Linux Foundation End User Summit: New BtrFS Filesystem and Knowledge Center

Oct 17, 2008

The Linux Foundation got positive results from its first ever End User Summit in New York October 14 and 15. Its concept of "end user" ended up including not only private users but many enterprises and organizations.

By its own admission, the nonprofit organization enthusiastically welcomed participants from the financial arena, despite the current crisis on Wall Street, among them Merrill-Lynch, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Credit Suisse. In their summary the organization even suspected a connection and opined, "perhaps in these times companies are committed to making the most of their investments."

Among the highlights of the event, the Linux Foundation presented the new BtrFS Linux filesystem. A workgroup at the foundation is working on the filesystem to address the increasing volume of data. Developers from IBM, Intel, Novell and other enterprises are working under Oracle's leadership to get a version of BtrFS in the kernel by end of year. Meanwhile Ted T'so's parallel effort to get his ext4 filesystem into the kernel is already in the works. The presentations related to the new filesystem emphasized security aspects and the prevention of possible data loss. The new functions include a tool for end-to-end data integrity checking and support for data and metadata checksumming in the ext4, BtrFS and XFS filesystems. For ext4, the fsck time will get significantly faster. Another central theme was the reworked multipathing code that is now request-based instead of bio-based, promising better control and error handling oversight.

The summit exchange not only profited end users but also developers. Participants from the financial sector mentioned an increasing relevance in that many of their customers have large numbers of mid-sized nodes at data centers with relatively little data stored on local hard disks that rely on network file systems (NFS or AFS). Work on the parallel NFS v4.1 was particularly interesting to this sector, along with work on persistent NFS client caching. Both initiatives are currently in development. So that enterprises can better profit from current developments, the community representatives asked for their help in evaluating upstream kernels. In one case a large bank agreed to take on some testing and notify the community of its results.

Another result of the information exchange was a new workgroup to address systems management. The foundation's end-user council intends to formulate relevant use-cases to present to community developers and vendors for collaboration.

The issue of open source hardware drivers was also brought up with private vendors to encourage their support. This issue was already an agenda item at the Annual Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit in the Spring of 2008, for an appeal for the larger vendors to exert influence on the hardware companies to adopt open source drivers. In addition, a proposed knowledge database should be of interest not only to the enterprise market. The foundation is planning a web-based knowledge center to give users a broader spectrum and collaboration environment for greater open software transparency.

The extensive presentations included a session on Cloud Computing in which Gerritt Huizenga described how Linux is the preeminent OS for the cloud. Other Open Source proponents could view this with a certain skepticism. The father of free software, Richard Stallman, has recently derided the principle of rented IT services as a trap and warned against its implementation.

The Linux Foundation promises to provide greater details in November on the results of the summit.

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  • Attribution

    It seems strange to mention novell as one of the main people working on btrfs and not redhat. I've only seen a few novell patches on the btrfs mailinglists. They were from a SUSE engineer and meant to to fix how btrfs interacts with Apparmor, their out of tree security module.

    Redhat however, has Josef Bacik working on btrfs (what seems like) mostly fulltime. Take a look for yourself:
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