Apple has decided to discontinue its support of the open source ZFS file system. ZFS had been touted as the best emerging file system for the near future, so why would Apple discontinue ZFS after throwing its support behind it? I think there are 4 possibilities.
1. ZFS is Not Important and too Radical a Change for Apple
Very few systems and software require or can really benefit from the ZFS file system at the moment. Apple may feel that further exploration of ZFS as a primary storage system is pointless right now and may rather spend resources on other research and development projects. Plus, none of Apple’s current system use ZFS as the primary storage method. Apple has continued to use their HFS journaled file system as the primary storage system in all Macs. Apple has also continued to use variations of FAT for iPods connected via USB, assumedly to maintain easy compatibility with Microsoft Windows PCs. Changing Macs and iPods over to ZFS would be a substantial undertaking and would likely need to be phased in over time.
2. ZFS is Open Source
While Apple uses many open source projects in its own products and contributes back to the open source community, they may not want to commit to an open source file system at the core of their systems. They may feel it will open the door to file system attacks and to competition. The HFS system is not a secret, but it remains primarily an Apple technology. Apple could have adopted any number of file systems with OS X, including EXT2, EXT3, REISER, etc., but chose to go with HFS right from the beginning.
3. Apple Intends to Implement a Proprietary File System
Apple may have decided that their next storage system will be proprietary. That would allow Apple to exercise more control over competition as well as accessory vendors. While ZFS is certainly advanced, there are other file system projects out there with innovative features. I expect Apple to build a distributed file system that shares characteristics with peer to peer networking, where each storage node is independent and intelligent, perhaps combining routing, data healing, load balancing, and zero configuration. I also expect Apple to slowly do away with the overall concept of a hard drive and to eventually remove it from the user interface.
4. NetApp Patent Infringement Claims Against Sun and Oracle on the Horizon
|Make iPhone Apps!|
Even though NetApp’s legal claims against Sun for infringement of patents giving rise to the open source ZFS file system have largely been rejected by the Court and the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple may be concerned about implementing a system with roots at Sun Microsystems in case other patent claims or licensing issues emerge against Sun. In addition, Sun is in the process of being bought by Oracle (pending approval by European regulators concerned about MySQL becoming an Oracle property) and Oracle is in a position to further expand its Linux-based operating system initiatives, with ZFS possibly becoming an integral part of their strategy for storage. With Sun’s legacy of hardware development, Oracle could also develop highly specific hardware-software combinations, as Apple has done, to compete outside of its traditional database market. Apple is looking to expand into the enterprise market and will be looking to differentiate themselves from Linux vendors. Adoption of ZFS by Apple as a primary storage method will not provide Apple with a differentiating factor in the server and storage business.
Bookmark on del.icio.us