Linux is definitely the thinking person’s operating system and its filesystems are one thing that makes it so intuitive and user-friendly.
There are over 100 open and closed-source Linux-compatible filesystems, which can be used as its primary data storage format and structure and organize data for your use.
ZFS and Btrfs are two well-known filesystems with distinct metadata and features for organizing your files.
In this article, we’ll compare Btrfs and ZFS to examine their features to see which is the better filesystem for today’s Linux user.
Btrfs vs. ZFS: Full Comparison
Btrfs and ZFS both combine the organization and management of data with additional features that increase data stability and provide an intuitive user experience.
Leading Linux kernel developers, like Theodore Ts’o, have worked on these filesystems to provide functionality and utility that has been absent in Linux filesystems. However, there are significant differences in their specifications, development trajectory, level of commercial support, and applications where they perform best.
Btrfs vs. ZFS: A Side-by-Side Comparison
|What it is||Copy-on-write (COW) file system and logical volume manager||Journaling file system and volume manager|
|Primary Use||Filesystem for Linux||Filesystem for Linux|
|Max Volume Size||16 exbibytes (2 64 bytes)||256 trillion yobibytes (2 128 bytes)|
|Max File Size||16 exbibytes (2 64 bytes)||16 exbibytes (2 64 bytes)|
|Max File Name Size||255 ASCII characters||255 ASCII characters|
|Max Number of Files||264||Unlimited|
|Initial Release||2009||June 2006|
|Open Format||Yes||Yes (OpenZFS)|
|Technologies Influenced||Fedora33, Oracle Linux, SUSE Linux, ReactOS, Fedora Workstation||OpenSolaris, illumos distributions, OpenIndiana, FreeBSD, Mac OS X Server, NetBSD, Linux|
Btrfs vs ZFS: 10 Need to Know Facts
- ZFS stands for Zettabyte filesystem. Sun Microsystems originally created it as part of its Solaris operating system.
- Btrfs stands for B Tree Filesystem, It is often pronounced as “better-FS” or “butter-FS.”
- ZFS combines a filesystem and volume manager.
- Btrfs uses Copy-on-Write (COW), a resource management technique where a copy of original data is held while the source data is modified or updated.
- ZFS became open-source in 2005 and subsequently closed-source when the Solaris operating system was purchased by Oracle. By this time an open-source version (OpenZFS) has been exported to Linux.
- Btrfs was originally developed at Oracle. Chris Mason is the principal author.
- ZFS provides robust data protection using features like end-to-end checksumming to protect against the effects of data corruption or disk failure.
- Btrfs uses metadata mirroring, self-healing, and snapshots to maintain a high level of data integrity.
- ZFS pools and manages the data from multiple physical disks as a unified storage pool. It then organizes and presents the storage pool as a virtual device (vdev).
- Both Btrfs and ZFS support character file names of only 255 characters.
What is Btrfs?
Btrfs is one of the most modern filesystems available for Linux and uses a copy-on-write B-tree system architecture.
Several commercial partners have intentionally developed it to deliver valuable features like pooling, snapshots, and checksums, which may not be present in other filesystems. It also offers a high level of data stability and protection, with a clean, user-friendly interface, making it suitable for enterprise applications.
The History of Btrfs
Btrfs was written by a software engineer from Oracle, Chris Mason. It addresses a recognized weakness in the ext4 filesystem and aimed to move Linux file system technology forward, rather than enhance an existing filesystem.
The 1.0 version of Btrfs was completed in late 2008 and finally accepted by the Linux kernel in 2009 and offered as an experimental root file system by several Linux distributions. By 2011, some of Btrfs’ features has been integrated with the Linux kernel mainline. Other developers like Miao Xie at Fujitsu had become involved and contributed enhancements. A year later Oracle Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise transitioned Btrfs from an experimental to a supported filesystem, followed by other leading Linux distributors like RedHat, Fedora, and Synology.
