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emil (Slashdot reader #695) shares an article from Linux Journal re-visiting the saga of the btrfs file system (initially designed at Oracle in 2007):

The btrfs filesystem has taunted the Linux community for years, offering a stunning array of features and capability, but never earning universal acclaim. Btrfs is perhaps more deserving of patience, as its promised capabilities dwarf all peers, earning it vocal proponents with great influence. Still, [while] none can argue that btrfs is unfinished, many features are very new, and stability concerns remain for common functions.

Most of the intended goals of btrfs have been met. However, Red Hat famously cut continued btrfs support from their 7.4 release, and has allowed the code to stagnate in their backported kernel since that time. The Fedora project announced their intention to adopt btrfs as the default filesystem for variants of their distribution, in a seeming juxtaposition. SUSE has maintained btrfs support for their own distribution and the greater community for many years.

For users, the most desirable features of btrfs are transparent compression and snapshots; these features are stable, and relatively easy to add as a veneer to stock CentOS (and its peers). Administrators are further compelled by adjustable checksums, scrubs, and the ability to enlarge as well as (surprisingly) shrink filesystem images, while some advanced btrfs topics (i.e. deduplication, RAID, ext4 conversion) aren’t really germane for minimal loopback usage. The systemd init package also has dependencies upon btrfs, among them machinectl and systemd-nspawn . Despite these features, there are many usage patterns that are not directly appropriate for use with btrfs. It is hostile to most databases and many other programs with incompatible I/O, and should be approached with some care.

The original submission drew reactions from three disgruntled btrfs users. But the article goes on to explore providers of CentOS-compatible btrfs-enabled kernels, ultimately opining that “There are many ‘rough edges’ that are uncovered above with btrfs capabilities and implementations, especially with the measures taken to enable it for CentOS. Still, this is far better than ext2/3/4 and XFS, discarding all the desirable btrfs features, in that errors can be known because all filesystem content is checksummed.”

It would be helpful if the developers of btrfs and ZFS could work together to create a single kernel module, with maximal sharing of “cleanroom” code, that implemented both filesystems… Oracle is itself unwilling to settle these questions with either a GPL or BSD license release of ZFS. Oracle also delivers a btrfs implementation that is lacking in features, with inapplicable documentation, and out-of-date support tools (for CentOS 8 conversion). Oracle is the impediment, and a community effort to purge ZFS source of Oracle’s contributions and unify it with btrfs seems the most straightforward option… It would also be helpful if other parties refrained from new filesystem efforts that lack the extensive btrfs functionality and feature set (i.e. Microsoft ReFS).

Until such a day that an advanced filesystem becomes a ubiquitous commodity as Linux is as an OS, the user community will continue to be torn between questionable support, lack of features, and workarounds in a fragmented btrfs community. This is an uncomfortable place to be, and we would do well to remember the parties responsible for keeping us here.

So how do Slashdot’s readers feel about btrfs?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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