, do a bit of search, and you'll find a good handful of threads indicating exactly what is in the Title.

  14. VirtualScott


    What a bummer. I've been hoping ZFS would take over, and eventually have hardware ZFS appliances. There are so many good things ZFS was bringing to the table. Snapshots, scaleable/resizeable storage pools, corruption resistance. I hope whatever comes next has all those features.

  15. Victor 2


    The NetApp issue had nothing to do with Apple dropping ZFS, it was about Apple and Sun not reaching a licensing agreement.

    And the project is not death, there are at least three sources were the code and information were cloned, one of which is .

    Development will continue in the community.

    In other news, a ZFS port to Linux has been announced:

  16. Chris Hedley Silver badge

    The future of ZFS is...?

    > "The Oracle acquisition has raised doubt over the future status of ZFS, and it's possible that it may just disappear"

    Arse. I /like/ ZFS a lot; so much stuff is lost due to take-over shenanigans. I can only hope it isn't yet another casualty... Sadly, I don't have much faith. :(

  17. Joshua Pincus

    ZFS is here to stay

    First off, ZFS is not going to become a footnote in any history book. The filesystem is a major step forward and has become a major part of the Sun storage story, a story that is doing just fine by the way. ZFS has also inspired similar technologies. And since Sun released the source code, you can be sure that Apple will deploy with something similar after tossing their own name on it. Anyone who has used ZFS or has developed with ZFS knows that it's sheer genius.

    As far as NetApp is concerned, they're pathetic. They've been embroiled in a lawsuit for years for reasons that are totally groundless. I hope when Oracle finally gets the go-ahead by the lazy Europeans that they fully fund Sun's efforts to defend their patents or put NetApp out of business, whichever comes first.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Planet Earth Calling

    "it's possible that it may just disappear, becoming a foot note in IT history."

    On what planet do you live? Currently there is no alternative to ZFS, not even Oracle's own ButtFS.

    In the worst case Snorcle has to license some patents. But as can be seen at things look very good for Sun.

    Apple is just plain stupid, if they drop ZFS. Would you trust a Gimmick-OS-Company writing a next generation filesystem? If they do, we can wait at least 5 years for it to come out.

    There's a hint on the ZFS Mailing List at about the reasons why Apple plans to drop ZFS. It's mostly because they want to make cash, not because they want to serve customers:

    --- QUOTING

    > Apple can currently just take the ZFS CDDL code and incorporate it

    > (like they did with DTrace), but it may be that they wanted a "private

    > license" from Sun (with appropriate technical support and

    > indemnification), and the two entities couldn't come to mutually

    > agreeable terms.

    I cannot disclose details, but that is the essence of it.

    Jeff (Bonwick)

    --- QUOTE END

  19. IT specialist
    Thumb Down

    A bit sad

    That's a bit sad that ZFS has been dropped. Maybe Apple didn't like Larry Ellison getting his hands on it. Very little chance that Larry will ever open-source ZFS. The file system deserved better.

  20. Eddie Edwards

    More likely

    It's nice to propose patent issues, but the most likely issue is that ZFS is not really finished. OpenBSD counts it as "experimental", and for good reason. ZFS is designed brilliantly with respect to how it uses discs. However, its implementation seems to assume "infinite memory" which isn't a realistic assumption. ZFS is very memory hungry. It is also incredibly poorly written - although this may be usual for UNIX - in that each request to ZFS uses its own thread. It makes for very readable code, but not necessarily the best performance.

    We ran ZFS on a file server for 3 months and hit all these problems.

    ZFS does a lot of things right, but the claims it makes are overinflated compared to the reality of the implementation's limitations. You certainly could not put this on a machine for liberal arts graduates to use.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Broken promises

    Broken promises!!!!! Oh apple its other way round this

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @Chris Mellor 1

    I didn't know Matt Damon had a new career in open source software development - I wonder what Sarah Silverman thinks of that?... Or maybe you mean Matt DILLON?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    @"Werner Donné"

    "I have had to reinstall both Mac OS X and Windows several times"- goodness, sounds like the problem may lie more with you, then. No amount of filesystem robustness can provide complete foolproofing.

  24. Nigel 11
    Thumb Up


    The obvious competition for ZFS is BTRFS. If Apple are happy with GPL and adopt BTRFS, that's great news for both Mac and Linux users (and for that matter just about everyone apart from Microsoft).

  25. Gaius


    Oracle owns BTRFS, Sun owns ZFS, Oracle owns Sun

    There's only one way this can play out.

  26. Peter Mc Aulay

    If a tree falls in the woods with no-one around...

    A company with no appreciable impact on either the servers or storage biz drops ZFS, who cares?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Apple playing games

    Here's my guess at what's going on here:

    Apple developing their own FS is a possibility, but that probably means enhancing HFS+, which would be non-desirable for users.

    Using Btrfs is a non-starter, due to it's lack of maturity.

    ZFS is what Apple want, due to it being the best mature FS around, but now Oracle own it.

    Oracle want cash and Apple doesn't want to pay the price asked.

    Apple sulks and throws its toys out of the pram by playing the 'Reject ZFS' game publicly, hoping that Oracle will improve the T&Cs...

    Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  28. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Dear Sunshiners

    A touch sensitive about the old ZFS thing, are we? Bottom line, whether it is for money issues or something else, Apple has decided not to go with ZFS. That is the only fact out there, the rest is just conjecture. But, your posts expose several Sunshier myths.

    "ZFS is the only mature option, it is the best, bla, bla bla!" This is simple to deal with. Linux already has a wealth of free options (ext3, ext4, BTRFS, tux3, etc), some of which have been in production and others which are still developmental, and there is nothing to stop Apple simply incorporating one of these. For ZFS to really have been the only option it would have to have provided something the others didn't at a price Apple thought was right. If the adoption of ZFS failed because of licensing then it looks like Apple simply didn't think it was worth the money. As it stands, most fanbois seem very happy with HFS+, so Apple isn't exactly desperate to replace it.

    "The NetApp lawsuit has no merit." Yes, and can I see your copyright law degree, please? Oh, you haven't got one. Quel surprise! It's up to the courts to decide the merits or not of the suit. And before you start labelling NetApp a patent troll, you may want to conside that NetApp went defensive after Sun tried to stick them with a massive licensing charge for StorageTek technologies, whic Sun bought to go trolling with.

    "Nothing is as good as ZFS!" Yeah, right! I'm betting you can't even name two of the alternatives without a Google search, let alone competantly comment on their relative merits and capabiities. Such blinkered bleating just reminds others of the "Solaris on SPARC and nothing else" mantra, and look what happened there.

    "BTRFS is a toy and Larry will drop it for ZFS 'cos we say so." I suggest you try reading articles like for a more balanced view.

    "ZFS is innovative and there is nothing else like it!" ZFS is a WAFL clone. Even Sun's own engineers admit that they used it as their inspiration if nothing else. Other filesystem tools do more with a lot more reliablility and commercial support (such as the Veritas LVM products, which are still used of enterprise Slowaris). When you make comments like that all you do is expose your lack of knowledge.

    I'll stop there before Ms Bee decides you ickle Sunshienrs need any more protecting from the rigours of the real World.


  29. Shingo Tamai
    Thumb Down

    Re: Do Apple Inc sell servers??

    Yes they do.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Too much moonshine

    When asked if Oracle planned to keep all of Sun existing systems, Ellison was adamant: "We are keeping everything. We're keeping tape. We're keeping storage. We're keeping x86 technology and SPARC technology - and we're going to increase the investment in it."

    He also was lavish in his praise of Sun: "Sun has fantastic technology. We think it's got great microprocessor technology - it needs a little more investment, but we think it can be extremely competitive. It's got the leading tape archival systems. We think the Open Storage on their new disk system is absolutely fantastic. Java speaks for itself. Solaris is overwhelmingly the best open-systems operating system on the planet."

    Get used to the future, learn to love it, and give up the moonshine - it's not good for you.

    Even Paris knows that...

  31. Anonymous Coward

    @Moonshiner :

    > Apple can currently just take the ZFS CDDL code and incorporate it

    > (like they did with DTrace), but it may be that they wanted a "private

    > license" from Sun (with appropriate technical support and

    > indemnification), and the two entities couldn't come to mutually

    > agreeable terms.

    I cannot disclose details, but that is the essence of it.



    Try adjusting your moonshine reality deflector shield a little.

    Apple chose the best available, but so far have been unsuccessful in getting it with the "private license" they wanted. As well as ZFS, WAFL & Veritas etc might be solid too, but cost lots of ca$$$h.

    I never heard Apple announcing that they were ever interested in any other file system like the ones you mention above, for what are probably obvious reasons. They don't have what Apple want. If you're a touch sensitive about that, get over it already, as once Oracle start pushing ZFS you're going to be seeing a lot more of it :)

    The mat seems apt.

  32. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: @Moonshiner

    ".....once Oracle start pushing ZFS...." Yeah, like they did with Rock? Weren't you Sunshiners all telling us that Rock was central to Snoreacle's plans not too long ago? Please excuse me if I choose to laugh at your rose-tinted views around ZFS.

  33. Anonymous Coward


    Soon you might possibly be able to enjoy ZFS on Linux, running on your beloved HP fanboi kit... that's if you're not on strike still

    Mat for obvious reasons.

  34. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Yet another AC

    "Soon you might possibly be able to enjoy ZFS on Linux, running on your beloved HP fanboi kit...." Unlikely. You see, we do already enjoy Linux on both ProLiant and Integrity, and in neither case is there any need for ZFS. The majority of our production Linux is RHEL (the rest is SLES), and both already do the job just fine without the need to cripple them with a bit of memory-hogging bugware like ZFS, which can't even handle clustering. Consider that RHEL AP comes as a bundle that includes clustering capability and their hypervisor, all integrated, tested and supported, and then compare to the bodge-job that is Open Slowaris, and - if you have even the slightest clue about what us customers are actually doing - you'll realise Sun is just not in the game. Which is why even Sun's own Galaxy servers ship with five Linux installs for each Slowaris install.

  35. Anonymous Coward


    You better inform Larry at Oracle of your ZFS findings -- I'm sure he'll give you his opinion.

    Maybe he'll suggest you join the Flat Earth Society. If you're quick, you could become the 18th member!

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @Moonshiner Matt

    Oh, and good luck fixing your RHEL bugware, whilst I put my feet up and enjoy a pina-colada as my 'bugware' works flawlessly:

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