What makes ZFS different?
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.