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A former Google engineer thinks that Linux needs a new file system

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August 24, 2015

A former Google engineer, Kent Overstreet, has announced that a long-term project to craft a new Linux file system is at a point where he'd like other developers to help him in his initiative.

If you're asking yourself why bother with a new file system when the old one has been running so well for so many years, the answer Overstreet provides is that he wants to “match ext4 and xfs on performance and reliability, but with the features of btrfs/zfs”.

He says “the bcache codebase has been evolving/metastasizing into a full blown, general purpose posix filesystem-– a modern COW [copy-on-write filesystem with checksumming, compression, multiple devices, caching, and eventually snapshots”.

Regarding some key features of the current filesystem, Overstreet says that multiple device support is about 80 percent complete with the recovery code to be completed.

Caching and tiering are functional. Compression currently uses zlib only, and there's a choice between crc32c or a 64 bit checksum.

“My main priority for now is getting the code sufficiently stable and tested for production use, probably the number 2 priority is snapshots”, he added.

“Bcachefs won't be done in a month or even in a year for that matter, but I do want to see it out there and getting used”, he writes.

Regarding the need for other contributors, Overstreet remarks that he's been working on it as a full-time project while living on his personal savings, so “this would be a wonderful time both for other developers to jump in and get involved, and for potential users to pony up some funding”, he added.

Whether the Linux community is ready for this is another, entirely different matter, of course, and one that will most assuredly find some resistance. After all, the ext4 file system has been around for more than ten years and is still running fine.

There's an old saying in the industry: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”. And that sure sounds like good advice, even when Linux is concerned.

It will be interesting to see how the industry reacts to Overstreet's proposal, and how many followers (if any) are ready to jump in and make changes.

Source: Kent Overstreet.

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