EXT4, AKA "Watching M@ Wrestle His Demons"

As someone with a history in filesystems, I have kept abreast of the EXT4 developments, most recently, an interview with Eric Sandeen on the topic, from an RH/Fedora angle. EXT4 will have lots of features new to EXT3 (as well as possibly pick some of the remnant EXT2 stalwarts up, shake them up a bit, and get them to convert). EXT4, unfortunately, has no features new to filesystems in general, nor even open source ones. After reading through the latest “new feature” list in Eric’s interview, it read like a list of XFS features from a decade ago… Then I got to the bottom, and Eric worked @ SGI on XFS for 5 years, almost a decade ago. Go figure.

This is divisive for me. Because I’m a Darwinist: I believe that it’s perfectly fine if there are multiple organisms that do exactly the same thing, as eventually one will win and one will die. At the same time, I see all the energy being put into EXT4, and the practical side of me is screaming “HEY, YOU’RE JUST GETTING EXT TO WHERE XFS WAS 10 YEARS AGO- HOW ABOUT PUTTING YOUR ENERGY INTO XFS AND GETTING IT TO WHERE IT WILL BE 10 YEARS FROM NOW, FASTER?! KTHXBAI”. The main source for this schism is that the environment is rigged. XFS has been open source and stably available on Linux since springish of 2000 (and BSDs, shortly thereafter), yet it still has to fight tooth and nail for any recognition or prominent placement within Linux distros.

XFS has been a workhorse for those in-the-know for a long, long time. I have clients that bought SGI products because they wanted XFS, yet is has consistently been relegated to the backseat, in favor of the old-guard UFS.. er I mean EXT family. XFS continues to amaze various Linux administrators I work with, who, after having XFS inflicted on them, can’t imagine life without it. The catastrophes you can survive- albeit painfully- with XFS, are totally unrecoverable with EXT. The extreme operating conditions you can endure with XFS, are outside the realm where EXT can safely exist.

So there it is: my internal Filing System Fight Club. It is the beauty of open source, while at the same time the ugliness of it. Reinventing the wheel. Again. Thankfully some people are doing new things in this space.

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