Key Features of Btrfs
Btrfs has several features and benefits that make it an ideal filesystem for contemporary enterprise applications.
Btrfs mirrors its metadata, storing two copies per volume. Mirroring helps to preserve the integrity of essential metadata like filenames, folder structures, locations, and access permissions. This means that the data can be recovered if there is corruption or damage to the hard drive.
Self-Healing of Files
Legacy filesystems can be vulnerable to fault tolerance, with errors going unnoticed that cause widespread data corruption.
Btfs prevents such errors by checksumming both the data and metadata, verifying the checksums with every read process. Any mismatches or broken data can be remedied using mirrored metadata and Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID) volumes.
Snapshots and Frequent Backups
Btrfs uses sequential system snapshots to copy entire folders at a single point in time. If data is lost and corrupted, Btrfs can use the cache of snapshots to rapidly restore the data to the point of the most recent snapshot. You can also:
- Schedule system backups with point-in-time copies generated as frequently as every five minutes
- Customize up to 256 hourly, daily, or weekly recovery points
- Directly review earlier versions of files and restore them manually
Efficient Drive Storage
Unlike many competitor Linux filesystems, Btrfs does not require large amounts of additional Drive storage space for file versioning and history data, making more storage space available for your actual data.
Convert Utility for Other Linux Filesystems
Btrfs supports the conversion of ext2, ext3, or ext4 filesystem to Btrfs. Use the Btrfs-convert utility to convert the root file system or individual files and folders to Btrfs. Btrfs routinely protects the original data with a snapshot that allows the conversion to be rolled back if necessary.
What is ZFS?
ZFS is a Linux filesystem and volume manager that is available in both open-source and commercial versions. OpenZFS is the open source version and Oracale, Inc. acquired the close version with the purchase of the Solaris operating system from Sun Microsystems.
ZFS is a volume manager and a file system and can pool and manage the data from multiple physical volume block storage devices like hard drives and memory cards. The Zpool function organizes the data so that an OS can efficiently use it along with managing the stored data and files. In addition, ZFS has state-of-the-art data protection with the use of snapshots and RAID to preserve data integrity.
The History of ZFS
ZFS was first released as part of Sun Microsystem’s Solaris OS in 2001. It became open-source in 2005 when the Solaris OS was released under an open-source license.
While it was open-source, ZFS was ported to other OS, including Linux and macOS, where it became known as OpenZFS. However, when Oracle Inc. acquired Sun Microsystems it became closed source. OpenZFS has continued with ongoing development and support from the Linux community.
Features of ZFS
ZFS is also a powerful, modern filesystem that is equipped with features and functionality that make it suitable for enterprise-level applications and server use.
The main features of ZFS include:
Size and Capacity
ZFS provides 16 exbibytes (264 bytes) file sizes and can accommodate almost infinite scaling of its data store with no loss of integrity.
ZFS pools, organizes, and manages the data from a range of physical storage types. It can complete a variety of volume-related tasks, including managing tiered storage and caches.
ZFS also provides data compression and deduplication, taking pressure off the system RAM.
High Read/Write Efficiency
ZFS’s advanced volume management enables it to write to areas of the filesystem (vdevs) that have the most space available. By writing across all the vdevs in the Zpool, ZFS efficiently manages the entire pool for maximum performance.
ZFS protects the integrity of its data in several ways. It undertakes routine hierarchical checksumming and frequent snapshots with automatic rollback to the most recent changes if the system data becomes corrupted. It also has a proprietary form of RAID, known as RAID-Z, that stripes the system disks in a targeted and efficient way.
Btrfs vs. ZFS: Which One is Better? Which One Should You Use?
Btrfs and ZFS are comparable COW filesystems that deliver high utility data management for both personal computing and enterprise applications. They are the leading choices for Linux filesystems that provide system snapshots and other robust forms of data protection.
Btrfs has a slight advantage because it has been directly integrated into the kernel. However, the scalable and flexible nature of ZFS, along with its almost dogged data protection, has given it the edge over its competitors.