Will Mac OS X 10.7 Lion use ZFS?

Oct 26, 2010 - 9 Comments

mac os x lion zfs

There have long been rumors and predictions that the new version of Mac OS X will use the ZFS file system, but with each new OS release the idea falls flat. So here we are again with a new Mac OS on the horizon, the inevitable question returns: will ZFS come to Mac OS X 10.7?

No one outside of Apple knows for sure yet, but LifeOfAGizmo.com points to the ‘Auto-Save’ feature of Mac OS X Lion as proof that ZFS is indeed coming:

As for the proof it’s simple, really. Unless Apple is developing their own filesystem, ZFS has the main features that allow you to get rid of file saving: snapshots and clones.

I’m hesitant to jump on the ZFS bandwagon, here’s why: iOS. iOS already has auto-saving, and it’s not using a ZFS file system, it’s using HFS+. Considering the whole point of the “Back to the Mac” event was to bring iOS features back to its parent Mac OS X, I would imagine the auto-saving capabilities are at an OS level.

But let’s investigate the “snapshots and clones” feature of ZFS anyway, which is explained as follows by Wikipedia:

An advantage of copy-on-write is that when ZFS writes new data, the blocks containing the old data can be retained, allowing a snapshot version of the file system to be maintained. ZFS snapshots are created very quickly, since all the data composing the snapshot is already stored; they are also space efficient, since any unchanged data is shared among the file system and its snapshots.
Writeable snapshots (“clones”) can also be created, resulting in two independent file systems that share a set of blocks. As changes are made to any of the clone file systems, new data blocks are created to reflect those changes, but any unchanged blocks continue to be shared, no matter how many clones exist.

Essentially, ZFS is taking snapshots of the state of data, which would make auto-saving seemingly easy to implement. So ZFS supports a feature that Mac OS X Lion will have that Mac OS X Snow Leopard doesn’t, so a new ZFS file system it is right? It’s possible but this logic requires you to discount the fact that iOS (which is built off of Mac OS X) already has Auto-Save capabilities on top of an HFS+ file system (yes I see the redundancy, ATM machine, PIN number, blah blah).

Speculating about the future of Mac OS X is fun, so I’m happy to see ideas thrown around there, although I am very hesitant to believe ZFS is coming. Heck, maybe Apple is going to build an entirely new file system, since as ArsTechnica noticed, they were busy hiring filesystem engineers last year. Ultimately we’ll just have to wait to hear the answer to all these questions.

If you want to avoid getting caught up in the hype, you can check out the known Mac OS X 10.7 Lion features and screenshots, which were revealed by Apple at the Back to the Mac event.


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Posted by: Jeff Hurst in Mac OS, Rumor


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  1. James says:

    This is amazing… How do people come up with these ideas? Auto save and copy-on-write, and in fact ZFS as a whole, have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and neither makes the other any easier or more difficult. It’s like saying, “Hey because you like eggs, you’ll love football!” …Really? Why’s that?

    Don’t get me wrong, ZFS is the best thing to happen to storage since the hard drive, but that doesn’t mean Apple it going to adopt it. The fact people don’t even understand what ZFS is or what it’s good for, as is evident by the statements made in this article alone, provide Apple little reason to trying to cross the now plentiful red tape to get it into their OS. Since Oracle has taken over the ship there is a very different attitude toward sharing and open source in general, one very similar to Apple’s honestly, but the problem is this attitude does not lend itself well to Apple adopting ZFS.

    More over I don’t know that Apple is going to prioritize creating a next generation FS. Apple goes after bullet points that the public is going to respond to with their wallets, not because they are ones that are necessarily needed. The fact is regardless of the necessity Mac OS X, as well as most OSs aside from Solaris, desperate has for a new, more robust, FS to handle the ever growing data piles we are all amassing and insure their robustness, this isn’t a subject the public understands, and thus isn’t something Apple can market. Apple goes after the “oh geewiz” factor, and file systems simply don’t have that, not yet at least, and the may never manage to get it. After all Apple’s FS tech, aside from some patch work, dates back 30 years. That’s a REALLY long time in the computer world!

  2. […] version of OS X around the corner, another round of ZFS rumours. Nothing too new here folks, but as always there are certain signs one can correlate to an all-new […]

  3. icebreaker says:

    Computers can fail so I never trust automated file savings. Just like making a back-up. I like to do it manually so I know it actually gets done.

    • someguy says:

      Interesting that you say that. All you are doing is clicking a button. You are still trusting the software and hardware to do what you requested when you did so.

      How is manually kicking off the section of code that is supposed to commit information to the storage medium different from it happening automatically? Either way, you are trusting the computer to do it for you.

  4. Me says:

    Anyone care to explain what having applications auto save state (persisting data structure in RAM to disk) has to do with snapshotting on a file system level? If the application doesn’t commit changes made to a document to disk first, there is nothing to snapshot.

  5. xsec007 says:

    I believe if Apple makes the change to ZFS it will be beneficial for them because ZFS also does volume managment and they can offload that to ZFS rather than having their own.

  6. Septus says:

    I think everybody is seeing it wrong. Apple is always looking for ways to change the game, bringing fresh ideas to how we interact with our daily digital life. The ipod, the iphone and surely the ipad changed a lot.

    The Mac App Store is not about trying to control the apps on osx. The app store for IOS devices is a simply way to find apps “for your type of device”. some developers make the apps build just for the ipad, some that are compatible with multiple devices.
    The signs are there that there will be an app store for apple tv. different device, different type of user input. But some apps that already exist for the iphone/ipad can probably be easily adjusted to work correctly on an apple tv.

    I believe Apple will be introducing new hardware in the next couple of years that will change how we work and interact with a computer. The Mac App store will be a launchpad for these new types of computers easily taking away the confusing of which app works on which device.

    And if this new hardware will launch as well as the ipad did it will probably take a “lion” share of the market :)

  7. Ian says:

    I say not a chance, Apple likes doing their own thing not borrowing from others

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