The new btrfs and ext4 filesystem…..

April 5, 2009


Btrfs is a new copy on write filesystem for Linux aimed at implementing advanced features while focusing on fault tolerance, repair and easy administration. Initially developed by Oracle, Btrfs is licensed under the GPL and open for contribution from anyone.

Linux has a wealth of filesystems to choose from, but we are facing a number of challenges with scaling to the large storage subsystems that are becoming common in today’s data centers. Filesystems need to scale in their ability to address and manage large storage, and also in their ability to detect, repair and tolerate errors in the data stored on disk.
Btrfs is under heavy development, and is not suitable for any uses other than benchmarking and review. The Btrfs disk format is not yet finalized, but it will only be changed if a critical bug is found and no workarounds are possible.

The main Btrfs features include:

* Extent based file storage (2^64 max file size)
* Space efficient packing of small files
* Space efficient indexed directories
* Dynamic inode allocation
* Writable snapshots
* Subvolumes (separate internal filesystem roots)
* Object level mirroring and striping
* Checksums on data and metadata (multiple algorithms available)
* Compression
* Integrated multiple device support, with several raid algorithms
* Online filesystem check
* Very fast offline filesystem check
* Efficient incremental backup and FS mirroring
* Online filesystem defragmentation

Currently the code is in an early implementation phase, and not all of these have yet been implemented. See the Development timeline for detailed release plans.

Ext4 was released as a functionally complete and stable filesystem in Linux 2.6.28, and it’s getting included in all the modern distros (in some cases as the default fs), so if you are using a modern distro, it’s possible that you already have Ext4 support and you don’t need to modify your system to run Ext4.

It’s safe to use it in production environments, but as any piece of software, it has bugs (which are more likely to be hit in the first stable versions). Any known critical bug will be quickly fixed. If you find one, you can contact the Ext4 developers at the ext4 mailing list. They sometimes also can be found on IRC.
Getting Ext4 code
For people who build their own kernel

1. Start with a 2.6.28 or later kernel. It is highly recommended that you apply the latest patchset (if available) to get the latest bug fixes. In your kernel’s .config file, enable EXT4_FS (along with EXT4_FS_XATTR and EXT4_FS_POSIX_ACL if you like).

2. Compile the latest version of e2fsprogs (as of this writing 1.41.4) from kernel.org or from Sourceforge. Note that it is highly important to install the mke2fs.conf file that comes with the e2fsprogs 1.41.x sources in /etc/mke2fs.conf. If you have edited the /etc/mke2fs.conf file, you will need to merge your changes with the version from e2fsprogs 1.41.x.


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