What makes ZFS dif­fer­ent?

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ZFS is sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from any pre­vi­ous file sys­tem be­cause it is more than just a file sys­tem. Com­bin­ing the tra­di­tion­ally sep­a­rate roles of vol­ume man­ager and file sys­tem pro­vides ZFS with unique ad­van­tages. The file sys­tem is now aware of the un­der­ly­ing struc­ture of the disks. Tra­di­tional file sys­tems could only be cre­ated on a sin­gle disk — one at a time. If there were two disks, then two sep­a­rate file sys­tems would have to be cre­ated. In a tra­di­tional hard­ware RAID con­fig­u­ra­tion, this prob­lem was avoided by pre­sent­ing the op­er­at­ing sys­tem with a sin­gle log­i­cal disk made up of the space pro­vided by a num­ber of phys­i­cal disks, on top of which the op­er­at­ing sys­tem placed a file sys­tem. ZFS’s com­bi­na­tion of the vol­ume man­ager and the file sys­tem solves this, and al­lows the cre­ation of many file sys­tems — all shar­ing a pool of avail­able stor­age.

One of the big­gest ad­van­tages of ZFS’s aware­ness of the phys­i­cal lay­out of the disks is that ex­ist­ing file sys­tems can be grown au­to­mat­i­cally when ad­di­tional disks are added to the pool. This new space is then made avail­able to all the file sys­tems. ZFS also has a num­ber of dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties that can be ap­plied to each file sys­tem, giv­ing many ad­van­tages to cre­at­ing a num­ber of dif­fer­ent file sys­tems and datasets rather than a sin­gle mono­lithic file sys­tem.

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